Pienza is a must visit small village in southern Tuscany, in the famous Val d’Orcia. It is located about 20 km east of Montalcino and Montepulciano a few km west of the beautiful region of Val d’Orcia south of Siena, between soft poetic hills and fabulous views. Pienza enjoys a strategic position perched on top of a hill, overlooking the entire Orcia valley with a breathtaking view.
This charming village is widely known as the “ideal” city of the Renaissance, the creation of the great humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who became Pope Pius II. Piccolomini had the economic means and influence to turn his humble native village Corsignano, in what he believed would be a utopian city that embodied the principles and philosophy of the classical age and the great Italian Renaissance. It was built in just three years, a complex of beautiful and harmonious buildings: the Cathedral, the papal residence or Palazzo Piccolomini, the City, and the lovely central square.
The imposing Palazzo Piccolomini to the right of the cathedral has a fantastic loggia with a wonderful hanging garden from which you can admire a unique panorama of the Orcia valley, from Montalcino to the volcanic Monte Amiata. Palazzo Piccolomini has even been chosen by Franco Zeffirelli to shoot some scenes of his famous and romantic film Romeo and Juliet; here the two lovers meet for the first time at the Capulet house party.
The impression you get walking through the narrow streets of Pienza, is that of a harmony and proportion; in some ways it is as if he were admiring a Renaissance city depicted in a beautiful painting.
But it is also the town of Pienza cheese! The pecorino cheese is a very tasty, aged or fresh, made with sheep’s milk, it is very popular and very delicious. The village is full of small and charming shops selling many varieties of pecorino, that you can taste along with many other local products, like fabulous wines, spices, Pici, honey, and so on.
After some shopping, we suggest you try one of the many fantastic restaurants or taverns that serve unsurpassed food. A restaurant that we recommend is the Osteria Baccus, where you can enjoy delicious dishes where the cheese is prepared in a thousand different ways and very original. Try the fondue of pecorino di Pienza, the bruschetta of sciorna, and pici cacio e pepe.
Finally, if you happen upon Pienza in September, do not miss the famous and fun Cheese Fair, a great festival dedicated to cheese and other products of the region, that you can enjoy for free. During the event there is a fun folklore game of ancient origins. The Palio del Cacio Fuso, where players from every region of the country must push and roll whole wheels of pecorino around a small wooden spindle located at the center of the main square.