Pienza in Italy is a Tuscan village of pure beauty and once seen, it is not easily forgotten. Pienza and its surroundings provide a rare beauty, made of rolling hills and cypress trees that dot the horizon. Along the road to get to Pienza, the ideal poetic city, you will be so fascinated by the landscape that you might be tempted to continue your car trip: do not hesitate, in the old town there are plenty of treasures, most notably the Palazzo Piccolomini. Pienza is a perfect tourism stop during the discovery of the Val d'Orcia, surrounded with other small and characteristic towns like Montalcino and Bagno Vignoni; about 50 km separates Pienza from Siena, Tuscany in Italy and even less from Arezzo.
Are you wondering what to do and visit in Pienza? Many cheese lovers and gourmets, already know that Pienza is famous for its delicious Pecorino, a cheese unique and full of tasty varieties. But the city has many other surprises and there are many other Pienza tourist attractions! A visit to a cheese farm to see Pienza cheese making in particular, is such a pleasure that it should be visited soon to discover its beauty with us!
THINGS TO SEE In Pienza you have no excuse: the town is small and it is easy to travel around without too much effort! But its impact will remain with you for a long time. Its location perched on a hill makes it one of the of the most spectacular in the Tuscan valley. Pienza offers views of incomparable beauty, to be framed in great photographs or drawings and paintings! And the historical and ancient walls of Pienza have now been declared a World Heritage Site.
We suggest starting your visit of Pienza from the famous Piazza Pio II, where Palazzo Piccolomini is located. First of all, who (or what) was Piccolomini? Enea Silvio Piccolomini was born in Corsignano (the ancient name of Pienza) in 1405. We all, however, know him under the name of Pope Pius II. During his pontificate, which lasted from 1458 to 1464 (the year of his death), Pius II took charge of rebuilding Pienza according to the dictates of the ideal city.
Among his projects were the construction of the Palace and the Pienza Cathedral, both by Bernardo Rossellino. The project of the Palace is inspired by that of Leon Battista Alberti's Palazzo Rucellai in Florence; amongst the Renaissance examples available at that time, there was nothing more perfect to enhance the small town of Pienza.
In the Renaissance the concept of the ideal city was thoroughly investigated through architectural and urban designs that included geometric principles as well as through a rational and scientific approach that drew on the philosophical theories of the past, including those of Plato. The revival of Pienza, the ideal Renaissance city such as Urbino or Ferrara, was therefore tied to a vision, a utopia in which the urban space was developed according to the balance and the virtues of man.
Palazzo Piccolomini and Piazza Pio II are an example of the dreams of the umanists of the 15th century. Even if you are not architects or historians you will appreciate the facade with its huge entrance and the inner courtyard which is accessed to arrive at the beautiful garden terrace: from here you will be kings and queens of the Val d'Orcia, with a truly magnificent view overlooking much of the valley.
Hopefully you can you glimpse Montalcino or Mount Amiata in the distance. The walls surrounding this green terrace are covered with ivy, the rectangular flower beds are surrounded by walkways and boast rose bushes, in the middle, finally, there is a pretty 15th century fountain…Think, also, that some scenes of Romeo and Juliet by Franco Zeffirelli were shot here in 1968!
In addition to the garden we advise you to visit the apartments and the papal library.
There are much more things to do when visiting Pienza, Italy than seeing the main square, such as Palazzo Borgia and the other undisputed jewel of this 'ideal' square, the Pienza Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. This church was built at the behest of Pius II, who, in an edict in 1462, expressed the wish that there were never any changes: 'No one must deface the whiteness of the walls or face excommunication. No other paintings must hang, no altars are to be added or new chapels opened. Nobody must change something to the beauty of the church, as it must remain as it is'. Enea Silvio Piccolomini was especially fond of his hometown and his great commitment in making Pienza an 'ideal city' was a clear testimony of this. Pienza is an artistic treasure and one of the few remaining Renaissance cities in Italy.
The stunning Cathedral in Pienza is presented to you with a travertine facade and with an apparent decorative simplicity, when seen from a distance you will notice its planned natural setting which makes it look like a stone set in the green valley. The church boasts works selected personally by Pius II and commissioned to the best Siena artists of the time such as Sano di Pietro and Matteo di Giovanni. Noteworthy especially are the wooden choir and a baptismal font designed by Rossellino.
If you want to conclude the tour of Pienza with the works of the great architect Bernardo Rossellini, take a look at the Town Hall, also located in the spectacular Piazza Pio II. Are you intrigued by the well on the side of the square? It is known as the 'well of dogs' and with its capital columns it is one of the finest of the many wells that you will see scattered in the city.
In addition to the square - Pienza in Tuscany has surely one of the most characteristic and harmonious squares in the region- other Pienza tourism highlights include the Diocesan Museum, also known as the Cathedral Museum, housed in the Bishop's Palace (Borgia). Since the late sixties, the museum has housed many interesting works from the period of Pope Pius II. There are eleven halls in total but we are highlighting in particular the Cope of Pius II, considered one of the masterpieces of English art of the 14th century. This precious fabric was made with a British embroidery technique weaving silk of various hues and silver. Some experts believe the author of this masterpiece was inspired by the designs of the anonymous illuminator of the famous Holkman Bible kept at the British Museum in London. Of course, in the museum's collection there is no shortage of paintings and sculptures by artists from the area of Siena. Pienza is an ideal city and will not fail to enchant you with its artistic and natural beauties!
The great poet Mario Luzi, very close to the town of Pienza, once perfectly described the landscape seen from these places and the sky above: ‘a clear vast valley, a continually changing and stupefying steadiness, the infinity written and deleted in the sky and in the open ground a thousand times a day'.
PIENZA SHEEP CHEESE Pienza in Tuscany is known by many for its cheese: Pecorino di Pienza cheese! Sheep grazing in the meadows of Val d'Orcia feed on special herbs (wormwood, meadow goat's-beard and horehound) that make Pienza cheese unique and delicious! Several methods of cheese making, salting and seasoning, which takes place in oak barrels, create many variations. Do you want to go shopping? In the cheese shops of the city choose Marzolino if you prefer a fresh cheese, Magnifico or Black if you prefer the mild and dry cheese, or Pecorino di Grotta or aged Pecorino di Pienza DOP for a stronger flavour, finally, if you are fans of pecorino di Pienza cheese then treat yourself to some spicy pecorino!
Before buying, if you can, do not forget to try and get a recommendation for the type of honey that should be eaten to enjoy your chosen cheese in the best way and have fun during tastings in the company of this fantastic Pienza cheese!
In September there is the Fiera del Cacio (Cheese Fair), dedicated to Pienza cheese tasting! During the fair you will also watch the ancient Pienza must see Palio del Cacio Fuso where players, divided by districts, commit to rolling entire forms of cheese around a wooden spindle. Taking place in the central square, the favourite place of Pienza. Tuscany traditions such as this are the basis of everyday life. Remember that God offers us good mood as first support to tackle the difficulties.
PIENZA TOUR. Walking along the streets of Pienza is already enough to feel at peace with the world. The narrow streets of the village have lovely and romantic names like Kiss Street or Love Street... Do not you feel inspired? A scenic walk along the walls surrounding the old town is also recommended. Pienza is highly recommended in Tuscany when it comes to spectacular views!
Another suggestion is to follow the signs to the Romanesque church of Corsignano, the baptism site of Pope Pius II within easy walking distance from Pienza. In addition to the original baptismal font of the time, look amongst the pillars of the church for the sculpture of the snake... It is one of the few remaining of this deity of the Roman time!
Pienza offers delicious dishes like Pici with cheese and pepper, brushetta, cold Tuscan cut meats and grilled pecorino Pienza, Italy cheese! Find the trattorias at the bottom of the narrow streets, off the beaten track and remember to book in advance if you want to dine here on a Saturday night!
PIENZA & AROUND. Your journey should not end here. Pienza tourist attractions on the outskirts of town include, just six kilometres away the large Benedictine monastery of Sant'Anna in Camprena. How to convince you to come here? This monastery is situated between the landscapes of the Val D'Orcia and near the beginning of the Crete Senesi. The beauty of these places is such that the monastery has been used for some locations of the movie The English Patient in 1996… Do you remember the soldier Ralph Fiennes cared for by the nurse Juliette Binoche? Even if you do not like love stories, this monastery is worth a visit. In particular, the refectory boasts a splendid 16th century cycle of frescoes by Sodoma (Antonio Bazzi).
Another place that we suggest is Monticchiello of Pienza. It is a medieval village on top of a hill where there are the remains of ancient walls. In addition to the small historic centre and the beautiful Pieve of Saints Leonard and Christopher with its 14th century frescoes, we recommend that you attend an unmissable summer show at the Teatro Povero di Monticchiello, in Pienza,Siena Tuscany, Italy in July and August.
As you read, in Pienza what to do is plentiful, but why stop there? After a day in beautiful Pienza - the ideal city - we suggest you make a stop at Bagno Vignoni and enjoy the hot springs.
Pienza is also close to Montalcino where you can complete your purchase of pecorino di Pienza cheese with some Brunello wine!
Does the summer heat oppress you? If you are affected by the summer heat then you can escape to the mountains to the wooded areas of Amiata or dive into the waters of the Argentario! In any case, the rule is always the same: take your rest!
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