June 3, 2019

Towns in Tuscany, Italy, proclaimed Houses of Life by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

The towns of Pitigliano, Sorano, Manciano, Valentano and Fernese have been declared Houses of Life by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in a moving ceremony that took place on May 26th, 2019, at the Synagogue of Pitigliano (La Piccola Gerusalemme – Little Jerusalem).

A House of Life plaque was affixed at the above mentioned synagogue, just in front of the stone that pays tribute to those who were deported from those towns, highlighting the sharp contrast between the Nazis who destroyed human lives and the rescuers who risked their own lives to save others.

These villages in Tuscany were the venue of the heroism displayed by the local rescuers who reached-out to their Jewish neighbors.

One such story was exemplified by Mr. Fortunato Sonno, a resident of Pitigliano, at the Grosseto province, who was officially declared Righteous among the Nations. From March 1944 till the liberation on June 14, 1944, he helped save the life of a local Jewish family of five, the Servis, by hiding them in a cave on Conti Brazza, visiting them daily, bringing them food and supplies, without expecting any reward. One of the Servi daughters, Elena, attended the ceremony.

The IRWF was represented by Ms. Elena Colitto Castelli and Ms. Silvia Costantini, who spoke in the event.

Other keynote speakers were Elena Servi (one of the rescuers and incumbent President of La Piccola Gerusalemme) and Dr. Gloria Arbib, who represented the Italian Jewish community.


Left to Right: Claudia Elmi, from the Piccola Gerusalemme, Silvia Costantini, Dr. Gloria Arbib (UCEIO and and a resident of Pitigliano.

Silvia Costantini addressing the audience. Next to her, Elena Colitto Castelli

A packed audience gathering outside the synagogue

Mr. Giovanni Gentili – Mayor of Pitigliano

Elene Colitto Castelli and Silvia Costantini, accompanied by members of the Piccola Gerusalemme.

Entrance to La Piccola Gerusalemme


The House of Life Plaque next to the commemorative stone