Old Etruscan Roads in Tuscany
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Looking for a way to really get out into the country, as far from civilization as one can be while still being literally surrounded by a civilization that goes back two thousand years? Did you know that the area between the delightful hill towns of Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana is cross-crossed with at least 50 ancient roads that were carved into the rocks before the time of Christ? So well were they crafted that they have survived almost intact, hidden beneath the leafy canopies of certain forests accessible from the side of the road. You might see a small hand-lettered sign (look for the words via cava): follow it and you will soon come to the entrance to what can only be described as a cleft in the earth's surface. Suddenly the ground drops off and you find yourself standing before two smooth rock walls that can be up to 30 feet tall and as little as one yard across. Whereas one moment ago you had been YOU, strolling through a lovely green wood, you have now shrunken to the size of a mouse, gazing up in wonder at this magical passageway that seems to have been built by giants. Step into the fantasy world and walk to the end, which will probably be a few hundred feet away. Had you been an Etruscan, the soaring rock walls would have protected you from the prying eyes of your enemies. To make things easier for yourself, you cut steps into those walls at certain intervals so that you could emerge before reaching the end. And while you were at it, you carved spouts so that rainwater could collect and be put to use elsewhere. If you visit this charming part of Tuscany, which is still off the beaten path (but not for long!), any of the residents can tell you where to find a via cava. Pack a lunch and treat yourselves to a picnic while you're out there in the Tuscan woods!

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