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Pienza. Tuscany’s charm, art and nature at its best

By Wednesday, 24 April 2024 10:16

The little town of Pienza, perched on a hill in the Val d’Orcia valley, shows Tuscany’s charm, art and nature at its best. 

For a day trip or a longer stay 

Blending perfectly with the surrounding landscape and creating that unique mix for which Tuscany is known the world over, Pienza is well worth a day trip from Siena or Florence (an hour, and an hour and a half respectively), as a stop on a tour of the Val d’Orcia, or to stay overnight to delight in its tranquil setting and UNESCO historic centre.   

Ancient city walls with views over the countryside

Pienza can be enjoyed on foot, starting from the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta on the main square which is one of the Italian Renaissance’s most important buildings.  To the left along a narrow pedestrian street overlooking the ancient city walls, from designated viewpoints that coincide with the ancient towers, there are splendid views over the Tuscan countryside. 

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Renaissance architecture and delicious Pecorino cheese  

Visitors will be amazed by the Palazzo Piccolomini. Built in 1459 according to the Humanist project of the Ideal City, as a summer home for Pope Pius II, it is the first example of Renaissance architecture.  The first floor is open to the public, displays period furnishings and tells the history of Pienza and of its close links to the Piccolomini family. The town is also famous for its Pecorino di Pienza cheese that is found in such local dishes as Pici (handrolled thick spaghetti), is also served on brushetta with Tuscan cold cuts, or grilled. 

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The set of The Gladiator is nearby

Film buffs will want to visit nearby Corsignano where the final scene of The Gladiator was filmed. Of course there are more great views over the Val d'Orcia, but for Russell Crowe fans this is a visit not to be missed.  Pienza is a perfect stop on a tour of discovery of the Val d'Orcia, and the other small nearby towns well worth visiting include Montalcino, which is famous for its Brunello red wine, and Bagno Vignoni which is famous for its thermal waters which are right in the town. The boutique Hotel Le Terme Bagno Vignoni is a historic 4-star with direct access to the thermal springs. Another town well worth a visit is Arezzo, which is less than an hour’s drive away. This is the city of the great artist Piero della Francesca, and really should be on every Tuscan itinerary. For information: www.pienza.org, www.discovertuscany.com/arezzo

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