Pitigliano is a small town in the province of Grosseto, known as “Little Jerusalem” (you can read more about it in a previous article). Here, every year on the first day of Spring, the traditional “Torciata di san Giuseppe” (Saint Joseph Torch Procession) is held to celebrate the end of winter and the holiday of the patron of the Universal Church.
On the evening of March 19th, the town’s streets – some fifteen of them “hollow”, meaning they are carved in tuff stone, probably because the Etruscans used them for sacred rituals tied to their underground necropolises – light up with bundles of canes, which forty “torciatori” in 15th-century costumes carry on their shoulders.
The torches follow the statue of Saint Joseph in a procession towards the Town Hall square, where the celebration reaches its climax with the “Invernacciu” bonfire, in which canes are assembled to represent the dying cold season.
Glasses of wine, raisin pancakes and the “Sfratto di Pitigliano”, a typical sweet with honey and walnuts derived from the local Jewish heritage, are passed around to celebrate the end of winter, and Saint Joseph’s holy protection over Pitigliano and its crops.
The Torciata is also a wonderful opportunity to visit the splendid “Tuff stone city” at night. The Fortress and Palazzo Orsini, the Renaissance Fountain of the seven taps, the 16th-century Medicean Aqueduct, the ancient Ghetto and 1500s’ Synagogue (which bear testimony to the lively local Jewish community), the late-Baroque façade of the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul: these are only some of the “actors” on the “stage” of this amazing nighttime show of lights and shadows.
In the morning, you can continue to explore the area with a visit to Sorano, known as “Tuscany’s Matera” (the focus of a previous article), and Sovana, a medieval and renaissance town tied to the Aldobrandeschi family and to the historical figure of Pope Gregory VII.
Photos via: ©Mauro Vincenti