Vie Cave

There are at least 15 vie cave (sunken roads) hewn out of tufo in the valleys below Pitigliano. These enormous passages – up to 20m deep and 3m wide – are popularly believed to be sacred routes linking Etruscan necropolises and other religious sites. A more mundane explanation is that these strange ancient corridors were used to move livestock or as some kind of defence, allowing people to flit from village to village unseen. The Torciata di San Giuseppe is a procession through the Via Cava di San Giuseppe marking the end of winter.

Two particularly good examples of vie cave, the Via Cava di Fratenuti and the Via Cava di San Giuseppe, are found 500m west of Pitigliano on the road to Sovana. Fratenuti has high vertical walls and Etruscan markings, and San Giuseppe passes the Fontana dell'Olmo, a fountain carved out of solid rock. From it stares the sculpted head of Bacchus, the god of wine and fertility.

There's a fine walk from Pitigliano to Sovana (8km) that incorporates parts of the vie cave. For a description and map, go to www.trekking.it and download the pdf in the Maremma section. There's also an enjoyable 2km walk from the small stone bridge in the gorge below Sorano along the Via Cava San Rocco to the Necropoli di San Rocco, another Etruscan burial site.

The open-air Museo Archeologico all'Aperto 'Alberto Manzi', south of Pitigliano on the road to Saturnia, contains sections of vie cave and several necropolises.