Pienza, a small picturesque town in southern Tuscany, famous for its sheep milk cheese and stunning Renaissance architecture can be visited on our best custom Italy tours.
Encircled by medieval walls, Pienza sits on a hilltop overlooking the rolling hills of Val d’Orcia Valley. It is known as the “ideal city of the Renaissance” created by a local nobleman Enea Silvio Piccolomini who later became Pope Pius II.
After assuming the papacy in 1458, Pius II decided to transform his humble birthplace, a village called Corsignano, realizing his vision of Renaissance urban space. It took less than four years to reorganize the old hamlet and create the harmonious central square, which became the heart of the new town called Pienza, after Pius II.
Remaining virtually unchanged since the 15th century, Piazza Pio II is surrounded by magnificent buildings: the Cathedral (Il Duomo), Palazzo Piccolomini, a masterpiece inspired by Palazzo Rucellai in Florence, Palazzo Vescovile and the Town Hall (Palazzo Comunale).
Il Duomo has an elegant Renaissance façade with arched columns and a tall bell tower. Inside you will find five splendid altar paintings from the Sienese School. On the west side of the square is the Piccolomini Palace with an exotic hanging garden and stunning views over Val d’Orcia stretching to the Mount Amiata. Some scenes from Franco Zeffirelli’s movie “Romeo and Juliet” were filmed in the palace.
Palazzo Vescovile houses a small Diocesan museum with beautiful old textiles and religious artifacts. Several other buildings constructed for members of the papal court line the Corso Rossellino named after the architect, who realized Pius II’s ambitious project: the Ammannati Palace, Palazzetto, Gonzaga Palace.
Make sure you stock up on famous pecorino di Pienza, a sheep milk cheese made locally. In September, the town hosts Fiera del Cacio, a cheese festival where you can taste traditional produce form the area and watch a fascinating ancient game Palio del Cacio Fuso where locals roll cheese heads at the central square.
Photos via Flickr by: Giampaolo Macorig, Jacqueline Poggi, Guillén Pérez