Pienza is a gem in the Val d'Orcia. It's known as the city of Pope Pius II, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who was born here in 1405. Once Pius became Pope, he wanted to transform his humble birthplace, Corsignano, into an urban-architectural treasure.
Therefore, he entrusted the total renovation of the village to the architect Bernardo Rossellino and to the humanist Leon Battisti Alberti. In just four years, from 1459 to 1462, they defined the harmonious and typically 15th-century appearance of present-day Pienza.
This is how the artistic city is known today: "born from a thought of love and a dream of beauty", as Giovanni Pascoli wrote.
Due to its peculiar characteristics, in 1996, together with the whole Val d'Orcia, Pienza was recognized as a World Heritage Site.
Walking through the historic center, you are bound to come across Piazza Pio II and the Cathedral of the Assunta. Inside, you can find important and remarkable paintings by the most renowned artists of the time, and the beautiful octagonal bell tower that stands above the centuries-old crypt.
In front of the cathedral, you can see the Palazzo Comunale, a historic building dating back to the mid-1400s with its main feature: the large loggiato on the front. Also in the main square is the imposing Palazzo Piccolomini Museum that stands out with its hanging garden from which you can admire a truly unique panorama over the whole Val d'Orcia, from Montalcino to Monte Amiata. To complete the central square, you can visit Palazzo Borgia, home of the Diocesan Museum of Pienza.
Inside the former school of San Carlo, you can find the Archaeological Museum of Pienza, a building of medieval origin, with archaeological and Etruscan collections on display and an exhibition path that documents the urban and architectural history of the Pienza area.
Just a short walk from the historic center will bring you to the Parish Church of Corsignano, a Romanesque church with three naves, whose origins date back to the seventh century.
Undulating hills, ancient villages, vineyards and towers: the Val d'Orcia is a very special land, a corner of the Sienese countryside where nature and man's work have come together in a perfect union. In a weekend, you can discover all the jewels of this fantastic area.
Also worth mentioning is Monticchiello, a small part of the municipality which, with its keep, walls and medieval gate, stands out against the splendid landscape of the valley. The inhabitants of the village keep alive the ancient tradition of the Teatro Povero, a testament to the cultural wealth of this area and the local's passion for their history and identity.
In September, the famous and entertaining Fiera del Cacio is held, a large festival dedicated to pecorino and other traditional local products. During the event, there is also a centuries-old folk game played: Palio del Cacio al fuso, where players from each district have to push and roll entire barrels of pecorino cheese around a small wooden spindle located in the center of the main square.
To complete your trip, you cannot miss the chance to to discover the typical products of the area, such as Pecorino di Pienza, saffron, exquisite truffles, Cinta Senese salami and pici: handmade spaghetti seasoned with a garlic sauce or goose ragout. All, of course, accompanied by a glass of local wine: Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino and Orcia Doc.