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Pienza, the ideal town


Pienza is a small hilltown village in the Val d’Orcia, known as the town of Pope Pius II, located about fifty-four km. south of Sienna, in the heart of one of the most beautiful and richest in art treasures areas in Italy. Known in the early Middle Ages with the name of Corsignano, it was a stronghold famous for having been mentioned in a story by Boccaccio.

It was because of the will of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II that, in only four years, the village became an architectonic-urbanistic treasure, considered as one-of-a-kind monument for its extraordinary urbanistic coherence. This was the birth of what is known today as the Ideal City: “Born of a though of love and a dream of beauty,” as the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli wrote. Since 1996, along with the entire Val d’Orcia, Pienza has been recognized by the UNESCO as World Heritage.

Strolling around the historic centre, in the Piazza Pio II, we recommend  a visit to the Duomo and the Cattedrale dell’Assunta which houses important and notable paintings by the most prominent artists of the time.

In front of the Duomo we find the remarkable Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), a historic building dating back to the mid-15th Century. Also in the main square, the imposing Museo Palazzo Piccolomini  (Museum of the Piccolomini Palace) stands out with its roof garden.Inside the former San Carlo music school, we find today the Archeological Museum, the Museo Archeologico di Pienza, a Medieval building with archeological and Etruscan collections and an exhibition documenting the urbanistic and architectonic history of the region around Pienza.

To properly complete our visit, a lunch break is a must to discover the typical local products, like the Pecorino of Pienza (sheep’s milk cheese). The wheel of pecorino of Pienza has the same size of the aged cheese swrapped in walnuts’ leaves, with a smooth, white rind with violet nuances. The consistency is smooth, white with hints of straw yellow.  Also produced with Sardinian race sheep’s milk bred in a semi-wild state, it has an intense flavor, with a tannic, pomace aftertaste obtained by its aging in oak’s barriques.

Besides pecorino, we must mention saffron, the precious truffle, the charcuterie of the Sienese Cinta and the pici, a kind of hand-made spaghetti, rough and irregular or machine made with a diameter of at least three millimeters. They are a first course, to be enjoyed with meat sauces (especially duck), tomato and garlic (pici all’aglione), oil and hot pepper. The traditional ingredients of the hand-made pici are wheat flour type “O,” water, extra-virgin olive oil and salt.