Sovana: A Plunge into History

Sovana: A Plunge into HistorySovana is a handful of isolated houses shaded by the colour of the caves, and that stand out from the background of the endless turquoise green sea, against which you can see the sun setting in the mid-summer months. The stone streets in this charming hilltop village hides the complex underworld that sits under Sovana.

It’s a universe of deep caves hollowed out by hundreds and thousands of years of water erosion and by the work of human hands. Here there are hidden clues, which suprisingly have not all as yet been excavated. Intriguing archeological sites left behind by the Etruscans*, including the tomb of Ildebranda, Sirena and Tifone.

In spite of this fascinating history, Sovana is a tiny unassuming village, a wonderful place with many unexpected sights to see like the Rocca Aldobrandesca – a medieval castle that was demolished in the 17th Century. At that time it was very important and belonged to the Aldobrandeschi Family who made it the capital of their lands. Today the castle’s medieval foundations can still be seen.

The entire town is centred around the main square which is paved in stone. Towards the end of the evening when all the town’s lights are switched on that’s the time to really stop and apreciate how beautiful the town looks – it’s a remarkable moment.

It is also a fascinating experience, just like going back in time you get a real feel of the medieval times especially when one sees the monks walking through the town in their old robes.

Once of Sovana’s most famous sons was Ildebrando di Sovana who was named Pope Gregory in 1073. the Bishop was the protector of the Aldobrandeschi, he encouraged the expansion and reform of the Catholic Church and christianity as a whole through a violent campaign.

The main piazza is also home to the Palazzo Pretorio (12th-13th Century) which is decorated with the stone crests of the Siennese governors, and has interesting 14th century frescos inside. Next door, the the crest of the Medici family tops the Loggietta del Capitano. Moving around the square there is the Palazzo dell’Archivio (also from 12th – 13th century) with its clock tower, and the just visible remains of the Paleo-christian church of S. Mamiliano – most probably the first cathedral of the village, built on Etruscan and Roman foundations, the palazzo Bourbon del Monte was constructed in the 1500s and is part of the Church S. Maria Maggiore, and lastly the romanesque-gothic S. Maria Maggiore church which holds wonderful 16th Century frescos.

Going off to the other end of town you’ll come across the cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, whose apse** faces the town. Going through the stone door frame carved of roaring lions and arcane figures you’ll see the columns which divide the three aisles, embellished with figures that tell ancient stories – of Daniel in the cave of the lions, of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise, of Abraham and his wives, and other biblical figures that compete for space between the carved eagles, snakes, and other strange beings. In the silence of the church, the stone and marble carvings, frescos, wooden sculptures, paintings, and baptisemal fonts bear witness to the long history of this sacred place. At the end of the right nave, the mortal remains of Saint Mamiliano rest in a recently decorated urn.

Leaving the church, a huge hole opens up before us. It is the Etruscan Necropolis – the tomb of Hildebranda.

Its astonishing to see the old crumbling walls that surround and seem to hold this little town together. Visiting Sovana, exploring the fascinating alleyways of this medieval village with its small piazzas, aristocratic residences and other well-conserved buildings you are well-advised to finish your day with the last rays of the sun warm your heart, caressed by the last breeeze that has blown through time – something to treasure for ever as one’s most special memories of Sovana.

* The Etruscans were a civilization of people that lived in Central Italy before and during the Roman era.

** The aspe is the semi-circular or polygonal section of the sanctuary at the liturgical east end beyond the altar.

Commenti (5) | March 25, 2010

5 Responses to “Sovana: A Plunge into History”

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  4. Risma Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 05:53

    I lived in Belgium for three years with the miirtaly (dh was miirtaly). If you can, they have awesome cruises in that area that are not very expensive. Oh and we were always told in Italy to watch our pockets for pick pockets. Have fun

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