Traveling to Tuscany and omitting Pienza must be a serious faux pas. Is there any other place in the area able to make you experience the essence of the Tuscan countryside with a touch of Renaissance? Pienza has everything to delight you really, there is a reason why it’s called la città ideale.
Back to my last post, we left Siena at 6am and took the first bus in the direction of Buonconvento as you may see in the map below. We had only 2 minutes there to catch another bus, at 7am, to Pienza and luckily got it too. We quickly found ourselves in the heart of Val d’Orcia (a part of Tuscany characterized by gentle hills, added to the UNESCO list in 2006), in a postcard- like scenery. In the early morning, the sun would timidly pass through the mist beneath the valleys and we could perceive the shapes of the cypress trees from far away. The never-ending patchwork of green fields was one of the most simple & beautiful things I’ve seen recently.
Another thing I remember very well is the calm and serenity. Once we arrived in Pienza, a few minutes before 8am, the whole hamlet was still asleep. We managed to find the only open bar just in front of the cathedral to have a cup of cappuccino, my favorite morning routine. The sky started to turn blue, the inhabitants would potter around opening their shops and we headed to the south of the village because I already knew that a unique viewpoint would await us there…
Pienza owes its beauty to Enea Silvio Piccolomini (later Pope Pius II), keen on rebuilding his village in a magnificent Renaissance style and it’s a geniously planned town in fact. Piazza Pio II constitutes the centre of Pienza, surrounded by splendid palaces; the Duomo, Palazzo Vescovile and Pallazzo Piccolomini which was the Pope’s Residency in the XV century. It belonged to the pope’s family till 1962 when his last descendant died and offered the building to the municipality. Visiting the palace is like going back to the XV century, it hasn’t been renovated, and hasn’t changed much. I truly liked the huge balcony offering a breathtaking view on Tuscany but the whole village is situated on a hill overlooking Val d’Orcia actually.
Regarding our accommodation in Pienza, we stayed at Oliviera Camere that I really recommend. We were warmly welcomed by an adorable, chatty, old man, Signore Cacci who takes care of his hotel alone, and it’s a bargain, located near the cathedral.
The first glimpse of the unspoiled Val d’Orcia from the Siena- Pienza bus in the early morning:
On the left: The Cathedral and Palazzo Piccolomini. On the right: Vitaleta, the most photographed chapel of Tuscany that I caught by chance on the road between San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza
Pienza is the capital of delicious Pecorino cheese
The next stage of our travel to Tuscany was Montepulciano. We were supposed to get there by bus from Pienza but there was not any public transport available in the area on the 1st of May…
We decided to make the 30km through Val d’Orcia to Montepulciano on foot then and you may find out how we coped with it in the upcoming post :)