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Pienza is a beautiful Renaissance town, set in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. This UNESCO-protected town was entirely rebuilt in classic Renaissance style back in the 15th century. While the town was originally designed as a luxury retreat from Rome, today it welcomes visitors wanting to experience an authentic side of Italy sometimes lacking in larger towns.
Located just 10 miles from Montepulciano, Pienza is surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills of the Val d’Orcia, and offers many viewpoints throughout its rambling streets. The town’s main attraction is its beautiful Piazza Pio Il (Square of the Pious), which is one of the most charming in the region. Bustling with local shops and packed with medieval architecture, this beautiful square is a great place to spend an afternoon, and is just moments from some of Pienza’s atmospheric churches. The best of these is the town’s duomo – a very early Renaissance building thought to be one of the first examples of this style of architecture.
As with many Tuscan towns, food plays a big part in the town’s success, mainly thanks to Pienza’s local speciality of pecorino romano – a parmesan-like cheese hugely popular within the region. Many restaurants will use this hard cheese in their recipes, plus there are several shops selling blocks for you to take home. For those wanting something lighter, plenty of the town’s cafes serve spritz drinks and coffee for you to sip al fresco while enjoying the peaceful ambience.
Pienza was built from the ground up with Renaissance ideals in mind. Wander the 15th-century town centre to see the honey-hued Palazzo Piccolomini, peer up at Pienza Cathedral, or wander the neat gardens of Piazza Pio II. This knot of squares and lanes is a textbook rendition of early Renaissance architecture, winning it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Had your fill of Renaissance history? Head to the Belvedere lookout for wide-open views of the Val d’Orcia – a green and gold patchwork of hilly orchards, olive groves, vineyards and wildflowers. It’s these fields that stock the kitchens of the cafés, osterias, pizzerias and trattorias in Pienza.