Real uniqueness of the tuff cities (Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana) represent one of the main attractions for those who go to this part of Tuscany and for those who love trekking and nature. Pitigliano is surrounded by numerous caves, ancient “roads” of Etruscan origin consisting of deep paths obtained by cutting the tuff rock, some of which are over a kilometer in length, with walls up to 20 meters high. The vie cave often intersect Etruscan necropolis.
Each via cava is known by a name that has been given to it over time, the main ones that can be visited today are: Via Cava del Gradone (where the open-air Archaeological Museum “Parco Alberto Manzi” was set up), Via Cava of San Giuseppe, that of Fratenuti, the Via Cava of the Madonna delle Grazie, the Via Cava of Poggio Cani, etc.
Recently the Municipality of Pitigliano has created The path of the vie cave, a tour with departure and arrival in the inhabited center that winds for several kilometers around the town and which allows you to visit these fascinating routes all at once (it remains outside only the Manzi park with Via Cava del Gradone which can be visited separately).
The path of the Vie Cave starts with the stairway and the walk of the Selciata, a road that surrounds the historic center of Pitigliano at the base of the tuffaceous rock for the entire perimeter of it (walking time about 20 minutes). Once completed, descend along the Londini Walk, a path through which you can also visit the waterfall of the same name, also visible from above from one of the views of Piazza della Repubblica. From here you enter the heart of what are the vie cave and go up through the Via Cava dell’Annunziata until you reach the road of San Pietro. Along this road for about 15 minutes you can admire Pitigliano from afar before arriving at the next Via Cava which is that of San Giuseppe. The Via Cava di San Giuseppe is one of the most evocative and takes us back to Pitigliano going down again to the Lente river (one of the three rivers that surrounds the town). We are about halfway, now along a short stretch of provincial road and fording the river Meleta we go up from Via Cava di Fratenuti up to Strada della Doganella which takes us back to SR 74. A few hundred meters and we arrive at the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Thanks from where you can admire Pitigliano in its most famous “postcard”. Adjacent to the sanctuary you go down with another via cava the one that takes the proper name of the Madonna delle Grazie, once this via cava is completed you cross the SP 46 which leads to Sovana and you can go up towards the historic center of Pitigliano through the last via cava of the tour, that of Poggio Cani. The entire tour of the vie cave can be done in about three hours for a total of 9.97 km. As mentioned by this tour, the Via Cava del Gradone remains, which is located inside the Alberto Manzi open-air Archaeological Museum.
The vie cave can also be visited by using them as alternative routes that connect the cities of the tuff Pitigliano-Sovana-Sorano, a bit like it was done in ancient times for reasons that are anything but tourist. Here are some routes:
From Pitigliano to Sovana
Type of itinerary: trekking, horse.
Length: about 7 Km
Difference in height: 313 m. s.l.m.-205m. s.l.m.
Journey times: about 6-7 hours on foot, about 4-5 hours on horseback.
Difficulty: medium on foot, high on horseback.
What you need to know: there are red and white signs.
The path is one of the most beautiful and evocative of the Maremma, it crosses 2 towns of Etruscan origin, rich in history and works of art. It can be “read” from many points of view: geological, naturalistic, archaeological, anthropological and sacred, to fully grasp all the aspects of this route it is advisable to be accompanied by an expert guide.
The signs start from Pitigliano, outside the Porta di Sovana, then continue along the Via Cava di “Poggio Cane”, the first, we meet, of the Etruscan roads, dug into the tuff. Numerous caves open up along its walls
artificial, still used today as cellars, due to the continuity of life of these structures and the modifications, it is impossible to establish whether they were tombs prior to Via Cava. At one point we find ourselves on the S.P. for Sovana, cross it and continue to the right up to the signs for Via Cava di “San Giuseppe”, near which there is a small necropolis consisting of chamber tombs. Along the way we see the image of St. Joseph painted on the rock, still an object of devotion on the part of the Pitiglianesi. Once we leave the Etruscan road, we arrive at the Fonte dell’Olmo, where the spring water (drinkable) flows from a tuff mask, depicting a faun, the original is kept in the Archaeological Civic Museum of Pitigliano (0564-614067), while here is a copy. Continuing we meet an intersection and down
we return to the right, where the path becomes an asphalted roadway, after a while we take another road on the left, which leads us to the area of ”Pian dei Conati” and to the homonymous Via Cava, at the end of which the signs continue along a carriage road paved road, which leads to Sovana. Once you have visited the town, those who still want to walk can reach the nearby Etruscan necropolis (2 hours for the visit).
From Sorano to S.Quirico
Type of itinerary: trekking, horse.
Length: about 8 Km
Travel times: 6-7 h. about on foot, 3 h. on horseback approx.
Difference in height: 486 m. s.l.m.-323 m. s.l.m.
Difficulty: medium on foot, high on horseback.
What you need to know: white and red signs, along the way there are fords to cross.
The itinerary begins in Sorano and after 2 kilometers by car along the S.P. for Sovana it arrives at the necropolis of San Rocco, where you leave the car and start the signs, but before proceeding we recommend a visit to the site. The rupestrian complex takes its name from an eighteenth century church, which cannot be visited and is made up of both Etruscan tombs and more recent caves, among which an early medieval furnace stands out. A short distance from the sacred building is the Via Cava di “S.Rocco”, which leads to the Valley of the River Lente. After the Etruscan road we follow the river and at a certain point the path divides, so we take the left road until we reach the Provinciale. We continue to the left on the asphalt for about a kilometer and before the bridge we find the signs on the right, where the track returns to path, path, which after a few kilometers and two
small fords reaches Vitozza. This locality consists of a tufaceous spur, where there are approximately 200 cave dwellings, occupied since the 12th century. to the second half of the XVIII. The visit of the ancient city lasts about 1-2 hours, then resuming the journey we reach San Quirico.
From S.Quirico to Vitozza
Type of itinerary: trekking, MTB, horse.
Length: about 2-3 Km
Journey time: about 2 hours
Difference in height: 486 m. s.l.m. – 425 m, s.l.m.
What you need to know: white-red signs.
The signs start from the main square of S.Quirico and continue along the country path, where we already meet the first caves, today cellars, but once inhabited houses. Some larger and abandoned cavities were used to extract saltpetre, an ingredient in gunpowder. Shortly after we find ourselves in front of the tufaceous spur of Vitozza, a real medieval city, with walls, fortresses, defensive ditches, cisterns, 3 churches and about 200 rock dwellings. These dwellings dug into the tuff often had stables and warehouses next to or in the floor below, some are real condominiums with internal and external stairs. Inside the best preserved ones, it is possible to observe the various rooms: the kitchen, the beds, the openings for the flue, etc. A small Via Cava led to the “colombari” and out of the town, near the River Lente, where there are the ruins of a mill. Vitozza today is a “dead” city, but it was populated from the twelfth to the last decades of the eighteenth century. and again in the 1940s. These caves
hidden under the cliff and covered by vegetation, they were the salvation of the Sanquirichesi, during the bombings of the Second World War. Inside the site there is a luxuriant vegetation, typical of the tuffaceous area, here you can see rare and particular plants, such as wild orchids, but also lichens and trees linked to Maremma legends. The route is not difficult, but to truly “savor” Vitozza and to get to know all its aspects, it is advisable to be accompanied by a guide.