If you want to spend a relaxing weekend enjoying beautiful art and great food, we recommend visiting the towns in the Val d’Orcia, a charming destination year-round. It will be an unforgettable experience in a countryside whose picture-perfect beauty reflects the Renaissance ideal of harmony between man and nature, an ideal that can be found all of the masterful art of the period. So many of the town’s centuries-old features remain intact and well-preserved that it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Among the many places to see and things to do in the Val d’Orcia, Pienza is an absolute gem and is definitely worth a visit. Here is our proposed itinerary:
Our journey begins in the historical center of Pienza. Designed by Rossellino, Piazza Pio II is the heart of the village and a marvelous example of Renaissance architecture. Pienza has many notable monuments, including the Cathedral of Santa Assunta, where works by the most famous Sienese artists are kept, the Town Hall and the Palazzo Piccolomini and its Museum, which was the papal summer residence. Visitors can only enter the museum every 30 minutes on a guided visit, which can be conducted in English, French or Spanish. It is certainly worth going in to see the original furniture, to learn about Pienza’s history and to see the “secret rooms”. Guests can also catch a glimpse of Monte Amiata from the terrace, one of the most beautiful views of the Val d’Orcia.
Walking along Pienza’s narrow streets, tourists will find unusual names, such as Love Street, Kiss Street and Fortune Street. But don’t worry, it’s normal: in fact, this is one of Pienza’s most unique features, and the city has even been dubbed as the city of the “streets of love.” Take a walk hand-in-hand with your partner, enjoying the romantic atmosphere while you look for the silliest street name.
Along the main street, it’s easy to see what traditional products Pienza is known for: “cheese houses,” where the famous Pienza pecorino is made, spots to stop and taste the “Val d’Orcia honey,” and artisan workshops for vase decorations and ceramics line the street. There are also many great restaurants where visitors can enjoy a cold-cuts appetizer and a delicious entrée of truffle pici pasta.
Save the second day of your trip for a tour of the beautiful Sienese countryside. Only a 15-minute car ride from Pienza, visitors reach the center of Montepulciano, a medieval town celebrated for its Vino Nobile. Leave your car in one of the parking garages so that you can explore the famous Piazza Grande on foot. Film buffs might recognize this piazza as the one in “New Moon,” which featured the Cathedral and the Town Hall.
If you’re tired of art and just want to relax, take a dip in the Montepulciano Thermal Baths. The thermal baths were created in 1966 to make use of the therapeutic properties of the subsoil water, which is rich in carbon dioxide. Montepulciano’s Spa has an array of treatments for all ages, from skin care to rehabilitation, sport and fitness courses to cosmetic treatments.
In other words, an afternoon at the spa is a well-deserved rest after a tour of Pienza’s art and beauty.