From the Hellenistic period comes the Tomba della Sirena dated III century B.C.
It is a niche style monument on whose facade is a carving of a double-tailed siren symbolizing the Sea Goddess Scylla and the Otherworld.
Inside the arch there is a woman's name inscribed above a funeral bed.
This is part of the archeological park on the Pitigliano road just out of Sovana at Sopraripa, near the sunken road of Via di San Sebastiano.
Of the three towns in the area Sovana seriously declined in population over the centuries, the main reason being malaria, a disease that had a more dramatic effect on the Roman Empire than people realise as well.
Because of this, the area's link with the Maremma is closer than the geography may indicate. The Etruscans and later, the Romans, drained the swampy coastal plains nearby and created fertile pastures. All was well until the decline of the Roman Empire when the Maremma became choked as the drainage channels silted up and created mosquito heaven. Thus came the malaria which hastened its decline and it wasn't until the 1950's when the mosquitoes were finally eliminated with better drainage and insecticides.
The population of Sovana hovers around the 100 mark today, surviving on some agriculture and, in the holiday months, tourism.
It was founded by the Etruscans, but in time Pitigliano became more important. There is a little church called SAnti Pietro e Paolo that is pretty and from 12th-13th century. Nearby is the Santa Maria church form the 16th century.
It had a lot of tries to be famous by the first main occupying by the Aldobrandseschi family who built a castle. It was destroyed in the 17th century. This castle was built over the first Etruscan fort. The the Orsini family got control and finally the Medici family in 16th century tried to revive, but the town got hit hard by malaria and it died back slowly. Siena got control and rebuilt again in the 15th century.
The clock and tower is at Pallazzo del Archivo and is from the 12th century, but beside it are ruins form the first cathedral church. Next to the coat of arms on the adjacent building is a coat of arms carved from marble of the Medici family, and the home was for the CApitano del Medici
Behind the Medici castle is the path leading to the Etruscan ruins/caves. The path is really dark and scary for those trepid ones. The necropolis was a very large complex during Etruscan era, and the tomb of Hildabranda is here in the rocks. He was named Pope Gregory in 1073, and wailed a lot of power in Italy at that time. Below the town are a lot of caves, some carved out be water erosion,
and others from the Etruscan times for burials. The total path may take you into about 1 mile of searching; it is very dark and covered by forest and overgrowth.
It is a nice stroll to walk the main street and take in the little shops that vendors are selling valuable souvenirs. There are not many, but what was there had unique gifts to enjoy and look at with hope of purchasing.
If you want delicious food, friendly service in a charming setting at moderate prices go to Trattoria Pizzeria la Tavernetta in Sovana. You'll have a memorable meal served by the owners Mauro & Angela!
This is really what Sovana is all about, its Etruscan heritage. Where the tripod is sitting there is a T-intersection and the even-narrower side chute leads up to an old necropolis that overhangs the cliff face.
Imagine if you will the work involved in cutting through the earth to create this road without modern equipment over 2,000 years ago. We're talking hand tools here.
The Via Cava di Poggio Prisca is an evocative pathway of moving proportions. In ancient times this was an extremely important area, seemingly belied by the town's size today.
Though there are officially three longitudinal streets in the town you could be forgiven for thinking there's only one and, where it diverges at the clock tower, its name changes.
Whatever the number, as you walk up the Via Mezzo the first thing that stands out as you reach the Piazza del Pretorio is the Palazzo dell' Archivio, a XIIth century building, once the council chambers, but no longer required since it is run from Sorana these days.
The clock, still working, marks out time according to an elaborate set of weights, notably two stones from the nearby river linked by ropes to the clock itself.
On the right, easily identified by the coats of arms from the Sienese and Medicis on it, is the 12th century Palazzo Pretorio. Today it serves a useful purpose as the archeological museum with Etruscan finds from the area and explanation panels to give you an idea of what the place was like, while upstairs is a precious collection of medieval ceramics, a craft still practised in the area today.
Seems wherever one travels in this most Catholic of lands there are signs of a pope. One either lived here, was buried here, passed by here or had a palace here. In Sovana's case they have strong evidence that Pope Gregory VII was born in this very house in the 9th century. Probably linked to the powerful Aldobrandeschi family (his name was Ildebrando di Sovana) and he was a leading protagonist in the struggle between spiritual and temporal power (church versus emperor).
It now houses a museum with papal relics and, guess what else is featured? Had your hundredth attempt yet? No. Okay, I'll put you out of your misery.
Snails. Yes, really. Mind you, some of them are enormous and interesting but it certainly wasn't the first thing I'd have thought of going into Pope Gregory's house!
At the opposite end of the street to the castle is the main church, of part Romanesque and part Gothic design and dating back to at least the 9th century. It has that wonderful historical feel, the doorway of white marble set in brown and grey stone with its bas reliefs and protective lions setting the mood for the two tone columns with their Romanesque capitals inside.
Further inside are the remains of San Mamiliano, patron saint of Sovana, and the original urn in which they were kept as well.
The picture here shows the overlapping architecture as the church evolved in medieval times.
And this is the tomb. The finest and most unique example of Etruscan burial sites. There are two chambers (not visible here) that descend forward and to the right where the burial sites actually are, the earliest being dated around the IVth century B.C.
Though originally there were twelve columns, now only one remains though the capitals, decorated with the four faces of Etruscan divinities, are on display at the small museum in the town.
The entire tomb was once finished in plaster and decorated in bright colours.
Though you can get close, you may not be able to visit the site as excavation works are still in progress.
Well, actually, in this case considerably less but this is the enlightening sign that graces the famous Tombe di Ildebrande or Hildebrande's Tomb.