Sovana, a charming village based in southern Tuscany, is known as one of the most cherished places in Italy and an iconic spot of the Maremma located at the south-eastern borders of Grosseto, surrounded by vineyards, hills and breathtaking countrysides. Therefore, this little city is considered as the perfect destination for anyone looking for quietness, tradition and local hangouts.
With a detailed and rich history dating back to Roman and Etruscan times, Sovana contains multiple worthwhile sites as it belongs to the trio of the so-called Cities of Tuff (the latter, Sorano and Pitigliano). Moreover, with a population of only 122, timeless Sovana (previously called ‘Soana’) looks easily accessible by driving from Florence or Rome.
Although small and rural, Sovana offers many special ways of making your trip memorable and having fun. Keep on reading to discover why you should definitely add this charm to your Italian vacation plan.
Why visit Sovana?
Whether you’re craving to fully live the Italian ‘vintage life’ or getting lost in typical Tuscan alleys, Sovana is surely the most ideal choice for your journey abroad or far from your homeland.
The latter, indeed, is one of the fanciest cities in the whole of Tyrrhenian Coast (especially during spring and autumn) and deserves a meticulous visit because of its millenary history, unique monuments and works of art. From the suggestive Etruscan Necropolis to the famous Vie Cave (more than 25 meters deep), to the characteristic Duomo, where a huge villa (belonging to Pope Gregorio VII) will welcome you. But, don’t forget the thirteenth-century Palazzo Pretorio or Palazzo Bourbon del Monte. Let’s see, then, how you can get to Sovana.
How to Get to Sovana
Despite its quite isolated position, Sovana is accessible by car or public transport (train or bus), with the main airports 2 hours away. By car, from Florence, you can drive to Sovana by following the A1 highway and by taking the Chiusi-Chianciano Terme exit. Then, you must go from SP478 street to San Casciano of Bagni. After more than 200 km, you just have to take SP20 towards Sovana. From Rome, on the other hand, you can easily drive through A12 (highway) towards North Italy and take SS1-Aurelia until the Vulci (km 111) exit. There, you just have to follow directions to Manciano and Sovana.
Alternatively, you can fly from your motherland to Rome (Fiumicino) or Florence (Amerigo Vespucci) and take a rental car or a bus, which will take you to your destination in less than 1.50 hours. We also recommend you not to choose local transport over taxis because of their bad connection to the center.
What to See in Sovana
1. The Etruscan Necropolis of Sovana
Located near the center, the Etruscan Necropolis (discovered in 1843) is one of the most loved spots by travelers and archeology enthusiasts. It is a unique historical example for its variety of tombs that can be found here. Also, it expresses all the beauty of Etruscan architecture and art (from Tomba Paola to Tomba Pisa or Tomba del Sileno).
2. Rocca Aldobrandesca
The Rocca Aldobrandesca, based on the east side of Sovana, is an ancient castle that reminds tourists of disputes between the Sienese and the Florentines. By now, you’ll just see extremely large tuff ruins, remains of the curtain wall (still equipped with protruding apparatus with corbels and stone arches of excellent workmanship, in addition to the access door).
This one was restored around the 15th century after its conquest by the Republic of Siena. From the 16th century, it was abandoned and due to bad economic and social development of the area, the dismantling and the decay of the Rocca began. Such a breathtaking sight remains.
3. Piazza del Pretorio
Fulcrum of Sovana, the majestic Piazza del Pretorio has a particular paving made of terracotta bricks in a herringbone pattern. This one takes its name from the 13th-century Palazzo Pretorio, which has on the facade many coats of arms of the captains of justice who took turns at the helm of the city.
Moreover, this spot houses a Territorial Documentation Museum, which also acts as an info point for travelers to the Etruscan Necropolis.
4. Alleys of the Village
Sovana hides multiple hidden gems. It’s fundamental, then, to mention the large enigmatic boulder in the shape of a closed hand known as “The Hand of Orlando”. Its origin is strictly connected to mythology or hypotheses which date it back to the megalithic era when it served as a celestial observatory.
Let’s not forget the ancient door located in Piazza Petruccioli, where you’ll start seeing characteristic narrow streets, small stairways and views that open overhanging the cliff below, making it such a majestic and unique place.
Sovana houses two very relevant buildings for Catholicism. The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore has the usual characteristics of thirteenth-century buildings, with a Romanesque layout, but with some Gothic elements. You’ll be able to see a particular stone ciborium carved with the typical medieval decoration of plant, animal, and geometric motifs. On the left side of it, there will be some frescoes of the Umbrian-Sienese school from the beginning of the 16th century.
Equally fascinating, the Duomo is a Romanesque-Gothic style building with a powerful crypt made of elegant and suggestive sculptural decorations and astronomical orientation. Here, on the left side, you will see a relic called “the urn of San Mamiliano” (containing the remains of the saint) but there will also be many frescoes with pre-Christian motifs.
6. The Treasure of Sovana (San Mamiliano Museum)
Restored in 2004 by an important archeological campaign, the San Mamiliano Museum is based in a church in the heart of rural Sovana. Here, experts found a Roman thermal plant and the valuable “Tesoro di Sovana” made of more than 498 gold coins contained in a small vase. This treasure had been under the floor since the 5th century.
This church has become a museum where you’ll see a part of the excavation and this ‘tesoro’. Here, you will also be able to admire Etruscan relics and special ceramic objects.
7. The Vie Cave
The so-called “Vie Cave” represents a sort of cyclopean corridor made of tufa rock and located in the Maremma between Pitigliano, Sovana and Sorano. Here, you’ll be able to walk and see mysterious engravings and an enveloping nature with a primordial charm.
Don’t forget to visit the Via Cava di San Sebastiano, which is based in the Archaeological Park and it will be possible to enter by going 10 meters away from the antique church of San Sebastiano. It winds for a few hundred meters along a tortuous and narrow path set between walls up to 25 meters high.
Best Places to Stay in Sovana
While small and not cutting edge, Sovana offers many suggestive and authentic accommodation options (B&B, hotels and farmhouses) compatible with any kind of travelers’ needs. Check out our list about top stays in Sovana.
Centrally located B&B
Only 3 km from Sovana, the timeless Hotel Scilla is the ideal place for those who want to be close to the historic center. Here, you’ll find a green area and a private restaurant where you’ll be able to taste typical Italian food. Rooms are quite picturesque and a free parking area is included.
Farmhouse hidden in the vegetation
Not so distant from the center’s site, the medieval Agriturismo Sovanella offers huge private rooms with breakfast included (with homemade cakes). It is the perfect option for anyone who’s looking for a place both near to Sorano and Sovana. It is quite close to the Vie Cave, reachable on foot.
Modern Hotel between Pitigliano and Sovana
The appreciated Casa dei Carrai offers private rooms with rural furniture (made of wood), private toilette, towels and silk sheets. Here, there will also be local delicacies to taste
What to See Around Sovana
Sovana is such a perfect village for those who are looking for adventures among history and authentic Italian experiences in nearby places like: Pitigliano, Sorano, Radicofani or Saturnia (with its Thermal Springs). Let’s find out more about them.
Pitigliano is such a significantly important medieval village, appreciated for its beauty and strategic position. It is located next to Grosseto (in the Maremma) and here it will be possible to admire specific scenic spots and beauties: from Madonna delle Grazie Sanctuary to Alberto Manzi Museum, to Palazzo Orsini or Fontana delle Sette Cannelle.
Sorano is a gem of the past. Located nearby Sovana, it is the ideal place for those who love history and culture. Here, you will be able to visit majestic and timeless spots: from the Vie Cave to Castello di Montorio or Castell’Ottieri, to Roccaccia di Montevitozzo and much more.
Terme di Saturnia
Taking its name from the locality, Terme di Saturnia (only 15 km from Sovana) is the perfect place for relaxation lovers who are looking for a spot full of well-being, warm and healing water. Here, a beautiful landscape and luxury hotels will welcome you. We also recommend you to consider nearby and similar places such as: Bagno Vignoni and San Casciano Bagni.