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Tuff

Archaeological Park of the Tuff Cities

The name tuff is generically attributed to rocks of a very different nature. Tuff is the name given to soft marly limestones that can be easily sawn and moulded, or even porous light travertines (sponge stone) such as those in Puglia, known locally as Carparo or Marzaro. Friable sandstones, calcareous or clayey, are also called tuffs in many regions of Italy. Specifically, tuff would be the name given to rather incoherent rocks, but sometimes also of a lithoid consistency, of pyroclastic origin, i.e. formed by the accumulation of fragments of volcanic materials that eruptions, during their explosive phases, tear from the internal magmas and project onto the surface of the earth around the eruptive mouth.

This material varies in nature and size from blocks of a few cubic metres to fine sand and impalpable dust.
Due to the complexity of these chemical-physical actions, from originally incoherent materials derive very consistent rocks, such as lithoid tuffs, which are often excellent building materials, because they are light, porous and insulating. And of which the Etruscans were great users in their settlements.

All this to say that in the province of Grosseto there is the Parco Archeologico delle Città del Tufo (Archaeological Park of the Tuff Cities), established in 1998 to bring together under a single jurisdiction the main archaeological tourist resources of the Sorano area. The park includes the Sorano necropolises of Poggio Felceto, Poggio Prisca, Poggio Stanziale and Sopraripa, the Vie Cave of Sovana, and the rock settlements of San Rocco and Vitozza. The entrance gates to the park are located at the documentation centre of the Sovana museum centre, at the reception centre of the archaeological area and at the Museum of the Middle Ages and Renaissance at the Orsini fortress in Sorano. Since 2004 it has been part of the provincial museum system “Musei di Maremma”.

It covers about 70 hectares and includes an area of great scenic, archaeological and historical-artistic value. The park is an extraordinary open-air museum, closely linked to the Orsini Fortress, the fortresses, castles, churches and historic centres that make Sovana a truly unique concentration of evidence of past civilisations.

Among the towns to see on this tour is Sovana in the province of Grosseto, a village of Etruscan origin. Here time seems to have stood still, the area was already inhabited in prehistoric times, a good twenty thousand years ago. The Parco delle Città del Tufo is an extraordinary open-air museum, closely linked to the Orsini Fortress, the fortresses, castles, churches and historic centres that make Sovana a truly unique concentration of evidence of past civilisations.

The necropolis of San Rocco with its medieval church, the cave dwellings, chamber tombs and columbaria set in the tufa walls of the Vie Cave and the settlement of Vitozza, a “city of stone” made up of a hundred or so caves used as dwellings, rather like the stones of Matera, are well worth a visit. A few kilometres away are the Saturnia Thermal Baths to end the visit in the warm, regenerating waters. The traditional soup called “Acquacotta” and the “buglione di agnello” are local specialities.

by Eduardo Lubrano