"Sovana - more than just a road" Sovana by iandsmith

Sovana Travel Guide: 18 reviews and 35 photos

A grand entrance

There are two ways of getting to Sovana. Chances are you will be coming from Sorana, as I did. If so, this will be the impressive sight that greets you. The old castle, part crumbling ruin, part dominant wall is the Rocca Aldobrandesco and dates from the XIth century though it was many times restored and enlarged over the next three centuries and finally abandoned in the XVIIth.
Originally it had only one entrance via a drawbridge as it was isolated from the town by a deep cut in the rock.
The second entrance is a large double arched portal and was built at the instigation of Cosimo de Medici in the mid 16th century.

Among the hills

This is why I came to Sovana. The fabulous Etruscan necropli that abound all around the area. Here I am on one of the many archeological walkways checking out "Il Cavatore", one of the more noted sites but far from the best.
Caves are numerous all around the town for kilometres in any direction as the tufa rock makes for easy digging and the cliffs are supplied by the courses of the Calesine and Folonia Rivers which have their confluence in the valley below.
The following comes from a public domain screed and was written by a man called George Dennis:
"That wide district on the frontiers of the Tuscan and Roman States is so rarely trodden by the foot of a traveller, even of an antiquary, that it can be no matter of surprise that relics of ancient art should exist there, and be utterly unknown to the world — gazed at only with stupid astonishment by the peasantry, or else more stupidly unheeded. In a country almost depopulated by malaria, inhabited only by shepherds and husbandmen, and never traversed by the educated and intelligent, the most striking monuments may remain for ages unnoticed."
In the spring of 1843, Mr. Ainsley, my former fellow-traveller in Etruria, was making a third tour through this interesting land, and, not content with beaten tracks, he penetrated to Pitigliano, and thence made an excursion to Sovana, in quest of antiquities. Being aware that that place was known only as the site of the Roman Suana, he had no reason to expect relics of Etruscan times; yet, having established such an antiquity for Pitigliano, he shrewdly suspected the same for the neighbouring site. Here he inquired for antiquities. Antiquities! — "che roba è?" Nobody had ever heard of such "stuff" at Sovana. From the provost to the hind, all were alike ignorant. But his curiosity was excited by some columbaria and rock-hewn tombs of familiar character, and he proceeded to explore the surrounding ravines.
His suspicions were soon confirmed. Here were tombs with rock-hewn façade as at Norchia and Castel d'Asso,— and, following the range of cliffs, he came to a monument in the form of a temple, in a style both unique and beautiful. His surprise and delight at this discovery explained to the villagers who accompanied him the nature of the objects he was seeking. They were no less astonished to find a stranger display such interest in what to their simple mind was meaningless, or was regarded as a mere "scherzo" — a freak of Nature imitating Art, or a fanciful work carved in an idle or wanton mood by the "rude forefathers of the hamlet." "Scherzi, scherzi! — is that the roba you want? there are plenty of such whims!" cried they; and they led him on from one rock-hewn monument to another, which excited his surprise and admiration more and more by their multitude, variety, and novel character, and afforded him convincing evidence of the Etruscan origin of Sovana. He returned day after day to the spot, and in defiance of a midsummer sun, and its noxious influences, persevered till he had made finished drawings of the most remarkable monuments, and taken their dimensions with the fullest detail. He forthwith sent a description of this necropolis to the Archaeological Institute of Rome, together with drawings, plans, and sections of the principal tombs for publication. In truth, he has left little to be done by future visitors to Sovana, so detailed and accurate are his notices and drawings, and such the zeal with which he prosecuted his researches for the benefit of antiquarian science."
An extraordinary story......written by George in 1848!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:You won't get lost! Interesting history
  • Cons:It's small
  • In a nutshell:The best Etruscan tombs anywhere, some wonderful scenery
  • Last visit to Sovana: Mar 2004
  • Intro Updated Mar 2, 2005
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Reviews (13)

Comments (9)

  • ludogatto's Profile Photo
    Nov 27, 2006 at 1:07 AM

    I'm so disappointed: there isen't Viterbo in the Vt list! Viterbo is one of the bigger administretion town of Lazio....

  • roamer61's Profile Photo
    Oct 26, 2005 at 8:13 AM

    Looks very interesting. I am fascinated by the Etruscans. Nice page and good tips.

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Mar 1, 2005 at 2:15 PM

    Quite an interesting spot to explore on foot Ian! As you say, that is an amazing array of paths and caves that has been carved over the ages!!

  • freya_heaven's Profile Photo
    Dec 3, 2004 at 3:35 AM

    This is somewhere I would find most interesting to visit, Brilliant writing Ian, Another fascinating Italian page from you, thanks! (~_~)

  • sim1's Profile Photo
    Sep 4, 2004 at 2:24 PM

    I never expected to find a Sovana page on VT! Great to see yours! And a great page it is! I remember those Etruscan tombs well! Reading your page reminds me so of my trip to this part of Italy and make me long to go back here.

  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo
    May 8, 2004 at 3:13 PM

    This looks like a great place to step back in history. Soran and the Scenic Road that leads to it sound wonderful. It is those little know gems that can make a trip extra special. Thanks for pointing the way to Soran.

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Apr 17, 2004 at 4:01 AM

    You entertain me! Your wit is charming. This is a great page. Your intro is extraordinary. I tell you, you seek out the most unique places. Thanks for all the information and, at times, entertainment.

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Apr 12, 2004 at 1:40 PM

    How did you find such places? Haha, not so difficult in Italy, right?

  • unravelau's Profile Photo
    Mar 24, 2004 at 1:23 PM

    Well, this is indeed a must see Ian. Would I make the climb? Are any other people around? Hey, I'm first.

iandsmith

“The shortest distance between two people is laughter (note sign in picture)”

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