Saturday, December 17, 2016

12/16 -- Etruscan Necropolis and Pitigliano

We started off with a long bus ride to Sorano, an area that has Etruscan influence, and went to the nearby Etruscan Necropolis, which is a cemetary first discovered in 1929 and still being unearthed. The latest tomb was found just over 10 years ago, but the digging process is slow because there is not a good flow of funds to support it.

A lot of the local rock is a kind of tufa -- it is apparently volcanic and very airy and picked up pre-existing stone as it either moved or landed.  It is very light and might also be highly aerated and compressed ash. It is easy to carve for a while, but hardens as it is exposed to air.

Tombs were sometimes very simple -- a hole or tunnel dug into the ground -- and other times more elaborate with carvings and grave goods to help the deceased in his or her next life, much like the Egyptian process.
Simple hole in the ground, presumably with rock covering
the remains.

Lion made of tufa (which erodes!) from the front of a tomb.

This winged mermaid/snake was mounted over the entrance
to the tomb.

What is left of the tomb entrance. You can see another lion
and another winged woman.

The first tomb discovered. There used to be pillars all across
the front where you can see one remaining.

A side tomb for multiple people. There were a couple of these.
The interior of a side tomb.

The Etruscans had also carved out roads in the area, as much as 18 feet below the surface. The roads are curved and provided safety from enemies (hard to shoot an arrow far along a curve,  hard to be seen from the top) and a more temperate climate -- cooler in summer, warmer in winter. Many of the road have at least partially collapsed  over time, but the ones still there are used by hikers and they were used for transportation to the villages by the locals until the formal roads were built in the 1920s.
These hidden roads were used by Italian partisans
to avoid the Nazis in WWII.

Then we headed to another nearby town, Pitigliano, which is famous for its Jewish community. We spent time in the old part of the city and learned the story of the Jews who had lived there. They first arrived from Vatican City, which was much larger at the time and abutted Pitigliano, but they were tossed out. The Orsini (little bear) family, which ruled ther, were very open minded for the time and invited them in and they lived in peace with their Christian neighbors.

The 'old' city of Pitigliano which included the Jewish Quarter.
The 'new' section looks pretty old too.

Bridge over what used to be the moat into the old city.
Where the  moat was. The very rustic wall was part of the
original moat wall.

Aquaduct installed by the Medicis. It appears to run between
buildings which apparently used piping to connect the sections.
Before this piped water to a central fountain, people had to
walk down to the rivers and bring their water all the way back up.

Interesting sundial on the wall of the Orsini

Symbol of the Orsini--the head of a lion on
a bear's body.
In fact, the synagogue and church are located next to each other. The town was taken over by the  Medici family probably around the time that Siena fell to them. They were not nearly so open-minded and forced the Jews into a limited space within the walls and enforced a curfew that began at dusk. The Jews made a dessert shaped like the stick the police used to knock on their doors and evict those outside the ghetto zone, and Lodo bought one for us to try -- sfratto -- quite tasty.
The gate at the end of this street marks the edge
of the ghetto.
There were natural caves under the houses, and the Jews enlarged and used them for various purposes, to supplement the space allotted to them. We saw a ritual bath, a wine cellar, a kosher slaughter house and (right next door) the Matzoh bakery for making Passover bread. We also visited the synagogue, which has been de-santified. There are only 3 Jewish people currently living  in the city, not enough to  maintain the synagogue. One cheery note was how the Christians protected and hid the Jews when the Nazis finally got around to trying to root them out of Italy in 1944. All the Jews who stayed in Pitigliano were saved, but the ones who tried to escape were not so lucky. The people thought of each other as neighbors and took care of them.

Inside the wine cellar (modern barrels)

Stair to the wine cellar from the bottom

The matzoh bakery. The two sections here are the only caves
we saw that were painted. It made them MUCH cheerier.

The 'new' town with the  Jewish cemetery on the middle right.

The Jewish cemetery. They sometimes used religious images
like angels that were normally not seen, probably because they
had integrated so well with their Christian neighbors.

The women's view of the synagogue.
The screen the women are hidden behind at the top.

Christian church immediately adjacent (though
above) to the synagogue.

Then it was lunch time (late lunch time) and we focused on the local white wine from the trebbiano grape. Most of the wine we have had with meals has been red, but with a lunch that consisted of a wonderful salad and a zucchini lasagna with a cream sauce, the white was a better match. We had some time to shop before catching the bus and found a shop selling items made from olive wood.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a park overlooking Sorano that gave us a chance to take pictures of this beautiful old hill town.
More tombs carved into the rock.

Sorano, an Etruscan town orginally.

Jim and Lynn at the park.

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