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  • Writer's pictureMark Tedesco

Our Italian Adventure: Spotlight on Pienza

PART 80: It might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps and what we are learning along the way.

We love every minute of it, and what was once a dream is our life!

We live in Tuscany in the Fall, then back again in the Spring, and in California for the rest of the time (in a previous blog, I explained why we live in Italy only part of the year).

Step 1: As we explore areas and towns in Italy, we discover some gems worth sharing. Some of these are well-known tourist magnets; others are lesser known but always amazing.

This week, let's explore Pienza in Tuscany.

Step 2: History

Pienza was originally a small village that surrounded the Corsignano castle built in the 8th century. However, the town gained significance due to the birth of Eneo Silvio de Piccolomini in 1405 in the same area.

Eneo later became Pope Pius II in 1458. But who was this man?

Pope Pius II was a Renaissance man passionate about learning in various areas. He studied literature, poetry, oratory, history, and law at the University of Siena, where he obtained his degree. He wrote on diverse subjects, including history, biography, political science, horse care, and family life. His writings contain vivid descriptions of Tuscan life during the 15th century.

Pope Pius II's church career took him to an important church council in Basel and various church missions across Europe. It's worth noting that he spent several years in Germany working with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. This fact is significant for some of the architecture found in Pienza today.

During his time as Pope, Pius II wanted to make a lasting impact. He chose to renovate the village where he was born and turn it into a model Renaissance city, as the Papacy was then seen as both a worldly and spiritual authority.

To accomplish this, Pius hired Bernardo Rossellini, one of the greatest architects in Florence, who designed the brick and travertine patterns in the central piazza, the Cathedral, the Canonical Palace, and the Pope's residence, called the Palazzo Piccolomini. The town was renamed Pienza in honor of Pius himself.

Unfortunately, Pius died before the complete plan for the town was realized. He had hoped to lead a crusade but was unable to gather enough support and died before he could board the ship. However, even in its incompleteness, Pienza remains a gem left by Pius II.

Step 3: Sights.

Piazza Pius II is a beautiful square in Pienza that embodies the Humanist vision of the 'ideal city'. Standing in the middle of this piazza and turning full circle gives one a beautiful view of the Cathedral, Palazzo Piccolomini, and Palazzo Borgia.

Piccolomini Palace, once the summer residence of the Piccolomini family, is now a museum that houses a library of rare books, period furniture, paintings, and engravings of Piccolomini family members. It is built around a courtyard that overlooks the city on three sides and an elegant garden overlooking the Tuscan landscape on the fourth side. Visitors can inspect the family's furniture and their collection of treasures.

The Cathedral of Pienza is loved by everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Pius' travels and time spent in Austria and Germany influenced the Gothic architecture and feeling inside the church. The floor slopes towards the altar, and this is not your imagination. The foundations of the church started to shift shortly after it was completed in 1462.

The Episcopal Palace, also known as the Borgia Palace, was the Pope's residence in town. It is now an 11-room museum that houses 14th- 16th-century masterpieces and gold work from the 13th- 19th centuries.

The Town Hall, or Palazzo Comunale, is the civic palace in Pienza that faces the Cathedral. The church and state are separate yet harmonious in this urban vision. The bottom level features a triple-arched loggia, similar to those of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

Step 4: Cool things.

Take a leisurely stroll along Corso Rossellino when you visit Pienza. Though the town can be crossed in just 5 minutes, exploring the alleys, shops, and beautiful doors and architecture along the way is much more enjoyable. You may be pleasantly surprised if you slip down an alley towards the D'Orcia Valley.

Walking along the city walls will bring you in contact with breathtaking views of Tuscan's Val d'Orcia. The movie "The Gladiator" shows a scene filmed along the ribbony dirt road dotted with cypress trees and surrounded by wheat fields. You can try to find it from the ramparts!

Remember to follow your nose in Pienza and visit a cheese shop to sample and purchase some Pecorino di Pienza. This will allow you to not only "see" Pienza but also to "taste" it.


Despite being a popular tourist town, Pienza has retained its charm and remains overwhelmingly beautiful. If you can, stay until the evening when many tourists have gone, and the locals from the town or surrounding areas fill the streets. It's truly a place not to be missed, and its history, panoramas, and architecture will remain in your imagination forever.

More next time.

Now on sale for $2.99: My book is "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy." Amazon US:

Amazon Italy- my book "Lei mi ha sedotto. Una storia d'amore con Roma":

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Jerry Finster
Jerry Finster
03. März
Mit 5 von 5 Sternen bewertet.

So informative and descriptive!! Thank You!!

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Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco
04. März
Antwort an

Grazie thank you Jerry!

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