During a fascinating period of the Italian Renaissance, humanist scholars and architects set out to create the ideal city. Surprisingly, one of these urban planners was a pope–Pope Pious II. Pius II (formerly known as Enea Silvio Piccolomini) transformed his home town, Cosignano, into a miniature urban Renaissance Utopia. He hired the architect Rossellino to rip down the every-which-way jumble of medieval buildings, replacing them with an orderly town square. Cosignano was renamed Pienza and it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No, wait, not only is Pienza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the countryside surrounding it, the Val d’Orcia, is also a UNESCO site. Seriously people: UNESCO squared. Given my passion for UNESCO and that Renaissance humanism is my religion, Pienza was a place we needed to visit, stat.
The plaza, Pio II square, is a trapezoidal shape and is much smaller than it appears. Did you notice how the bricks are laid in a herringbone pattern? The central square and the adjacent town hall are full of optical tricks designed to make them look larger.
(We didn’t manage to take a decent picture of the central square, so this picture is from Wikipedia. The rest of the pictures are our own.)
Palazzo Comunale (aka town hall).
Loves me some Renaissance urban design….
The upper section of the palace.
This is the Piccolomini coat of arms, featuring five moons, which is all over Pienza. Gotta admit, a church plastered with a pope’s coat of arms just doesn’t say spiritual to me….
HOB enjoys the view of Val d’Oricia from the edge of Pienza. UNESCO squared.
We took this photo of the Val d’Orcia landscape from our bus to Pienza. Yeah, it does really look like one of those drugstore calendars named Tuscany.
I met a hot guy on Via Dell’Amore.
Sometimes it happens–we go out for dinner (not that there were any grocery stores to speak of in Pienza), and we were so glad we did. This Papardelle with massive amounts of truffles was perfection.
We were greeted at the restaurant door by a talking bird, saying “Buona sera” and “Ciao bella”. While we were eating, the bird stopped talking and made a weird mechanical grinding sound. We finally figured out he was imitating the noise of the refrigerator cycling on and off.
Does anyone know what sort of bird this is?
After a day of studying Renaissance urban design, I recommend a dinner at Latte di Luna (order truffles–they’re so cheap!). I hope you enjoy the restful accompaniment of a refrigerator-imitating bird.
HOB is posing in front of a crescent moon sign on the front door, positioned to make him look like a unicorn.
How we got to Pienza: bus from Siena.
Where we slept: Il Giardino Segreto. Price: €65 for a double. Recommended: yes.