Sorano: a Family Affair

After living in Italy for five years, the recent one and a half of which spent in Tuscany, I am still discovering new places to visit. Fortunately! This time I’ll take you to the Etruscan lands of Maremma, to the small borgo of Sorano.

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The first historical record of the town dates back to the 3rd century B. C. when the Roman contest of Etruria started (Etruria was the ancient civilization occupying an important part of the territories of the modern Lazio and Tuscany, between the Tiber and the Arno, once populated by the Etruscans that were later conquered and assimilated by the Romans).

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The Etruscan and later Roman Sorano had never been the biggest and the dominating town of the region having as its neighbour a more powerful and developed town of Sovana. The importance and local influence were achieved in the Middle Ages, starting from the 9th century, under the reign of the Aldobrandeschi family. The following almost five centuries in the history of Sorano were signed by the bloody wars for supremacy in the region that finished simultaneously to the extinction of the Aldobrandeschi dynasty. At the end of the 13th century the last Aldobtandeschi married a representative of the ancient and powerful noble Roman family – the Orsinis, Sorano making up a consistent part of the bride’s dowry.

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Under the Orsinis Sorano became the family’s fortress in the wars against the Republic of Siena. After the fall of the latter, the raising Medici family from Florence took its place in the opposition to the Orsinis. The Orsinis decided then to improve the defence of Sorano realising an ambitious project that made the town a perfect example of the military architecture of the epoch. But the future had no luck in store for Sorano: the town was constantly involved not only into the military disputes between the Orsinis and Medicis, but also in those within the Orsini family itself. When the town fell under the influence of the Medicis, it witnessed no further military glory finishing in the hands of the Lorena family in the first half of the 18th century.

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The Lorenas found the biggest part of Maremma strongly hit by malaria that was making its way from the coastal areas ever further into the inland at the time. Sorano and its surroundings were relatively safe, being one the few areas that managed to avoid the epidemic. This miraculous fact and the effort of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany improved the town’s position allowing Sorano to live its golden age outlined by the economic and demographic development. The production of fabrics, gunpowder and wax were on the rise. In 1860 Sorano joined the united Italy as the part of the province of Grosseto.

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The history and aspect of Sorano were largely defined by the succession of ruling powers and various political influences. The modern Sorano is very much like its medieval self with the narrow streets of the charming borgo and the breathtaking views over the surrounding hills. The only difference lays in its brand-new quite and peaceful existence away from highways and big city life, away from the changes and instability dominating the rest of the world. It seems to be in the eye of the hurricane, standing still within the walls of its past, bearing the imprint left by all the families it used to be home to, those families and their affairs.

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It is easy to reach Sorano from the neighbouring Sovana and Pitigliano, from the bigger Grosseto and smaller coastal resort cities, but it is quite far off the beaten path. So, if you want to immerse yourselves in its authentic atmosphere so typical of the Etruscan lands lost among the Maremma and Tuscia hills, you’ll have to spend some time driving along curvy country roads. But the experience will certainly worth the sacrifice with the splendid Tuscany views to accompany you on your trip. Enjoy the ride!

Photos Credit: Machs Gut (c)

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