The second stop of #TooMuchMaremma, my birthday’s tour in Southern Maremma, was Sovana and its spectacular Archaeological Park.
A bit about Sovana
Sovana was a rural settlement during the 7th century, that soon became an important Etruscan city because of its strategical position along the river Fiora. Its importance is testified by the beautiful Etruscan tombs in the surroundings.
During the Middle Ages it passed under the controlled of the Aldobrandeschi family and had its maximum splendor. And from this small village came Ildebrando da Soana, the important Pope Gregorio VII. Its importance declined when the county was acquired by the Orsini family, who moved the capital to Pitigliano and was then annexed to the Gran duchy of Tuscany by Cosimo I’ de Medici.
What to See
Sovana is listed as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. I have to say that it’s true, but in my tour of Southern Maremma I founded more beautiful places than this, such as Montemerano and Rocchette di Fazio. It’s a very small town but there are several things you should see.
The symbol of Sovana is the Archive Building with its peculiar facade with the clock and the bells’ tower dating back to 12th century. In front of it there is the Church of Santa Maria, dating back to 12-13th centuries and preserving the oldest Pre-Romanesuqe Ciborium in Tuscany dating back to 8th-9th centuries and made in white marble richly decorated.
Next to the church there is the new Museum of San Mamiliano, housed in the ancient church of San Mamiliano, showing several Etruscan findings and an incredible treasure of a 498 gold coins that were founded underneath the main altar in the church. Legend has it that it’s Faria’s treasure described by Dumas in the Count of Montecristo. Entrance costs 4 euro.
On the opposite site of the square there is Palazzo Pretorio, where you can find the information office. Then move out from the center and visit the stunning Duomo of Sovana, entitled to San Pietro and great example of Romanesque architecture. I really got stunned for the beauty of its architectures and detailed decorations! The entrance is free, but they ask you to buy a postcard or a book at the shop.
On the opposite side of the town you can admire what’s left of the Aldobrandeschi Fortress. You can still see a portal, a tower and a stretch of walls. On the basement you can also notice Etruscan stones.
The Necreopolis of Sovana
About one kilometer from the center, in Sorano’s direction, there is the large necropolis of Sovana, where you can admire some of the most beautiful Etruscan tombs in Tuscany. The park is quite big and you should climb in the woods to see the tombs, but it really deserves it!
Inside the archaeological park there are different types of tombs dating from the VII-VI centuries B.C..The most significant sites are the Tomb of Ildebranda, that is shaped like a temple, has a double stairway and columns decorated with anthropomorphous elements and several funerary chambers, the Tomb of the Mermaid, that has a portico decorated on the frontal, and the Tomb of the Thyphon that has an aedicula with a decorated tympanum.
Then there is the recently discovered Tomb of the Winged Demons, that has within the niche a dead man lying in bed with a friendly libation in his right hand, which keeps intact the special polychrome finish, and had two statues of winged female demons placed on the sides.
Just think that all the decorations carved into the tufa, stuccoed and polished were originally painted in lively colors. It should have been amazing!
Inside the park there are also two Vie Cave, hollow roads, excavated into tufa. You can walk through these high tufa walls underneath the street level and it’s really impressive. Along the Via Cava of Poggio Prisca you can admire some interesting Etruscan symbols such as a large swastika symbolizing the sun.
Unfortunately part of the necropolis is temporarily closed to the public, but still you can see lots of things. Entrance costs 5 euro per person and it’s open every day from 10am to 7pm in summer and to 6pm in winter. I really recommend you visit it!
Sovana it’s part of Sorano Municipality and you can buy the combined ticket for 10 euro including entrances to the necropoli, the Museum of San Marsiliano in Sovana and Palazzo Orsini in Sorano. I did it and you can save money.