Part of the UNESCO’s heritage, this enchanting Renaissance village is surrounded by the Val d'Orcia, one of Tuscany's most celebrated landscapes. The town looks toward the Mount of Cortona and the three lakes (Trasimeno, Chiusi and Montepulciano); while to the south is Mount Amiata. Pienza was founded and established according to a Renaissance concept of urban planning, the first humanist planning design, which then spread to other places.
Born as Corsignano in the 9th century, the town passed to the influential Piccolomini family. One of the Piccolomini became Pope Pius II, who rebuilt the city according to this new ordered structure and humbly named it for himself, Pienza. Pope Pius II made Pienza his papal retreat. The entire town is a Renaissance gem.
The main piazza is, of course, Piazza Piccolomini, flanked on one side by Palazzo Piccolomini. The trapezoidal piazza is lovely. The palace mimics Palazzo Rucellai in Florence, it's interior courtyard bears three-stories of loggias, and an enclosed Italian Renaissance garden. Views extend over the gorgeous Val d'Orcia.
The Duomo is one the first churches built in Renaissance style with its symmetry and orders separated by pilasters and arches. Inside, Sienese painters completed lovely works of art.
The Bishops' Palace - Palazzo Vescovile - was a structure encouraged by Pius, built for the bishops who followed the pope to Pienza to attend him during his retreats. It is now home to the Diocesan Museum with beautiful religious art, including pieces by Signorelli and Lorenzetti.
The town hall is still in Palazzo Comunale, also known as Palazzo dei Priori. Its bell tower defines the urbanscape of Pienza.
Pienza is the perfect base for exploring the beautiful gems in the area, like San Quirico, Montalcino, Bagno Vignoni, Montefollonico and Radicofani. The classic landscapes of the Val d'Orcia are where the perfect postcard pictures come from, so be sure to drive some of the country roads. There are plenty of trails for walking and biking, as well.
Of course, the area is also known for producing some of Italy's most famous wines. Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Monalcino are world-renowned. Schedule a winery visit to sample these vintages. Pienza is also known for its distinct and delectable pecorino cheese. Try its various forms. Pici pasta is served with meat sauce, and especially loved is the wild hare ragu they make, so give it a taste.
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Explore nearby towns
Monticchiello rests on a hill near Pienza, in the provincial countryside of Siena.
Coming from Montalcino towards Via Cassia, you'll find the road signs to San Quirico d'Orcia: one of the most interesting village of the whole Val d'Orcia.
Not far from Torrita di Siena, set on top of a hill between Valdichiana and Val d'Orcia lies Montefollonico, typical isolated Medieval hamlet surrounded by thirteenth-century walls of fired bricks.