Pienza is a town located in Tuscany, Italy in the province of Siena in the region of Val d’Orcia. Pienza was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1996. The town was actually built on the site of an existing village by the name of Corsignano. The rebuilding of the town was done around the 15th century under the guidance of an architect from Florence.
The economy of Pienza is mainly dependent on agriculture, the production of wine and now on tourism since the town and the valley are known for their exceptional natural beauty. The town of Pienza is quite small with an area of 122 sq km and a population of roughly around 2300.
Attractions in Pienza
Piazza Pio II
The historic center of Pienza is market by the most important square of the city, the Piazza Pio II. The piazza is the ideal example of a well planned city with humanist elements from the 15th century. Piazza Pio II was the center point of the village and was built in a way that it would remain so for a long time. Over the centuries the other areas and quarters of the city developed around the piazza and it continued to remain the center of the city even after all these years.
The historic center is mainly known since it was added in the list of the world heritage sites by UNESCO in 1996. The piazza is surrounded by several important buildings on all sides like the beautiful Cathedral of Pienza, the Palazzo Piccolomini, the Palazzo Communale and various other beautiful monuments that had been built in the city during the reformation of the city.
The cathedral is located right in the center of the piazza and is the focal point of the historic center of the town. The Palazzo Piccolomini is located on the right of the cathedral and is known to be one of the most important buildings in the city. The palace was built in 1459 and was based on the design of Palazzo Rucellai.
The Palazzo Piccolomini was used as the main residence and has three stories. The design of the palace is actually quite similar to the palace of Alberti in Florence with pilasters and windows set in every bay. There is an internal court in the palace which is quite beautiful and the most noteworthy aspect of the palace. On the rear of the palace are loggias on all the floors that provide beautiful views of the surrounding areas.
The Duomo of Pienza
The Duomo of Pienza is located in the center of the main piazza and has a beautiful early Renaissance architecture. The cathedral has beautiful columns, pilasters and various arches. The bell tower of the cathedral is Germanic in its layout and its design. Inside the cathedral are three naves and several aisles. There are several beautiful artworks in the cathedral, five of which are paintings by the Sienese School placed by the altar.
The Palazzo Borgia is located in the main piazza of the town. The palace was built on the insistence of the pope as a residence for the bishops who would travel to Pienza to meet with the Pope. The Palazzo Borgia is now home to the Museo Della Cattedrale and the Diocesan museum that has a collection of textile works and religious art. The museum has a beautiful Christ of the Church painting which was made in the 7th century and various other impressive 14th and 15th century paintings.
The Palazzo Comunale is the Town Hall which is located in the main piazza opposite the church. The palace has a loggia on the lower floor and in 1599 the third floor was constructed. The palace has a brick bell tower which is shorter than the church.
Church of San Francesco
The church of San Francesco is located only a few minutes away from the main Piazza. The church has a beautiful gothic portal and a gabled façade. The church is built on the site of a church that had existed here from the 8th century. Inside the church are various beautiful frescoes which portray various scenes from the life of Saint Francis. The walls of the church have also been beautifully painted by artist of the Sienese School. The Church is known to be one of the most important religious places in Pienza.
Getting to Pienza
The easiest way to get to Pienza is by bus. Buses leave from the neighboring town of Montepulciano almost eight times per day. It only takes half an hour to reach Pienza from Montepulciano. Visitors can also reach Pienza from Montalcino. There are plenty of buses that leave every hour from Montalcino. Visitors who have their own cars can just as easily drive down to Pienza. Driving down is quite enjoyable too since the roads leading up to the town are very scenic and beautiful.
Moving Around the Town
The easiest way to explore Pienza is on foot. There are only a handful of tourist attractions in Pienza which can be visited easily on foot. Visitors who have their own car can easily explore the town since parking is easily available, except for in the peak tourist seasons. Local bus services are also available in Pienza which are mostly used by the locals for moving around within the town and for travelling to the nearby villages located outside the limits of the town. Scooters and mopeds are also available on rent, although these are a little costly.
Stay and Accommodation
Due to the rise in tourism in Pienza and recently because of the boost given to agritourism, there are several new hotels which have opened up in town. There are also quite a lot of traditional farm houses, villas and country homes in Pienza that offer rooms on rent at reasonable prices. Some of the most popular places to stay in Pienza are Agriturismo Le Macchie, Agritourismo Terrapille, Oliviera Camere and II Giardino Segreto. There are also a few farm houses located on the outskirts of the town that provide accommodation facilities.
Eating in Pienza
Visitors have plenty of choices for dining out in Pienza. Although Pienza is quite a small town, there are numerous restaurants, bars and pizzerias in towns due to tourism. Most restaurants serve only local Italian dishes and traditional Tuscan food. Some good places to try while in Pienza are Latte di Luna, La Taverna Di Re Artu and Ristorante Dal Falco. There are also one or two modern restaurants that serve international cuisine and fast food but they are mostly costly and food quality is not really great.
Shopping in Pienza
Pienza only has a handful of places to do shopping. The best place to visit for shopping are the local markets which are held here every Friday. Friday markets are open air with plenty of stalls selling everything like food items, bakery products, wines, and antiques, handicrafts, locally made jewelry, clothes and a variety of other things. Some of the larger shops in town sell artifacts and pottery at quite high prices to tourists so it is best to avoid them. There are also plenty of good varieties of wines available in Pienza at affordable prices.