Pienza is beautifully located on a hill top in the picturesque Orcia Valley, approximately 55 km south of Siena. Pienza is one of Tuscany's most beautiful historic cities and a rare example of an ideal renaissance city.
The city was in 1996 included on the UNESCO World Heritage list, because it represents one of the first attempts to create an ideal city, and today continues to present itself in its original form. It is not for nothing that the city has been used as a backdrop for many movies, including Zeffirellis Romeo and Juliet, and The English Patient .
Pope Pius II was born in the small village of Corsignano in 1405. When he was elected Pope in 1458, he decided to commission a new centre in Corsignano and rename it Pienza in his own honour. He hired the famous architect Bernardo Rossellini to transform his birthplace into the architectural ideal of a perfect Renaissance city, Città Ideale. Around the city’s main square is the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. The papal coat of arms adorns the façade. On the left side of the cathedral is the papal palace Palazzo Piccolomini inspired by the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence. It has a nearly squared plan with ashlar-worked facades. Opposite this another palace, the Episcopal Palace Palazzo Vescovile , and on the fourth side of the square is the town hall, Palazzo Comunale . In addition, several other buildings were raised in the city, and the street grid was rescheduled after the Renaissance ideals of openness and regularity.
Behind the cathedral Pienza offers spectacular views over the Orcia Valley, which also occurs on the UNESCO World Heritage list as one of the world's most beautiful landscapes. Pienza is also known for its very popular sheep's milk cheese peccorino.