An Italian Petra?

The Parco Del tufo, opened as recently as 1998, is on the way to Sovana and contains some of the most spectacular examples of the mysterious Etruscan civilization’s cities of the dead. The Ildebrando tomb is the largest and, although considerably eroded, strangely reminded us of the Essenes tombs we’d visited a couple of years ago at Jordan’s Petra. We also saw the tomb of the coiled serpent and the typhoon, among others.

What was most intriguing to me, however, were the sacred ways carved into the tufa and with tombs excavated into their almost vertical sides. These routes would have led to a ritual Acropolis, the remains of which have still to be discovered.

We walked a couple of these carved sacred ways and felt the presence of the spirits of the departed Etruscans all around us. It was all so wonderful to have the place to ourselves! Arriving at the top of the sacred ways the landscape opened out into a profusion of vines and blackberries. I would not have at all been surprised to have met Etruscan shepherds with their double flutes and damsels in flowing robes!

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter…


We returned home via Sovana. Sovana must surely be one of the most attractive small towns in Tuscany. As yet largely unspoilt by tourism it has the remains of the Aldobrandini castle, a lovely duomo with an elaborately carved portal and as peaceful an atmosphere one could possible get. It’s truly a dream settlement built out of tufo blocks which lend it a very homogeneous character. Perhaps I shouldn’t give it away so easily and just let the crowds carry on visiting such places as San Gimignano….

We met a Tufa carver in town too. His beautiful objects could quite easily be trasported as tufa is remarkably light as a stone:

Sunset was spectacular as we found our way back to our place near Manciano. We’d also intended to see Sorano but that other ‘tufo’ town will have to wait for another visit to this special part of a very special region of Italy – a place that has found a very distinct place in our hearts.

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