April 5, 2016 – Pitigliano (Little Jerusalem) & Decugnano dei Barbi Winery

This morning we take a side trip from Orvieto to Pitigliano. Jack, our GPS makes a fairly straight-forward 35 miles into an hour and a half adventure. Since we have an appointment at a winery this afternoon, it is important to be time efficient but Jack has not gotten the message.

Much like Orvieto, Pitigliano is built on a tufa outcropping. Starting with the Etruscans in the 7th century B.C., walls were also built to fortify the town. In the picture below little caves can be seen in the tufa walls. Some of these have Etruscan inscriptions.

This is what Pitigliano looks like as you approach. Photo credit CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80684
This is what Pitigliano looks like as you approach. Photo credit CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80684

Giorgio from the hotel has suggested this town for a visit. Its main claim to fame is that it had a vibrant Jewish community who built a synagogue here in 1598. The town is nicknamed “Little Jerusalem.”

A map of "Little Jerusalem" in Pitigliano
A map of “Little Jerusalem” in Pitigliano

Jews fled from Rome to Pitigliano during the persecutions during the Counterreformation.  In Pitigliano they lived harmoniously with their Christian neighbors and built a synagogue, Kosher butchery, Kosher bakery for matzoh, ritual baths, and a wool dying enterprise.

Much like the rest of Europe there are almost no Jews left in Pitigliano only guards armed with machine guns to protect the site. It is said that the Jews here escaped capture by the Nazis with the help of their neighbors but dispersed after the war.

The tour begins in the rooms below the synagogue –

John stands in the mikveh or ritual bath
John stands in the mikveh or ritual bath
Sarah reads the information about the Kosher winery
Sarah reads the information about the Kosher winery
A display piece on the wall shows the Jewish calendar
A display piece on the wall shows the Jewish calendar
The oven for making matzoh
The oven for making matzoh
A picture of women making matzoh
A picture of women making matzoh
Picture of a woman putting matzoh in the oven beside the actual oven
Picture of a woman putting matzoh in the oven beside the actual oven

Next we head upstairs to the synagogue. The synagogue was built in 1598. However, it collapsed in a landslide in 1960 and was rebuilt and reopened in 1995. There are too few Jews in Pitigliano to have it operating on a regular basis but it is still used occasionally for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Synagogue interior
Synagogue interior
Women's screened gallery
Women’s screened gallery
Sarah peeking through the screen
Sarah peeking through the screen
John signing the guest book
John signing the guest book

After the visit to the synagogue we spent a little while looking around Pitigliano.

It looks like much of Pitigliano is in danger of sliding off the cliffs
It looks like much of Pitigliano is in danger of sliding off the cliffs
Sarah and John pose with a statue of a man and his donkey. We were not able to find out the significance of this statue.
Sarah and John pose with a statue of a man and his donkey. We were not able to find out the significance of this statue.
Mid-sixteenth century aqueduct
Mid-sixteenth century aqueduct

Our visit in Pitigliano has lasted until lunchtime. We have no time to spare and hurry back to Orvieto by a much faster route unencumbered by listening to Jack.  We stop at Simply Market and buy a few things for a quick lunch in the room.

Our afternoon’s engagement is at the Decugnano dei Barbi, a winery making primarily white wine. Sarah is staying behind as she has to man her computer to try to get a hotel room for ComicCon. (This turned out to be unsuccessful. Boo.)

We travel east of Orivieto into a rural area. The winery Decugnano  dei Barbi was bought by the Barbi family in 1975 and added their name to the old name of the town that they are in, Decugnano, to come up with their label. It is on beautiful rolling hills.  I am somewhat surprised that the grapes have barely broken buds yet since ours in California are much further along.

The vineyard of Decugnano dei Barbi
The vineyard of Decugnano dei Barbi
The vines are not too far along in early April
The vines are not too far along in early April

Marta from Milan is our guide and we do quite a trek around the vineyards along with a family from New Orleans. Of course, John and I have been on many winery tours and are hoping for a quick explanation and then on to the tasting. But we get a thorough explanation on how the winery works.

Marta, our guide, explains how wine is made
Marta, our guide, explains how wine is made
Bottled and ready to be shipped (unfortunately not to the U.S.)
Bottled and ready to be shipped (unfortunately not to the U.S.)

Finally it is time for tasting.  It’s almost all whites which I really like but will leave me wheezy tomorrow. Also there’s quite the spread of meats, cheeses, and bruschetti! The family from New Orleans turns out to be quite nice and have just arrived in Italy for their first trip ever.

Local treats with the wine tasting
Local treats with the wine tasting

But the day is not over! We have booked dinner at a winery close to our hotel. The Altarocca looks like a pretty fancy place as we pull up. We are ready for some haute cuisine!

We have finally learned our lesson – order antipasti and first courses because the second courses tend to be disappointing.

 

 

 

 

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