Pienza – A Pope’s Pride

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If you love visiting classically picturesque medieval hilltop villages, you will love Pienza.

Pienza, located in the heart of Tuscany between Montepulciano and Montalcino, is only 50 km. from Siena. A delightful gem, Pienza enjoys the distinctions of being one of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Originally named Corsignano, Pienza’s fate was changed forever in the 15th century when it became the birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini. Destined to become Pope Pius II, as Pope he renamed his hometown (modestly after himself) Pienza and was dedicated to and successful in making it the model of Renaissance town building.

Today, six centuries later, when we visit this captivating village, it’s only right that we thank him for his vision and pride. Pienza is walled (like so many towns who were to adopt this model) and has a main street joined by two gates. Thanks to this plan, Pienza is strictly pedestrian so, if you arrive by car or van, you will have to park outside the city walls. According to the plan, along the main thoroughfare, which will lead you to a main piazza, are charming parallel and perpendicular side streets.

Pienza is easily navigated and explored and although it is small, if you rush you will miss its appeal and charm. Corso Rossellino, the main thoroughfare named after its chief architect, will bring you to its main piazza, Piazza Pio II (which is named after, yes you guessed it, Pope Pius II). Facing the piazza are The Duomo, the Palazzo Comunale, Palazzo Piccolomini and Palazzo Borgia. Gracing Corso Rossellino are many other noteworthy structures including the Church of San Francesco and numerous wells and fountains.

If you find yourself in the mood for a gelato or espresso or perhaps an aperitivo or a bite to eat, you’re in luck. The main Corso and, smaller piazzas off the smaller side streets, are lined with inviting gelaterie, caffé, enoteche, and trattorie. The friendly local artisan shops also deserve your attention, too. Be sure to put tasting pecorino cheese and the local miele (honey) on your “not to be missed” list of local specialties to sample (and perhaps bring home?).

Be sure to allow time to just linger, meander, slow your pace, get a little “lost”. Stroll along the gently winding alleyways. Be impulsive and wander down some of the winding walkways. Enter ancient archways. Stop, look around, look up…take time to appreciate the colorful, well-tended window boxes and flowerpots on balconies and window sills.

You might even notice the street signs and find yourself on Via Bella Fortuna, Via Del Bacio, or Via Dell’Amore. That’s a good sign because they all lead you to the city walls where you will be greeted by a dramatic panoramic view of the gorgeous rich tapestry of the Val D’Orcia below. I almost had to pinch myself…surely I was dreaming? Grazie, Pio II, grazie…

Victoria De Maio

La dolce vita sums up Victoria’s passion and love for all things Italian. An American living in California, her heart is always in Italy. As a travel consultant, blogger, and writer, Victoria loves sharing practical no-nonsense travel tips and insights on her travel blog, PostcardsfromTravelPiZazz.com and now offers two boutique tours to Italy. Connect with Victoria on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Concierge tip:  Combine a trip to Pienza with a luxurious weekend retreat at Hotel Cala del Porto, a member of Relais & Chateaux – a two-hour drive from Pienza through the beautiful Tuscan countryside.

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