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piccola gerusalemme pitigliano

Pitigliano: the little Jerusalem of Southern Tuscany

Walking in the Jewish quarter of the hilltop town of Pitigliano, Little Jerusalem

Entering the rugged and uncontaminated Southern Tuscan hills you will suddenly meet one of the most breathtaking sights the territory has to offer..The town of Pitigliano!  It is built on a natural tuff-stone cliff, and it is known throughout the world as ‘the little Jerusalem of Italy’ for having harbored a Jewish community for many centuries.

Within the historic centre you can still find the old buildings of the Jewish quarter (the Ghetto) and the synagogue from the 16th Century. The visit of the Jewish complex proceeds from the main square down Via Zuccarelli. Walking down the street you’ll notice elderly women sitting on the steps in the side allies, telling old and new stories, and indolent cats basking in the warmth of timid slithers of sunlight.

Having reached the Jewish quarter, the bright Manin ally opens out at the old entrance to the Jewish temple.

This place of cult was built for a large community that established itself in the 16th Century after the persecution by Pope Paul IV. The community was warmly welcomed by the noble Orsini family, who allowed a ‘loans bank’ to be set up together with commercial and artisanal activities. In 1608, with the final and definitive passage of the county to the grand duchy of Tuscany, governed by Cosimo II of the Medici Family, a difficult period started for the Jews of Pitigliano. They were forced to live in a restricted area and until the 18th Century they couldn’t run commercial activities and were forced to wear a badge of distinction.

In 1765, under the reign of Frederick II, who was famous for his liberal notions, their condition changed radically, as equality was re-established, fostering a return to commerce and craftsmanship. The religious fervor, great increase in commerce and the return to cultural and political activity allowed the Jews and the population of Pitigliano to acquire rare status, evidenced by the prestigious visits of the Grand Duke Ferdinand III and then Leopold II (Canapone). After the unification of Italy, the community acquired great prosperity, which allowed the important families to migrate from Pitigliano. The Jewish population then diminished considerably with the racial laws of 1938 and the Second World War.

The population has continued to fall to this day and now offers us access to the old Ghetto of the Little jerusalem where, catapulted into a far off reality, they allow us, with a warm welcome, to enrich our knowledge of a unique reality in Tuscany.

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