Pitigliano, an Ancient Jewish Community in Southern Tuscany


Welcome once again to our Blog. We are still in southern Tuscany ,near the border with Lazio (Rome is the capital of the Lazio region ) we visited the lovely southern-Tuscany town of Pienza. This time, we venture farther south in another gorgeous city, Pitigliano. My interest in Pitigliano was triggered bu two factors: the marvelous website of Don and Linda Freedman, TheTravelzine.com, and by Hugh Johnson’s gorgeous book, Tuscany And Its Wines. As a change, this newsletter will quote both those sources on the charms of Tuscany! We are also adding a new feature to the blog, which our quotes complement: we will be occasionally reviewing books and guides to Tuscany, to further enhance your enjoyment of, and to help you plan your trips to, our wonderful region.
Pitigliano is known for its sharp white wine, and the following recipe would pair wonderfully with the Bianchi di Pitigliano.
Hostaria di Pantalla
Driving from San Quirico di Sorano to Pitigliano we discovered Small family-run country inn ,A tipical Maremmana Cuisine, based on good quality ingredients really homemade like in the old days, and everything seasoned with simplicity and kindness.
Homemade pasta , herbs, amazing mushroom soup dressed with extra virgin olive oil sauces based on game and much more.
It is not easy to get there but if you are in trouble , call the owner that will guide you to their dinner table .
Amazing House wine probabilly from the Morellino area . Tasty sausages and cheese of excellent quality accomp’any by an excellent onion mustard which the kind lady , gave me the recipe .

Recommended for everyone to have a good country meal

Pollo al Mattone
Chicken under a brick!
This delightful and delicious chicken dish requires just a little ingenuity on the part of the cook. Al Mattone is a terra-cotta brick, and specially glazed ones, just for this purpose, can be found in cooking shops in Italy. But it is easy to replace the mattone with a large heavy terra-cotta brick or tile that will fit inside your frying pan. If the tile or brick you are using is unglazed, simply wrap it in foil. You will need one small young chicken for every two people.
Each chicken should be cut in half, and carefully pounded (without shattering the bones) to as even a thickness as possible. Marinate the chickens for 3 hours in a mixture of:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 sprig chopped fresh rosemary
the juice of 1 lemon
After removing the chicken halves from the marinade, pat them dry. Wet chicken will not brown as nicely as dry, making this an important step in the process. Season liberally with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Pour a generous amount of olive oil in a heated, heavy skillet, and place the chicken, skin side down, in the pan. Place the brick or tile on top of the chicken, and fry on medium low heat for 20 minutes per side. The results will be a flavorful and tender chicken with a crisp and crunchy skin. Buon Appetito!
Review: Tuscany And Its Wines
by Hugh Johnson
Photographs by Andy Katz
Hugh Johnson, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Johnson_(wine_writer) a well known wine writer, and Andy Katz, http://andykatzphotography.com/ a respected travel and landscape photographer, have teamed to create a visually stunning guide to both Tuscany and its wines. Johnson organizes his material into four geographical sections; he discusses the wine and viniculture of the Arno Valley; the Chianti country south of Florence; Siena and the area south of that city; and the Tuscan coast and the Maremma are included in the final section. Johnson includes a guide to choosing Tuscan wine, and another section of the book is devoted to choices from each of the explored regions.
There are wonderful historic photos of wine production in various areas of Tuscany, and a discussion of the history of local viniculture. Johnson’s strength lies in his suggestions to the traveler of where to buy and taste wines, as well as where to dine and enjoy them. His prose is occasionally esoteric, and a little vague in the descriptions of the wines themselves, but this is a good introduction to the many varieties of vino Toscano, and an excellent guide to some delightful places connected with the wine.
Johnson’s prose is strong on geographical descriptions that ignite the imagination of the armchair traveler, if a bit short on solid information about the wine. Here is Johnson on Pitigliano and its surroundings:
“The Etruscan citadel of Pitigliano stands on an impregnable rock embellished as a stronghold by the Aldobrandeschi, its medieval lords, and their successors, the Counts Orsini of Rome (and of Twelfth Night). The 15th-century exodus of Jews from Spain enriched Pitigliano and almost certainly gave its white wine its more than local reputation. At one time it was Tuscany’s best known…
“Sovana and Sorano are neighboring villages where little has happened to overlay the Etruscan past. They can still be approached by hidden lanes, sunk as deep as 30 metres into the rock by the Etruscans and lined with their noble architectural tombs, sculpted into the cliff-face.”
The very best thing about Tuscany And Its Wines is the photography of Andy Katz. The pictures are elegant in their composition and rich in color. What I enjoyed most about the photographs was Katz’s ability to capture the feeling of a town or area in a single photo. Too often travel photographers provide us with a glimpse of a private corner, or obscure path, that would be impossible for the tourist to connect with when traveling on their own. Katz, instead, gives us pictures of a Tuscany that seems accessible despite its breathtaking loveliness. These are some of the most beautiful pictures of Italy that I have ever seen, and I strongly urge anyone planning a visit to lose themselves in Katz’s remarkable photos.
Tuscany And Its Wines
Hugh Johnson
Chronicle Books, San Francisco
The Wine of Pitigliano
This distinctive white wine is made from grapes harvested in Pitigliano and the nearby vineyards of Sorano and Manciano. Grapes from which the Bianchi di Pitigliano are produced include the Trebbiano Toscano, the Malvasia, Verdello, and the Chardonnay.
The pale, organic color of the wine is reminiscent of the yellowish tones of straw, and perfectly evocative of the sunny countryside slopes on which the local vines flourish. The nose of this wine is thin, vinous, cool and delicate. The Bianchi di Pitigliano has a clean, dry taste that nicely supports hints of bitter fruit.
This wine is best served chilled at temperatures between 9-11 degrees Celsius. It is not necessary to let the wine breathe, and some say that the Bianchi di Pitigliano is best when opened immediately before service. The wine nicely complements soups and risottos, chicken dishes, and seafood.
Pitigliano, breathtaking for its situation atop a steep tufa crag, presents visitors with a stunning view of its houses perched on the cliff’s edge. The steep sides of the tufa that the town rests upon are a honeycomb of ancient Etruscan tombs and caves, and old wine cellars. Once inside Pitigliano, visitors will find its picturesque mediaeval center to be charming. The streets are filled with flowers and a climb up any number of steps will lead to the many exciting panoramas that line the edges of the town.
The town, once known as “Little Jerusalem,” harbored a fairly large Jewish community for centuries. Records show that in 1622, an edict was passed requiring the Jewish citizens of Pitigliano to mark themselves with special clothing: men were required to wear a red hat, and women had to wear a special red symbol on their sleeves. In 1841, at least 10 percent of tiny Pitigliano’s population was Jewish, and over a quarter of the volumes in the town’s library were written in Hebrew. This community was decimated in 1945, but vestiges of Pitigliano’s Jewish ghetto can still be seen and visited. The ghetto itself lay between the via Zuccarelli and the via Marghera. Last restored in 1995, parts of Pitigliano’s formerly grand synagogue still stand, and it is possible to pay a visit there. The synagogue, which was originally covered with ornate rococo plaster friezes, can be found in the warren of alleys around Vicolo Manin.
Other sites of interest include the Fortezza Orsini, which contains an Etruscan museum and an interesting ancient sundial. The fort and the adjoining Palazzo Orsini can both be visited, although there is a separate entrance fee for the Etruscan museum. The Fortezza stands in the Piazza della Repubblica, which also contains a large fountain. Passing through the Rocca, one can reach Pitigliano’s 4th century aqueduct on the way to the synagogue. A visit to the cemetery outside the city walls is also suggested; it is along the road that leads to Marciano.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this issue of our newsletter, my interest in Pitigliano was awakened through reading about the travels of Don and Linda Freedman, a Toronto, Canada couple whose website, www.TheTravelzine.com, contains their informative and entertaining travelogues, several of which cover their extensive travels through Italy. TheTravelzine has this to say about Pitigliano:
“The tufa stone artisans who built this town were caring and
meticulous. The skillful blending of shapes, sizes, textures and
colors creates a soft, magical, alluring feeling throughout the town.
The design of passageways, as impressive as that of the homes,
combine harmoniously to delight the visitor with the unique and
special character of the surroundings. We hope this genuine
medieval town never modernizes and forever maintains its present beauty.”
Well crafted descriptions and recommendations make the Freedman’s site a must for anyone interested in Tuscany.