Pienza, known as the Ideal City, is located in the scenic Val d’Orcia between Montepulciano and Montalcino. It is about an hour south of Siena and very much worth the drive through the famous wine country and rolling Tuscan hills. Pope Pius II, transformed his hometown of Corsignano into Pienza, an expression of Renaissance architectural perfection. UNESCO even gave it the title of world heritage site. Pienza is without a doubt one of the best towns to visit in Tuscany.
Here are a 5 very good reasons to visit Pienza.

Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza | What to do in Pienza

1. Visit the House of a Pope

The humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini (the stress goes on the second O, Piccolòmini), once he became Pope Pius II, had enough money and influence to rebuild his hometown of Corsignano based on his concept of the utopian city. Palazzo Piccolomini, which sits to the right of the cathedral, is a perfect example of Renaissance architecture. The beautiful three tiered loggias at the back of the building open up to a garden that seems to float over the Val d’Orcia landscape.

The Duomo of Pienza | What to do in Pienza

2. Explore a Renaissance Church

Bernardo Rossellino designed the Duomo of Pienza (also known as the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral). The facade of the building has a classical style, very popular during the Renaissance period, while the inside is inspired by the late Gothic style of south German churches. Pope Pius commissioned paintings from the most famous painters of the time to adorn the inside of the church.

The city center of Pienza | What to do in Pienza

3. Go Around in a Planned Historical Center

Pope Pius II wanted to make his hometown worthy of a papal residence as well as an experiment in urban planning. The original project covered the main square (now Pius II Square) with its cathedral, the Piccolomini mansion, the Borgia mansion and town hall but was then extended to the whole town. Sadly, Pope Pius II and his architect Rossellino died before the project could be fully completed. The main square, with its carefully calculated measurements and pleasing proportions, remains one of the first examples of urban planning in Europe.

Cave of Brunello di Montalcino | What to do in Pienza

4. Do Some Wine Tasting

Pienza is the perfect central starting point to explore the two wine giants of the Val d’Orcia area: the Brunello di Montalcino and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Montalcino and Montepulciano are both a short twenty minute drive away on either side of Pienza. Join a wine tasting tour to properly compare and contrast these two world famous wines and discover the beauty of picture perfect Val d’Orcia.

Pecorino Cheese in Pienza | What to do in Pienza

5. Taste One of the Best Italian Cheeses

Cheese lovers will feel at home in Pienza. The town produces its own Pecorino which should be sampled in the traditional dish pici cacio e pepe (a typical type of pasta with a cheese and black pepper sauce). The wheels of pecorino aren’t only used on pasta, they are the protagonist of a folkloric game called Palio del Cacio Fuso played in Pienza in September. Inhabitants of different neighborhoods toss a wheel of cheese that must roll around an upright spindle.

Do you want to taste some typical Pienza Pecorino cheese?

Check out this day trip from Florence by I Just Drive tour operator

In short, Pienza is an absolute must-see. Not only will it wow you with its harmonious architecture and tasty food and wine, but its central location in the Val d’Orcia makes it the perfect starting point for your Tuscan adventure.

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