Pienza is a UNESCO World heritage site, and one of our all-time favourite small towns in Tuscany, located in the magical setting of the Val d’Orcia, south of Siena. Expect Renaissance architecture at its best, gorgeous views and pecorino cheese to die for.

We love it because of the soft colours of its stone, the graceful main square, or maybe because the drive there takes you through some truly splendid Tuscan landscapes. Whatever the case, spending some time in this delightful town will reconcile you with life.

Pienza, Tuscany – a town born out of a dream

Piazza Pio II is Pienza’s main square and the town’s beating heart. It’s named after a very interesting character who gave Pienza its name and a design with a purpose.

The Pope Enea Silvio Piccolomini was born here in 1405, when it was known by a different name – Corsignano. He took it upon himself to use this town, that wasn’t much to look at, as an architectural experiment. He employed the famous architect Bernando Rossellino, who set to work transforming the Medieval patterns and giving shape to the very first Renaissance “ideal city” in Italy, where proportions and harmonic shapes would reflect human virtues and good living.

This is how Pienza (‘city of Pio’) was born. It was the year 1459, and it took only 3 years to give the town a total facelift, starting from the main square that became the perfect example of Renaissance urbanism.

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What to see and do in Pienza

A passeggiata along Corso il Rosellino

The corso is where people in Italy take their leisurely stroll. And Pienza’s Corso Rossellino is a perfect example. It’s lined with small shops, selling food, artisan-worked leather goods, house decor and of course souvenirs of all sorts. A passeggiata along this historic street is a window to the life of the town.

It joins Porta a Prato (where you find the Tourist Information office) with the 13th century gate Porta del Giglio. Along Corso Rosselino you find the small San Francesco Church, a typical Franciscan church for its simplicity – in the interior you find with some 14th century frescoes that depict scenes from the life of Saint Francis.

=> Walking along Corso Rossellino and its narrow tributaries, you’ll see many artisan cheese shops. Pecorino (sheep milk cheese) from the area is justly famous. We recommend a visit to an artisan cheese shop for a taste of some of this buttery and nutty goodness. There are plenty of variations in taste and texture, and you’ll find shops selling local honey too – a typical Tuscan pairing.

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When you eat this Pecorino cheese you’re tasting a piece of history. According to Plinio Il Vecchio the Etruscans were already making a delicious cheese in the area of the Crete Senesi. Today it is produced with traditional methods. The ‘fresco‘ and ‘semistagionato‘ are younger and softer, while the ‘stagionato‘ is aged, darker in colour and has a more intense flavour.

Once your tastebuds are satisfied, a little meandering will lead you to the southern part of the town from which you can see a spectacular view of the Val D’Orcia.

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Pienza, the Cathedral Square


Piazza Pio II – If you want to feel the spirit of the Renaissance, Piazza Pio II is the place to do it. The architect Bernardo Rossellini used theories of Renaissance town planning devised by Leon Battista Alberti. It sets the buildings at angles to the cathedral in order to increase the sense of perspective.

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Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta  A soberly geometric church with three high concave naves and a Papal crest near the top. After it was built in 1459, a Papal Bull forbade changes to the church and since then it has remained virtually the same.

Museo Diocesano To the left of the cathedral is the Palazzo Vescovile (Bishop’s palace), modified and enlarged in 1492 for Cardinal Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI), and now contains the Diocesan Museum. It displays an intriguing miscellany of artwork, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries and miniatures. Enter from Corso Rossellino.

Palazzo Piccolomini – This magnificent palace was the pope’s residence and is considered to be Rossellino’s masterpiece. It has a wonderful hanging garden and a three-level loggia which offers a spectacular panorama over the valley below. There are guided tours of the 1st floor every 30 minutes, but you can peek into the courtyard for free.

Palazzo Comunale Worth a look for its beautiful exterior with Papal insignias and biforate windows.

Where the streets speak of love

As you walk around the town centre and pay attention to the streets’ names you’ll discover some surprises. You have the romantic Via del Bacio (kiss street), the famous Via dell’Amore, the lucky Via della Fortuna, but also Via Buia (dark street) to remind you that there’s dark and light in all places, even the most beautiful ones.

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A view of the Val d’Orcia


Pieve Santi e Modesto, Corsignano: In the 10th century, Pienza was called Corsignano and this was its church. Its distinctive circular bell-tower, and atmospheric carvings of entwined sirens over the doorway make it a must-see.

It won’t take more than a couple of hours to explore Pienza, but it is an excellent location from which to explore the many wonders of Val D’Orcia.

To see the best of the Val d’Orcia, check out our Val d’Orcia itinerary.

Traditional Festivals in Pienza

Cheese is the protagonist in a quirky game that takes place every year (usually the first Sunday in September) in the main square. Il “Gioco del cacio al fuso” in Pienza is a sort of bowls played with cheese, a cheese rolling game where different contrade roll their way to local glory.

During the “Pienza e i Fiori” (Pienza and Flowers) Festival, on the second weekend in May, the town embraces the spirit of Spring, with beautiful flower displays around the historic centre.

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