PIENZA | TUSCANY
Set on a crest, surrounded by green, rolling hills, the small town of Pienza packs a lot of Renaissance punch. In the 1400s, locally born pope Pius II of the Piccolomini family decided to remodel his birthplace in the current Renaissance style. Propelled by papal clout, the town of Corsignano was transformed — in only five year's time — into a jewel of Renaissance architecture. It was renamed Pienza, after pope Pius.
The plan was to remodel the whole town, but work ended in 1564 when both the pope and his architect, Bernardo Rossellino, died. The architectural focal point is the square Piazza Pio II, surrounded by the Duomo and pope's family residence, Palazzo Piccolomini.
The culinary focal point is Pecorino cheese, a pungent sheep's cheese, which can be found at almost any shop and can be eaten fresh (fresco) or aged (secco).
WHAT TO SEE
The Tourist Office is on Piazza Pio II, across from the Duomo (Mon–Sat 10:00–13:00 & 15:00–19:00, closed Sun, tel. & fax 0578-749-071). They rent audioguides for self-guided hour-long town walks (€5). The Tourist Office will normally let you leave your bags there. Market day is Friday.
From Pienza by Bus to: Siena (6/day, 90 min), Montepulciano (8/day, 30 min). Bus tickets are sold at the bar just inside Pienza's town gate.