>  Attractions   >  What to see and do in Sorano

If you’re looking for a beautiful but lesser known town in Tuscany to explore, Sorano could be just what you’re looking for. Sorano is large enough to be interesting but small enough to be bypassed by the tourist hordes. With a picturesque hilltop location, interesting things to see and do and a truly unique hotel, it has everything for a perfect Tuscan escape. When you are looking for the perfect Tuscan town, you should ask yourself what the essential things are that make visiting this part of Italy special.

The ideal Tuscan village should have history, views, restaurants, wine and lots of local character. One thing it definitely shouldn’t have is crowds. Unfortunately, some towns in Tuscany are little more than tourist traps, looking to charge a small fortune to have you “experience Tuscany”. You will, of course. Just not in the best of ways, unless you enjoy being surrounded by tourists who want a quick selfie, a crappy pizza and to say, “Tuscany is OK but, really, it’s just so yesterday”.

Sorano Village

If you’re after an authentic Tuscan experience, somewhere a little off the beaten track like Sorano is the perfect place. It has all the must haves for the perfect Tuscan town and is located in the vibrant wine area of Morellino di Scansano, a region that is famous for its soft red wines. Sorano is the ideal spot to just chill out and soak up the Tuscan sun, plus enjoy the history and perhaps a few wines. It’s also far more affordable than big name Tuscan towns like San Gimignano.

Stroll the historic streets
Exploring the hidden corners of Sorano (with no other tourists)
Climb up to the clock tower

This southern part of Tuscany has been settled for thousands of years but Sorano was established largely due to its strategic location and easily defended hillside. The town was so well protected that it was never conquered and saw out many sieges and attacks from barbarians and rival medieval families eager to exploit this valuable trade route. Sorano has two parts: Sorano village with its labyrinth of winding streets, hidden wine bars and restaurants and the Orsini Fortress which is situated in a prime defensive position above the town. This impressive and well-designed fortress was the key reason the area and town remained safely in the hands of the powerful Orsini family for hundreds of years.

Orsini Fortress
Orsini Fortress
Sorano Village

The history of the fortress and surrounding area is well documented and on display at the Orsini Fortress and Medieval and Renaissance Museum located near the main entrance of the fortress. Unfortunatley the signage is predominantly in Italian but you can work out much of what is on show just by looking at the photos. The museum guide at the front desk usually has time to explain some of the key exhibits too, provided the museum isn’t too busy. Tours of the castle are available daily in a variety of languages for a few euros and are well worth the time, with the opportunity to explore the entire fortress including the underground passages which were used by the soldiers.

Sorano fortress
Part of the Orsini Fortress

However, the best thing about the fortress is its hotel, the atmospheric Hotel della Fortezza. Staying here gives you the chance to experience a true medieval castle first hand from around €48 per night for two people. This rate includes a house made continental breakfast featuring the region’s delicious produce. The hotel is in the oldest part of the fortress with a mix of rooms and suites and offers a truly unique stay. Hotel guests enjoy discounted entry to the Fortress Museum and other local attractions.

On our visit, we initially booked a Superior Room with a view of the town and valley but then took the opportunity to upgrade to the Old Guard Tower Suite on arrival. This is the room of choice for sheer romance and history with a comfy bed and fireplace plus a modern shower and toilet on the lower floor. If you stay in low season, this top suite could be yours from around €70 per night. It’s much better staying here now than it was in the 14th century when the room had no plumbing and someone was often shooting arrows at you.

Orsini Fortress in Sorano
Looking out from the window in our room
Hotel della Fortezza
Hotel courtyard
Sorana breakfast
Cake for breakfast is big in Italy
Sorano cat
Hello hotel kitty

Each afternoon we settled into the hotel courtyard with a glass of Tuscan wine and some excellent local meats and cheeses. Hotel della Fortezza doesn’t have a restaurant but staff can arrange tasting platters with advance notice. The hotel cat would check we were enjoying ourselves and offer to assist with the cheese plate. Other guests and visitors would also stop by for a chat sometimes. Dining in Sorano is a very local affair with hidden delights like a quirky wine bar carved into the rock and a great family run pizza restaurant in the square below Hotel della Fortezza.

With a labyrinth of streets and alleyways to explore, we were always finding a different stunning view. As we were staying for a few days we also had the pleasure of seeing and chatting to the locals who were always ready with a smile and a sincere ‘Buongiorno!’. This is what the real Tuscany is all about, taking the time to appreciate the history and culture and slow down (and sample plenty of delicious wine and cheese).

Disclosure: The writer paid for her stay in Sorano and loved every minute of it. 

If you are passing through Rome on your way to Tuscany and looking for things to do, we really enjoyed touring the Colosseum and also our food tours around Campo di Fiore and Trasevere. If you have been to Rome before and want something a little different, check out these Rome hidden secrets.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.