The Etruscan settlement of Sovana is a haven of incredible historical artefacts and remains. It lies in Maremma, a province in southern Tuscany famous for its tuffa towns. These settlements are built in this distinctive stone, which gives the houses their recognisable sandy-yellow hues. Other tuffa towns in the area include Pitigliano and Sorano.
Sovana has been a town of varying importance throughout history. By the early 7th Century, Sovana was an administrative center for the Lombards who had recently conquered the area. In the Middle Ages it also held some importance as the home of the Aldobrandeschi family. Sovana was also the birthplace of the Pope Gregorio VII, or Ildebrando da Soana. Soana was the name of this town in its medieval era.
You can still visit the remains of the Aldobrandeschi fortress, or Rocca Aldobrandesca, to this day. This family built the castle over an Ancient Roman or Etruscan structure in the 11th Century. Unfortunately, after the Orsini’s bought the surrounding area, and eventually ceded it to the Duchy of Tuscany under the Medici, this fortress fell into ruin. It benefitted from some renovations in the 16th Century but then suffered great damages during the 17th Century and so had to be dismantled. Today you can only see the portal, tower and some stretches of its walls.
Within the town you can visit some of its beautiful Romanesque churches. For example, the Santa Maria Maggiore dates back to the 11-1200s. Alternatively, Sovana’s Cathedral dates back to roughly one Century earlier than the former, and even features the 8th-century remains of the crypt and portal. Inside this church you can see the beautifully decorated columns which display various biblical scenes. The oldest church is the San Mamiliano. This is the patron saint of Sovana, and has remains dating back to the 5th Century. Here you can also see the recently-unearthed gold coins that date back to the 1400s.
The tourist information of this town lies in its own historical monument, the 12th-century Palazzo Pretorio. This lies within the equally beautiful Piazza del Pretorio.
One further unmissable attraction is the impressively well-preserved Etruscan necropolis just outside the town center. Here you can find some extravagant tombs and their decorations. For example, the Siren Tomb features sculptures of mermaids that are holding to human figures. Others, such as the Ildebrando Tomb and Tomb of the Thyphon, also display their own quirks and characteristics. These all date back to the 3rd-2nd Centuries BC.
Interestingly, the wine of Sovana also dates back to Etruscan times! The Red Sovana is a particularly famous variety of wine here, and often accompanies another speciality, the Lamb Buglione.
The nearest airports to Sovana are unfortunately quite far off, such as Pisa or Rome. We recommend including Sovana on a tour of Tuscany or Lazio, as it is best visited by car or train and taxi. It does not have its own train station, however it is very easy to hire a car, or travel by train to a nearby station and take a taxi.