Imagine a beautiful city perched on a plateau, as if it were itself carved from that same rock outcrop. Imagine this city being surrounded by trails, modern ones to catch the stunning views of the city and older ones--much older--carved by the ancients deep into the limestone for reasons still unfathomable.
Just outside the town of Pitigliano (and also to the northeast, in Sorano) in the Maremma region of Tuscany just north of the border with Lazio, the casual walker might find the famous Vie Cave, the "sunken roads" carved out by the Etruscans during the Bronze age. They are on the world heritage watch list of endangered monuments because of their fragility; the rock is soft and easily eroded.
The good news is that both towns, Pitigliano and Sorano, are interesting to visit, and the paths themselves (along with tombs and wall scratchings) are often paired with picnic tables. Bring lunch, take an adventure walk. You can see all these things marked on the map below. In addition there's the little gem of a one street town called Sovana, outside of which is one of the most interesting set of Etruscan tombs; you can see them marked on the map below.
The other good news is that the area is good to visit in the summer, when you can escape the heat by walking in the shade of the narrow Vie Cave, all of which tend to be near rivers.
Click or tap the map markers to find out more about the point on the map. You'll need to use the controls on the upper left to zoom in to see the trails, represented on the map as dotted lines.
The points on the map represent the best places to visit at the moment, as some of the trails aren't recommended; there are more vie than those represented here. A printable PDF map can be downloaded as a zipped file from the commune di Pitigliano.
As you can see from the map, except for the Via Cava di San Sebastiano to the west of Sovana, Le Vie Cave mostly radiate from the west end of Pitigliano's plateau. To the north is the very well preserved town of Sovana. The Archaeological area of Sovana (Parco Archeologico "Citta del Tufo") is west along the road to San Martino sul Fiora; here is a stunning Etruscan Necropolis there with one of the most important monuments in all of Etruscan Italy, the Ildebranda Tomb, dating from the 3rd-2nd century BC and shown below.
There are two major places outside of Pitigliano marked on the map. The cluster of markers to the west of Pitigliano shows three Vie and a place to park to visit them. You can see the trails clearly on the map.
South of the town of Pitigliano is the Museo archeologico all'aperto Alberto Manzi, the open air archaeological museum. There are picnic facilities here as well as a via, the Via Cava del Gradone and the Necropoli di San Giovanni. The museum has recreated the urban life of the Bronze Age from Etruscan archaeology. It is said that "the museum's guides often hold staged reenactments of Etruscan burial rituals so you can get an idea of what they were like." Opening hours at time of writing are:
November 9 to December 4: Monday-Friday: 10am-3pm
December 9 to December 22: Monday-Friday: 10am -3pm
The week before Easter to November 8: Monday-Friday: 10am-3pm and Saturday and Sunday: 10am -6pm
The current price of entrance is 5 euro.
Pitigliano is one of the most beautiful cities you'll encounter in Tuscany. It's bella any time, but magic at night when it's illuminated by spotlights. The trail that winds around the city at the base of the plateau will give you many opportunities to get the camera out, and to the north of the old town you'll see evidence of the Etruscan walls of the city.
The tourist office is on Via Roma, just off the main square.
Sovana is a much smaller town than Pitigliano. Once an Etruscan settlement itself, now it's a frazione of Sorano, a larger town with Vie Cave to the northeast. Although it's pretty much a one street town, the street running from the 13th century Aldobrandeschi castle ruins to the 12th century cathedral is wonderfully picturesque. The tombs west of the town are very much worth visiting.
There is no train station in Pitigliano; it's best to have a car, but there are public transportation options, although the times may be inconvenient for you..
RAMA buses go to Pitigliano from Albinia in Lazio or the Grosseto train station. There is also a morning connection from the Orbetello F.S. station that departs after the ES train from Rome which arrives at Obetello at 9:18. You can dowload PDF schedules from the RAMA Mobilita web site. Note that Pitigliano isn't mentioned; look for the buses that go to Semproniano and check at the bottom of the schedule where "destination" is noted in the fine print. Note also that winter schedules don't include many buses to Pitigliano.
RAMA tickets can be purchased at the Wine Bar di Vignoli in Pitigliano--and, of course, at the bus station outside the Grosseto F.S. station.
For such a small town, Sovana has a number of places to stay that are highly rated by visitors, both in town and in the countryside. See: Sovana Hotels.
If you're staying a while and want more evening options, staying in the larger Pitigliano offers the best option. If you like a restaurant in your hotel and free Wi-Fi, check out Le Camere Del Ceccottino. Locanda Il Tufo Rosa is marked on the map and is inside the Orsini Fortress of Pitigliano.
If you'd like an apartment in town that's dug out of the tufa, see: Charming house inside the tuff rock. It sleeps 6; bring your friends. Another option is a 600 year old house in the city with terrace, highly rated by folks who've stayed there. Check out: Pitigliano Vacation House.
Don't know how renting a vacation property works? See: Italy Self Catering.
Both towns have a number of restaurants, many of which you see on the map. Le Logge Bistrot is near the Duomo, for example. We had a fine meal at the Hostaria del Coccottino in piazza San Gregorio VII, 64 in Pitigliano.