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.|
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.|
|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.|
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.
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.|