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Pienza, Tuscany, is a tiny town in the middle of the Val d’Orcia region. It’s ideal for a morning or afternoon visit. The centre of Pienza was almost completely re-designed in the fifteenth century by Pope Pius II. He was born in the village, when it was known as Corsignano, and when elected Pope he had his birthplace rebuilt a year later – renaming it Pienza in his own honour.
The renowned Florentine architect and sculptor Bernardo Rossellino was commissioned by the Pope, to build a town that was the ideal Renaissance design. Whilst the whole town was never completed, the main piazza gives you an idea of what might have been. Its cathedral and three palaces are beautifully designed, almost straight out of a Renaissance painting.
Another string in Pienza’s bow is one for film buffs… some of the scenes in The English Patient were filmed in and around Pienza (although the scenes inside the church with the frescoes were filmed in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo).
Pienza is also renowned in gourmet circles for Pecorino di Pienza – sheep’s cheese. Although the industry has changed (with the importing of non-local ingredients and factory production), there are still a small number of artisan cheese makers in the region. There are a number of bottega in Pienza selling sheep’s cheese, and it’s worth sampling some whilst you’re in town.
Approximately 60 kilometres south of Siena – not easily reached by public transport (there are buses leaving from Siena train station with limited frequency), so a car is essential. Pienza itself is pedestrian-only, car parks are outside the entrance to the town.
Where to stay?
We highly recommend our beautiful Villas near Siena, on a large wine estate. The estate is situated on the top of a hill with 360 degree views, and is a place you will never want to leave. This borgo is one of Passion for Italy’s favourite places in Tuscany – a place to live for a week under the Tuscan sun. Pienza is only a 20-minute drive from the estate.