Pienza is one of the most beautiful villages in Tuscany, in the heart of the beautiful Val d'Orcia, offering magnificent views with typical hills as far as the eye can see
In the Val d’Orcia, which has always been one of the most popular destinations for a holiday in Tuscany, one of the most interesting villages to visit is undoubtedly Pienza. We are located in the province of Siena, in an area with a high vocation for tourism, where the typical villages of the countryside blend perfectly with the surrounding landscape, creating a unique mix, for which Tuscany is known throughout the world.
With its historic centre protected by UNESCO, which has declared it a World Heritage Site, Pienza attracts visitors from all over Italy and beyond, who come here not only to admire the unique landscapes, but also to enjoy some of the local delicacies, first and foremost the famous Pecorino di Pienza cheese, and of course the excellent gastronomic specialities for which Tuscany is famous, such as extra virgin olive oil and wine.
Pienza, besides having a magnificent historical centre worth visiting, is also an excellent base for exploring the Val d’Orcia and its beauties, as it is highly developed from a tourist point of view, which means there is no shortage of hotels in the centre or agritourisms in the surrounding area, not to mention shops, bars and restaurants found practically everywhere in the town.
Things to do in Pienza
The historic centre of Pienza is small and easy to get around on foot, but at the same time very well-kept. It is here that you will find most of the things to see in the city. Here are the best ones, so as not to miss a single one.
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
The cathedral of Pienza, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, is located in Piazza Pio II, and is one of the main monuments of the Italian Renaissance. The travertine façade is very beautiful, divided by a string-course cornice into two parts: a lower area, where there are the entrance doors, and an upper area, where one can admire some arches supported by columns.
Inside, Pienza Cathedral is divided into three naves of the same height, divided by two rows of pillars. In the right aisle, the pipe organ is on display, but it only dates back to the late 20th century. There are some beautiful paintings, such as the Assumption of the Virgin by Lorenzo di Pietro il Vecchietta and the Madonna and Child with Saints by Matteo di Giovanni.
Palazzo Borgia – Diocesan Museum
Palazzo Borgia, or the Bishop’s Palace, overlooks Piazza Pio II. It has a sober façade, and inside is the wonderful Museo Diocesano, one of Pienza’s must-sees. Opened in 1998, it houses a collection of medieval art, with paintings from both the Duomo and the Diocese of Pienza. It has no less than 11 rooms, and inside are works by the likes of Lorenzetti, Sano di Pietro, Luca Signorelli and Fra Bartolomeo della Porta.
Palazzo Borgia and the Diocesan Museum are open from 10.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. every day in summer except Tuesdays; winter hours are reduced: it is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Discounts are available at the ticket office for the over 65s, groups of at least 15 persons, residents, students and teachers. Children under the age of 10, tour guides and students from Tuscan universities are entitled to free admission.
Pienza Panoramic Walk
As you pass by the apse of Pienza’s cathedral, you will notice a narrow pedestrian street on the left, overlooking the ancient city walls. This is the Via del Casello, otherwise known as the Panoramic Walk of Pienza. Walk the whole way, and stop to take beautiful photos of the Tuscan countryside at the specially designated viewpoints , coinciding with the ancient towers of the city walls.
Originally known as the Palazzo Pubblico, the Palazzo Comunale of Pienza is located right in front of the Duomo. It is the ancient residence of the Priori, and its distinguishing feature are the three arches, which create an elegant portico, inside which are the stone coats of arms of the Podestà who lived there.
Inside the Palazzo Comunale di Pienza, one can admire a splendid 15th-century fresco, painted inside the Sala del Consiglio, depicting the patron saints of Pienza San Vito, San Modesto and San Matteo, and the Madonna and Child.
Another of Pienza’s most elegant palaces is the Palazzo Piccolomini, also known as the Palazzo Pontificio. It was designed in the 15th century, inspired by the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence, and is a three-storey palace with a square plan; inside, there is a rectangular courtyard leading onto a colonnaded loggia. To the south, the palace garden overlooks the Val d’Orcia.
Palazzo Piccolomini has also been used as a film set for several movies, such as L’arcidiavolo and Le piacevoli notti, both starring Vittorio Gassman, and for Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet
Parish church of Saints Vito and Modesto in Corsignano
The pieve di Corsignano, officially the parish church of Saints Vito and Modesto in Corsignano, is a small church located a few kilometres from the centre of Pienza, in Corsignano. It dates back to the 12th century, but its bell tower was built in an even earlier period.
On the outside, the façade has a prominent portal, bordered by two small columns and an arch, while on the right side of the pieve is a second portal, richly decorated with the motifs of the Journey of the Magi and the Nativity.
The parish church of Corsignano is important because the future popes Pius II and Pius III were baptised in its font.
Castle of Spedaletto
At Spedaletto, along Provincial Road 53, there is a beautiful castle dating back to the 12th century, originally belonging to the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala of Siena. The castle of Spedaletto that can be admired today incorporates elements added in the 14th century and in the 19th century. Its plan is quadrangular, and there is a tower in each corner.
Next to the castle it is also possible to visit the church of San Niccolò a Spedaletto, dating back to the 14th century, with a beautiful façade and an elegant interior with frescoes dating back to 1600.
Set of the final scene of the film ‘The Gladiator’
Here’s a treat for film buffs: south of Pienza, following the Terrapille road from the parish church of Santi Vito e Modesto in Corsignano, you come to a dirt road; walking along it for a few minutes, you arrive at the esplanade where the final scene of the film The Gladiator was filmed. Obviously for non-film fans it will simply be yet another view of the Val d’Orcia, but for Russell Crowe fans it is a place not to be missed.
Where to stay in Pienza
The historic centre of Pienza is literally littered with flats and bed and breakfasts, often finely restored in typical Tuscan style. These are convenient alternatives for sleeping, especially if you want to make the most of the town in the early morning or late evening, as most tourists arrive there on a day trip in the late morning and then leave in the afternoon.
If, on the other hand, you want to enjoy the wonderful natural scenery of the Val d’Orcia, we recommend sleeping in one of the many agriturismi around Pienza. If you are lucky enough, you will find one where you can taste local specialities at zero kilometre, to live the true Tuscan experience in a genuine way.
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How to reach Pienza
Pienza is about two and a half hours from Rome: to get there, simply take the A1 motorway northbound and exit at the Chiusi-Chianciano Terme tollgate, then continue along the SP146 provincial road to the town centre.
For those arriving from the north, for example from Florence or Bologna, the A1 motorway exit is the same, but the distances obviously change. We are talking about 2 hours and 50 minutes from Bologna and 1 hour and 40 minutes from Florence. The provincial capital Siena , on the other hand, is about an hour away, although the distance in kilometres is much less, as there are no express roads.
If you want to reach Pienza by train, know that there are no railway stations. The closest are those of Montepulciano and Torrita di Siena, about 20-25 kilometres away. Once you get off the train, you must continue your journey by regional bus.
What's the weather at Pienza? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Pienza for the next few days.
Where is located Pienza
Pienza is located in the province of Siena, in south-eastern Tuscany. It is part of the Val d'Orcia, and is composed of the built-up area and a series of hamlets, some made up of only a few isolated houses. It is located along the provincial road SP146: driving along it to the east you reach San Quirico d'Orcia, while to the west you reach Montepulciano.