Reasons Why You Should Visit Pienza, Italy

Pienza sits in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia region, an area of outstanding natural beauty
Pienza sits in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia region, an area of outstanding natural beauty | © Brian Jannsen / Alamy Stock Photo
Lucie Grace

Famous for its local pecorino cheese, romantic street names and historic churches, Pienza offers everything a small Italian town should – and it’s all bookable on Culture Trip.

One of the highlights of Tuscany’s Val D’Orcia region, the small but perfectly formed town of Pienza is a true gem, set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. An untouched example of Renaissance town planning and the birthplace of former Pope Pius II, Pienza is also cheese and wine heaven – the perfect place to indulge in crumbly, golden sheep’s cheese and a hearty glass of red, after enjoying one of the local hiking trails or a day of exploring the town’s cobbled streets. Here are the reasons why you should visit Pienza, Italy.

1. Its churches are beautiful

Cathedral, Church

PIENZA, ITALY - MARCH 4, 2019:The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Pienza
© Michelangelo Oprandi / Alamy Stock Photo

Like any self-respecting Tuscan town, Pienza is home to a host of elegant churches. The town’s cathedral, Cattedrale dell’Assunta di Pienza, boasts a gleaming limestone facade, high, painted naves and Gothic windows that were already becoming retro by the time it was completed in 1462. Also worth the short walk out of town is the Romanesque chapel Pieve di Corsignano. This 12th-century church is where local hero Pope Pius II was baptised.

2. The history is fascinating

Architectural Landmark

Palazzo Piccolomini, inner courtyard, Pienza, province of Siena, Tuscany, Italy, Europe
© Raimund Kutter / imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Pienza was originally a small Sienese village called Corsignano, but when a pope is born in your town, it gets a rename and a fitting makeover. Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini went on to become Pope Pius II, but he didn’t forget his hometown, completely rebuilding it so it became a refuge from Rome fit for His Holiness. Piazza Pio II, the town square, is flanked by the cathedral and the Palazzo Piccolomini, which was the pope’s principal residence and boasts a stunning Renaissance garden. Other historical buildings of note are the town hall, Palazzo Comunale, and Palazzo Vescovile, a Renaissance palace complex built by Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia of the infamous Borgia family.

3. To eat as much pecorino toscano cheese as possible

Deli, Italian

An essential pesto ingredient and one of the signature products from this corner of Tuscany, the hard, ewe’s cheese pecorino has been made here for thousands of years, since the time of the ancient Romans. There are three variations of pecorino that originate from Pienza and are distinct for being milder and more flavoursome than pecorino romano. Pick up a wheel to take home from local delicatessen La Taverna del Pecorino, or visit during the Fiera del Cacio festival, to witness the ferocious annual cheese rolling competition.

4. It’s a cute place for a romantic walk

Architectural Landmark

Every Valentine’s Day, Pienza sees the arrival of local tourists who come to stroll the four cobbled streets with quirky romantic names. The four tiny alleys that link the town’s main artery, Corso Rossellino, to Via del Casello are called Via dell’Amore (Love Way), Via del Bacio (Kiss Way), Via del Buia (the Dark Alley) and Via della Fortuna (Lucky Alley). Cute.

5. There’s no shortage of decent drinks

Bar, Cocktails

Enjoy the best cocktails in town at Idyllium Bar on Via Gozzante, where you can grab a table on the terrace for a breathtaking view of the surrounding hills. Their signature menu includes the Risky Sour, Sex on the Hills and Tusca Libre – fun local plays on international favourites. But if a wine or spritz is more your thing, do as the purists do and hit up Bar II Casello at sunset for more stunning views of the valley tumbling below, plus a great tapas menu.

6. The restaurants are amazing

Restaurant, Italian

One of Pienza’s finest dining options is La Terrazza del Chiostro, a high-end delight set in the cloisters and gardens of a 15th-century monastery. Unsurprisingly, pecorino cheese is a key ingredient in a number of offerings – but save room for the cheesecake, presented with fresh peach foam, apricot soup and red wine sauce. For more traditional Italian fare, there’s always the cosy Osteria Baccus on Corso Rossellino, where platters come piled high with local pecorino toscano, truffles, bread and cured meats.

7. You can go hiking in Monte Amiata

Natural Feature

Drive an hour south from Pienza and you’ll arrive at Italy’s largest dormant volcano, Monte Amiata. Hikers, cyclists and horse riders alike can take advantage of the nice range of trails in the region around the south Tuscan mountain. The shortest, from Selva to Selvena, comes in at just 1km (0.6mi), while the longest – the Mountain Ring – is a meatier 24km (15mi). Take your pick.

8. There are great day trips to be had in Val d’Orcia

Natural Feature

The Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta, in the heart of the Tuscany, near Pienza in de Val dOrcia valley
© Henk Meijer / Alamy Stock Photo
Pienza is a great base for exploring the neighbouring hillside towns of Val d’Orcia, this central Tuscan region of rolling, lush hillsides, vineyards, cypress trees and the occasional hilltop settlement. Medieval Montepulciano is just a 20-minute drive east of town, and scenic Montalcino can be reached in 30 minutes heading west. Both Montepulciano and Montalcino are wine-lover’s meccas, worth visiting for the vineyard tours, wine bars and incredible hillside views.

Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in Pienza with Culture Trip. While in the province of Siena, pay a visit to the eponymous capital; here are all the top reasons to visit, including the best restaurants. Don’t miss the must-visit attractions in Tuscany, and if you’re planning an overnight trip to Pisa, we know just the places to stay.

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