24 June 2012

Guided Tour to the Tuscan Hilltop Town of Pienza, Italy

Welcome to the hilltop town of Pienza, Italy—quaint and charming not to mention a perch upon which to revel in the most splendid views of Tuscany. All content is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited. 

Destination Pienza, Italy! After spending the morning driving south from Florence through glorious Tuscany with a stop at Montepulciano to indulge in savory delectables and tasty wines, we continued our tour heading west through some of the most sublime landscapes I've ever encountered. Located 15 minutes away from Montepulciano is the historic hilltop town of Pienza—about a third smaller than her sister Montepulciano but much bigger on charm! While there's not an awful lot to see in this quaint village, you'll revel in its narrow cobbled lanes flanked by striking Renaissance architecture. What I remember most from my visit were the vivid flower baskets of vibrant red blooms hanging from every window along the streets and the most magnificent views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside from the promenades at the perimeter. Join me on this guided tour through Pienza!


Inside Pienza's city center, you'll find narrow cobbled lanes flanked by striking Renaissance architecture and hanging flower baskets.

History

Pienza owes its existence to Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II, a member of an exiled Sienese family who had great ambitions to transform his birthplace village of Corsignano into Pienza—a model Renaissance city that would be the envy of all of Italy and whose supremacy could never be challenged by neighboring city states. It was in 1459, a year after Piccolomini became Pope, when construction commenced under the direction of Bernardo Rossellino, a student of Renaissance man Leon Battista Alberti. Pius II's grand design called for a blending of Gothic with Renaissance architectural styles into the city's new central buildings including a Duomo, a Papal palace and a grand palazzo town hall. In just three years, the Duomo as well as its neighbors were completed and the village of Corsignano was officially renamed Pienza. Pope Pius II even left his mark on the town—his coat of arms encircled by garlands of fruit sculpted high upon the pediment over the Duomo's door.


High above the Duomo's door and central window, you'll find Pope Pius II's coat of arms encircled by garlands of fruit. 

Pienza, Italy—the Sights


What I remember most from my visit were the vivid flowers and plants hanging from every window along the streets in Pienza.

After parking your car just outside the city proper and thankfully not as far out as Montepulciano, head into the village where you'll find its only main street or Corso Rossellino, named after the aforementioned architect, plying its way through the cobbled lanes and leading directly to the Piazza Pio II named after Pius II. Take your time as you stroll down the lanes with a stop here and there to admire the flowers, exchange greetings or perhaps indulge in taste of Pecorino cheese for which Pienza is world renowned. Eventually, you'll arrive at the focal point, the city center where you'll find the Duomo, Palazzo Piccolomini, the city museum—among others.


Piazza Pio II in Pienza, Italy.

Just one of many picturesque villas you'll find in Pienza.  

The Duomo


Pienza Duomo was inspired by the German cathedrals that Pope Pius II visited in Austria. 

Completed shortly after Pope Pius II was elected to the Papal seat, the Duomo was inspired by the German cathedrals that Pius II visited in Austria; especially evident in its bell tower and windows. Inside you'll find a most glorious light bathes the interior thanks to Germanic windows and Pius II's desire to create the domus vitrea or house of glass within his new Duomo—a symbol of this new age of enlightenment that was sweeping through Italy!

As you enter the Duomo, look high overhead at the hand-painted archways and then head down the nave toward the altar where you'll find five magnificent Gothic altarpieces. As you're making your way down the nave, you'll suddenly realize that the floor is sloping toward the rear apses, it's a rather sinking feeling at first but there's no immediate danger. Actually, the floor began to succumb to its unstable perch just 10 after completion—the result of faulty construction upon an unstable sandstone base and because of Pius II's insistence that his Duomo be built upon this very location, formerly the site of his town's original church. Before that, it was home to an Etruscans settlement and even earlier, an ancient civilization dating back to 500 B.C. Measures to shore up the foundation have been in place and ongoing ever since.


Magnificent interior design of the Pienza Duomo.  
Pius II's desire to create the domus vitrea or 'house of glass' within his new Duomo—a symbol of this new age of enlightenment.

The Palazzo Piccolomini or Papal Palace

Pius II never saw his completed Palazzo Piccolomini, the Papal palazzo which is actually built upon the same ground as his family's house in which he was reared. Actually, it was his nephew Pius III who saw it through its completion. Located just to the right of the Duomo, enter through the courtyard and up to the second-floor apartments which were occupied by descendants of the Piccolomini family until 1968. Head out to the loggia behind the palace and behold spectacular sweeping views of the Val d'Orcia Tuscan countryside.

The Palazzo Comunale


The Palazzo Comuale—one of Pope Pius II's city-centre edifices in his grand redesign of Pienza. 

Close-up view of the Palazzo Comunale's clock tower.  

Museo Diocesano

Just to the left of the Duomo is the Palazzo Borgia which houses Pienza's museum Museo Diocesano. Inside, you'll find a collection of medieval art including paintings, sculptures, tapestries and more.

The Views of Val d'Orcia


Find via Dell' Amore (Street of Love) located to the left of the Duomo and behind the city centre. Once you meander to this outer promenade, behold the most striking panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside.

Make sure that you find the Via Dell' Amore (Street of Love) located to the left of the Duomo and behind the city centre. Once you meander to this outer promenade, behold the most striking panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside, some of the best you'll find anywhere in Tuscany!

Sublime views of the Tuscan countryside can be found throughout Pienza.

Church of Francesco or Chiesa di Francesco


Church of Francesco or Chiesa di Francesco in Pienza, Tuscany.

One of the relics of the pre-Papal state, this little church is filled with magnificent 14th-century frescoes recounting the life of Saint Francis from whom the church takes its name.

Restaurants

Latti di Luna is one of my friend's favorite places to eat while visiting Pienza and as it turns out, it's also a favorite of Rick Steves.


On our way down Corso Rossellino to the Palazzo Comunale and Piazza Pio II. 

I hope you enjoyed this guided tour through Pienza, now one of my favorite places in all of Tuscany. If you're planning to visit Cortona or Montepulciano, make sure you take this little detour to Pienza for the splendid views and unforgettable charm!


Arrivederci from Pienza, Italy.

Additional Reading:

54 comments:

  1. Pienza is one of my very favorite towns in Tuscany. In fact, your top photo captures the location of one of our traditions. On our first night in Tuscany we gather at the bar in the photo. Sometimes we grab a table, but usually we lean against the wall looking out at the countryside. We have a splendid glass of Brunello, and toast the friendships that have brought us to Italy together for another year. We then drink to our health, happiness, and return visit to Italy.

    For a variety of reasons we didn't get to Italy this year (we typically go in June), and this photo is a wonderful reminder that while I might not be there in body, I am in spirit.

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    1. Hi there Mary Jo and so happy to see you here! Did you see my mention of you above? I sure hope so!! Had to include that after your facebook comment! Thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers...I cherish comments like this...so meaningful and full of "living in the moment." Thx for stopping by and hope Italy is in your very near future!

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  2. Ahh, Italy is such a fave destination for me. And these little towns really need to be seen. They are so quaint and charming. Great photos, as usual.

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    1. Hi Marlys and thank you so much for the comments and compliments!! I would love to visit every single one of Italy's hilltop towns!!

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  3. Fab photos, Jeff!

    Italy is such a magnifico place. I see you've discovered yet another piece of it that I will have to visit.

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    1. Hi there Doreen and thank you so much for the comment. I totally agree with your sentiment my friend...MAGNIFICO!! And yes, it you're touring near Montepulciano or Cortona, take this quick detour...well worth your time. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  4. This is lovely, there is something about Italy that makes you come back from more. I have never been to Pienza, but would love to. I can't imagine what the food must be like (mentally putting on weight!). Stunning photos too!

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    1. Hi there Ana and thank you so much for stopping by to share your thoughts...I hear ya when it comes to mentally putting on the weight...but as they say, "When in Rome." Thank you for your compliments too!

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  5. Love the architecture. Must get myself to Tuscany!

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    1. Hi there Laurel...Thx for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts especially while you're getting ready for Australia! Wishing you a most magnificent time!

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  6. My gosh, Pienza looks so beautiful and full of character. I think I'm going to go crazy if I don't get to Tuscany soon -- and you are partially to blame for posting such awesome photos & stories of the area!

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    1. Hi there Cathy! I am still laughing at your comment...I too, will go crazy if I don't get back soon. Let's go!! Thx so much for stopping by and for you kind compliments!!

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  7. Thanks for sharing, Jeff! This is another Tuscan town for us to add to our list to visit. Good thing Tuscany is only a short 3 hour drive away! ;)

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    1. Hi there my dear friend!! Thank you so much for stopping by and for torturing me so with your comment that Pienza is only 3 hours away...boy am I jealous! Thank you for you for sharing your thoughts.

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  8. So charming! Have to add that to my list. I spent nearly 2 months in Italy 2 years ago...in smaller towns (mostly in Umbria) and STILL have so much more to see.

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    1. Hi there my friend and I couldn't agree with you more. I haven't even seen Umbria yet but oh how I want to tour the entire region and then back track to Cortona and Tuscany!! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experiences.!!

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  9. While I've been to Italy several times, I cant say that I've taken alot of time on the ground to explore around - it seems like I'm always off to somewhere else. But this all elevates it for me. Wonderful places! The top shot just seems heavenly to me. A warm, sunny afternoon with a view like that....? Wow.

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    1. Hi there Jim and thanks so much for stopping by! You really must set out and explore Italy on the ground...a drive thru Tuscany will set you right, I assure you! Plus, think of all the opportunities to retrace the footsteps of all the historical figures who have passed through the region. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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  10. It is villages like Pienza that I drawn to! I can imagine wandering the streets especially after everyone goes home. The quiet must be amazing. Beautiful pictures Jeff.

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    1. Hi there Debbie and thank you for your comment and share on Facebook!! I couldn't agree with you ,ore...Tuscany is filled with enchanting villages like Pienza as you know! Thx for stopping by my friend!

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  11. Pienza is beautiful.. in my opinion Tuscany is the best place in Italy!... and Montepulciano Wine makes me crazy!! I love Italy!!

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    1. Hi there Lucy and thank you so much for stopping by to share your thoughts! I couldn't agree with you more. And yes, I too love Montepulciano Vino Nobile! Thx again!

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  12. Great post Jeff. You captured the essence of Pienza with some pretty amazing pictures and it put me in a holiday mood!

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    1. Hi there Sam and thanks so much for stopping by and more importantly for your kind words. I loved my time in Pienza and only wish the hour didn't grow so late, so fast while I was there. I will definitely return one day!

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  13. Great photos. I need to return to Pienza. My memory is buying an alabaster wall fountain and when my friend returned to the shop to see me carrying this.........all she could do was shake her head. Heavy hand luggage but so worth it :)

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    1. Hi there Lisa and thanks so much for stopping by! I love your passion for beautiful things ... and I too, would have lugged it all the way home! Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories!

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  14. Great article on a lovely Tuscan town that is often overlooked. Aside from the art and architecture I love tasting some of the fresh pecorino you can get at one of the nearby farms or in one of the local shops. Sounds like you had a great visit, hope you make it back again soon!

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    1. Hi there Jessica and thanks for commenting with your tasty tidbit tip! Funny, one of my followers on Facebook shared the same comment...I need to get back ASAP and get me some of that Pecorino! Thx for stopping by!

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  15. Ahhhh! Gorgeous photos! Thanks for the virtual journey : ))

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    1. Hi there Carol and thanks so much for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the tour. I had a fantastic afternoon wandering around this hilltop town in Tuscany...and the views were extraordinary. I personally recommend it the next time you're driving in the south of Tuscany!

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  16. My family visited Pienza three years ago. It was one of my favorite days on a two-week trip to Tuscany. Great photos. I will attest to them as we walked, sat, ate and enjoyed most of the scenes you posted. Kudos to a great pictorial. Cheers.

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    1. Greetings my friend and thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words! I really enjoyed my time in Pienza and looking forward to returning some day.

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  17. Glorious photos, Jeff. I can almost smell the herb-scented air!

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    1. Hi there Lesley, you have no idea my friend...this place was positively enchanting. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words!

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  18. Great article, Jeff! Once you get into the geometry of Rosselino's plan, evertying you see in that main square makes music.
    Visitors to Pienza shouldn't skip stopping into the many salumerie in town for a tasting of the insanely delicious pecorino cheese that Pienza is so famous for. Whenever we go there, we always bring home a wheel or two. My favorite is the pecorino aged in laurel leaves!

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    1. Hi there Eugene and thanks so much for your kind words! I loved my time in Pienza. Never got into the geometry of Rosselino's plan...math is certainly not my thing, but you certainly have piqued my curiosity! And yes, the Pecorino has been recommended by all who have visited this delightful hilltop town. Thank you for stopping by to share you experiences...thus adding more value to my post!

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  19. I would love to see more of Tuscany, this town looks pretty and the views look beautiful.

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    1. Hi Sofia and yes, you must get out to explore southern Tuscany when you have a chance! Sublime countryside, picturesque hilltop towns and more villages like Pienza. Thank you so much for stopping by to share your thoughts!

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  20. What a wonderful piece - I feel like I've been to Tuscany :) Gorgeous pictures - thanks so much for sharing your visit to this charming town.

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    1. Hi there Anna Marie and thanks so much for all of your kind words! I had such a wonderful time here and really look forward to returning one day! Thx for stopping by!

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  21. Your photos and descriptions are great. Enjoyed visiting your site.

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    1. Hi there and thank you so much for your kind words!! Hope you continue to come back for more!

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  22. Isn't Pienza gorgeous? Such a stunning little town. It is actually the setting for my upcoming CINNAMON novels. Thank you for sharing your experiences. :)

    -Megan

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    1. Hi there Megan! How exciting that your novel takeslace in one of my favorite Tuscan towns! Thx so much for stopping by to share your thoughts!

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    1. Hey there Matthew!! Thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind compliments! I LOVED Pienza and look forward to my return one day soon!! Have you been?

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  24. I am ashamed to say that although I have been to Tuscany many times I didn't manage to go to Pienza, I will rectify this as soon as possible!

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    1. Ciao Davide. Yes, you must see to it and right away! ; ) It's only a 15-minute drive from Montepulciano so the next time you're in southern Tuscany, stop by. You won't regret it and be sure to indulge in some Pecorino!: )

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  25. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous post! These pictures are so good I can remember the Italian heat! It's fabulous of being reminded how beautiful this country is just in the middle of the working week. Big thank you Jeff!

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    1. Hi Agata and thank you so much for you kind compliments! I loved Pienza and look forward to returning for an extended visit unlike this day. It was way too short!

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  26. Though i have never been to Italy, seeing these images i wish to visit once.. Beautiful place, lovely images and amazing post. Thank you!

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    1. Hello there Anupama. Everyone must see Italy at least once in their lives so please make every attempt you can to get there. You won't regret it, I promise! Thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words!!

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  27. My husband and I just spent a month in Lucca. We have always wanted to spend an extended period of time in Tuscany and finally did it. We rented a converted 16th century mill on a mountain-side just outside of Lucca and soaked in everything Tuscany had to offer. The trip of a lifetime! Next year - Provence. Thanks for all the wonderful photos and stories, Jeff

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    1. Hi there! Certainly sounds like you had a wonderful journey to Italy and I am so glad to hear that you had a lot of time in Tuscany! It's sublime, isn't it? Of course I am jealous of your 16th-century accommodations. I bet it really added to your immersion into the Tuscan way of life! And I can tell you that Provence is going to be equally wonderful! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your travels with me! I LOVE to receive comments like this!

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Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!