As you approach the beautiful hilltop village of Sorano on private excursions of Italy prepare your cameras for some dramatic shots. The village, located in Southern Tuscany, clings to a high volcanic tufa cliff and is often called “Matera of Tuscany” as it has numerous ancient dwellings carved out of rock.
Sorano was known as “zolfanello d’Italia” (sulphur match of Italy) because of never-ending attacks and sieges and two imposing fortresses dominating the town are testimonies to those days. Masso Leopoldino (Rocca Vecchia) is an ancient fortified structure built well before medieval times and enlarged in later centuries on a massive rock. Landslides significantly damaged some parts of the fortress over time but a number of renovations in the 19th and 20th centuries preserved a significant part of the bastion with its beautiful clock tower and ramparts with stunning views over the surrounding hills.
On the opposite side of the town rises the impressive Orsini Fortress (Rocca degli Orsini), one of the most important examples of the Renaissance military architecture. The forbidding fort withstood persistent attacks in the 14th and 15th centuries by the armies of bellicose neighbors. The powerful Orsini family, who ruled Sorano made the fortress even more impenetrable in the 15th century. The castle is open to public today and houses the Museo del Medioevo e del Rinascimento.
On private excursions of Italy you can easily spend a few days in Sorano exploring its labyrinth of dark alleyways, staircases and narrow streets, medieval palaces, beautiful churches in the old town. There is a well preserved Ghetto that was established in 1619 by the Medici where a strong Jewish community lived until the early 1900s.
Just outside of Sorano is located the archaeological park “Città del Tufo” with many Etruscan tombs. The most famous of them are the monumental tomb Ildebranda and the Siren’s Tomb with some impressive stone carvings.
Photos via Flickr by: Andrea Moroni, Giovanni Volpato, Jacqueline Poggi.