Tuscany is full of wonderful experiences, from medieval cities to Tuscan wines and cuisine to the beautiful rolling hills and countryside. With so many towns to explore where do you start?
There are lots of places I could recommend but today I wanted to share a special town with you, Pienza, which has an interesting history. It’s a small, quaint Tuscan town and one of my favorites because you get to experience everyday living in the style of a local resident.
Pienza is a small hilltop town in the valley known as the Val d’Orcia in the province of Siena. It’s located in southwest Tuscany rather close to Montepulciano. It’s easy to reach by car and with a couple of switch-overs by bus or train, depending on where you start your journey.
Here’s my little guided tour of Pienza. In the city center in the tiny square of Piazza Pio II you will find the Duomo and a few palaces with the most important being Palazzo Piccolomini.
The Palazzo was named after Enea Silvio Piccolomini who became Pope Pius II in the mid 15th century. The town was established by Pope Pius II who commissioned its creation because he owned all the land in the area and wanted a place to stay when he was in town.
Pope Pius II had been born in the town of Corsignano and with the assistance of architect Bernardo Rossellino, they together designed and structured a renaissance town which is now known as Pienza. The name of Pienza hails from the papal name he took on.
Pienza is thought to be the first example of urban planning, consisting of one main street with intersecting streets. Due to Pope Pius II’s death, the town was never fully constructed, but this only adds to its charm. Pienza and its historic center were recognized and added to the Unesco World Heritage List in 1996.
Pienza is known for and home to the sheep’s milk known as Pecorino, or cacio, and if you haven’t yet tried this together with the local honey then you must! A small festival, known as the Fiera del Cacio, takes place on the first Sunday of September during which the locals celebrate this wonderful cheese.
My personal memory of this town was grabbing a fresh prosciutto and pecorino panini and sitting on the wall in the city center looking out over the countryside.
There are lots of shops in the city center worth visiting, especially the cheese shops.
Some of my favourite restaurants include Le Rossellino, Da Fiorella and Latte di Luna. Other local recommended excursions from Pienza are the Cugusi pecorino farm and shop, Biagiotti iron works and the thermal spas of Bagno Vignoni. Who doesn’t love a little food, art and relaxation, especially when you can experience all this in a medieval city in Tuscany?
If you’re a wine lover you’re in the ideal place, with some of the top wines of Italy coming from the nearby towns of Montalcino and Montepulciano including the well known Brunello di Montalcino and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
So get over to Tuscany and explore some of these smaller Tuscan towns! They have so much charm and character you will be in love in more ways than one.
–Jennifer Martin fell in love with Italy when she studied abroad in Florence. Her love and passion for Italy comes not only from her experience of living there, but also her Italian roots. She has traveled all over Italy and loves to share her experiences with the whole world. Follow her on her blog, Vino Travels which focuses on Italian wines and travel. You can also follow Jennifer on Twitter , Facebook and Pinterest.
Feature image – https://flic.kr/p/o2rTTp – Dennis Kleine
Sunset photo – https://flic.kr/p/iNs4nb – Pug Girl
Photo of pecorino – https://flic.kr/p/8RMcCz – Razvan Orendovici
Photo of old door – Victoria de Maio
Photo overlooking the hills with clouds – Victoria de Maio
Concierge tip: Why not combine a stay in Relais Santa Croce (a beautiful 18th century residence steeped in history, located in one of Florence’s most atmospheric districts) with an excursion to explore some of Tuscany’s smaller towns like Pienza? If doing so before 31st December, you can stay an extra night free of charge!