Sorano is a magnificent village on a hill of tuff inside the Città del Tufo Archaeological Park in an area characterized by a landscape of soft hills interrupted by canyons carved by the waters.
Sorano is located in the hinterland of Tuscany on the border with Lazio and its territory is rich with water with the Fiora and Lente rivers, that arise right near the centre, and the thermal waters of the Terme di Sorano.
The history of Sorano begins not far from the current village. In this area there was an ancient Etruscan settlement and its traces can be seen in the fortification walls of the nearby village of Sovana (fraction of Sorano), in the necropolis, in the Via Cava dug out of the tuff and in columbariums. The centre was then Romanized after the conquest by Rome.
The name Sorano has a Latin origin and perhaps reflects that of the pre-existing Sovana.
The current inhabited center of Sorano has a more recent origin and begins with the arrival of the barbarians in Italy and the escape of the population who took refuge in fortresses built on high ground. The territory occupied by Rome was conquered by various kings who parcelled it in many small fiefdoms and the remains of many castles can still be recognized.
It was Ludwig II, a monarch of French origin, who in 862 gave birth to Aldobrandesca County, named after a family who had arrived in Italy with the Lombards and who had a certain power in the territories between Tuscany and Lazio.
When the Catholic church divided the territory into a diocese for its administration, Sovana became a bishopric and the Aldobrandini built their castle, traces of which can still be seen. Here was born Ildebrando di Sovana who would later be elected pope with the name of Gregory VII.
It was the Aldobrandini who built the first fortress of Sorano which, due to its position on a spur of rock, was easily defensible. They built a fortress and a city wall to make it a bulwark of their fiefdom.
The family ruled this fiefdom until the last heir Anastasia married Romano Orsini in 1293. The Orsini established their residence in a nearby town, but fortified Sorano and also incorporated the hamlet of Sovana with its castle.
The Orsini called the architect Anton Maria Lari to strengthen the fortress, which thus became the Orsini Fortress, to make Sorano impregnable.
The constant battles with nearby Siena, with Orvieto and with the Papal States, which tried several times to conquer it, led Sorano to be besieged without success several times. Although it was never defeated, in 1417, Sorano became part of the area of the Sienese state, but in 1555 it returned to be under the total control of the Orsini who strengthened the fortress.
In 1604 the whole territory passed under the direct control of the Medici family and became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
In 1619, the Medici established the Jewish Ghetto, with the construction of a synagogue and a Forno delle Azzime, which was abandoned only in the twentieth century.
In the eighteenth century, during the period of the reign of the Grand Dukes of Lorraine, who had taken over from the Medici, a second fortification was built on the opposite side of the city near the Porta dei Merli which took the name of Masso Leopoldino,. This imposing fortress, characterized by its watchtower, was part of a previous medieval structure that had been partially destroyed by a landslide of the tuff rock on which it was founded.
The eighteenth century corresponded to the period of greatest splendour for Sorano which would remain in the Grand Duchy until its annexation with the Kingdom of Italy which took place as a resuly of the plebiscite of 1860.