Are you traveling to Tuscany and wondering what wonderful towns you need to add to your must-see list? Well, I have a great option for you. Pienza is a small hilltop town and a UNESCO World Heritage site which is situated in the Val d’Orcia in the southern part of Tuscany in the Siena region. Pienza is infamous for its Pecorino di Pienza, a hard sheep’s milk cheese, which is prominently displayed in some fantastic specialty cheese shops. But it is more than just that. I immediately fell in love with this small, quiet, romantic town. Wandering the delightful narrow stone streets, with names such as Via dell’Amore (Love Street) and Via del Bacio (Kiss Street), its small but inviting piazzas and breathtaking countryside views, this is definitely a town you want to add to list of places when touring Tuscany.
So, how did this town orginate? Enea Silvio Piccolomini, elected Pope Pius II in 1458, wanted to transform his birthplace, the anonymous village of Corsignano, into the ideal Renaissance town. He hired Bernardo Rossellino, and it took only 4 years to rebuild Pienza, which has remained practically unchanged ever since.
Piazza Pio II is the hub of Pienza as all of the town’s main monuments are located on this square. It is flanked by the cathedral and three palaces: one for the government, one for the bishop and one for Pope Pius II.
The Cathedral was built on the remains of the Romanesque church of St. Mary (still visible in the crypt). The façade is typical of the Renaissance and is divided into three parts by arched columns. On the left wing there is an octagonal, cuspidate bell tower that is reminiscent of the ones Pope Pius II saw in Germany.
Palazzo Piccolomini: this is Rossellino’s masterpiece and has a three-arched loggia on the ground floor facing the cathedral with the council chamber above it.
Palazzo Borgia (Palazzo Vescovile): given by Pius II to Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (the future Pope Alexander VI), it is home to the Diocesan museum. The collection includes local textile work as well as religious artefacts.
Palazzo Comunale: the town hall is the most recent of the buildings on the piazza, with its ample loggia and façade decorated with a scratched plaster technique and a brick tower, which was built later. It also has a brick bell tower, which is shorter than the cathedral’s to symbolize the superior power of the Church.
Pienza’s main street, Corso Rossellino, is a lovely street that’s lined with shops. And, of course, there is an abundant amount of food shops showcasing typical Tuscan products, and yes, cheese.
Get lost in these wonderful alleyways and admire the historic stone buildings.
Pienza makes a lovely day trip and can easily be done in a half of day. Combining it with Montepulciano (15kms) and Montalcino (20 kms) allows you to see three small, yet lovely tuscan towns in one day.
There are some great restaurants in this town like La Terrazza del Choistro and Osteria Sette di Vino. And, if you are wanting to make this your home base, stay at La Bandita.
Hopefully, I have inspired you to add Pienza to your must-see list when you are visiting Tuscany.