Pienza Italy: All you need to know about Tuscany’s ‘ideal town’

Pienza Italy detail of street with plants

All you need to know to visit Pienza Italy: how to get there, what to see, why you should add it to your Tuscany itinerary.

Pienza is a small, beautiful hilltop town in Tuscany with something special: in the 1459 this tiny village got a complete redesign that turned it into the perfect example of Renaissance ideal city’, still standing today!

It is one of the prettiest towns in Tuscnay and a stop I highly recommend you add to your Tuscany itinerary.

This is all you need to knw to plan a visit.

What makes Pienza special

Pienza started its history like many other villages in the area, a pretty hilltop town going by the name of Corsignano.

In 1405 however, it happened to give birth to Enea Silvio Piccolomini (future Pope Pius II), who changed the history of the town entirely.

The Pope was very fond of his hometown and wanted to use its power and influence to transform it into a utopian village, built according to the Humanist principles he personally followed.

He assigned the redesign project to architect Bernardo ‘il Rossellino’ and the great Humanist Leon Battista Alberti and in 3 years was able to see the construction of the stunning piazza Centrale, Pienza Cathedra, the Papal Reside, and the Municipal palazzo.

To crown his achievement, the changed the name of its hometown to Pienza, the city of Pius.

His design and these amazing creations are still standing today and make Pienza a real gem.

You can visit the town in a matter of hours and the combination of medieval elements, Renaissance designs and the stunning position of Pienza, on tops of a hill with sweeping views, it is likely to lave it as one of the highlights of your trip to Tuscany.

If you enjoy learning about this are, you can find more interesting facts about Tuscany here.

Who should visit Pienza

Pienza is suitable to all types of visitors and in particular:

Cultural tourist and lovers of history
Families (Pienza is car free and has a lovely playground)
Foodies – Pienza is famous for its pecorino cheese!

What to see in Pienza

Pienza is a small town and all the main attractions are in the compact city center, ‘centro storico’ now in its entirety a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Worth seeking out are:

Piazza Pio II

Piazza Pio II is the crown jewel of Enea Silvio Piccolomini’s design.

Piazza Pio II Pienza Italy

The piazza has a peculiar trapezoidal shape and it surrounded by beautiful buildings, both religious and non, harmoniously built in a soothing honey color.

The piazza is overlooked by Pienza’s Duomo, the elegant Palazzo Piccolomini, and it is also home to a stunning ancient well called ‘pozzo dei cani’ (dog’s well), somewhat reminiscent of others in the area such as that in San Quirico d’Orcia or Montepulciano.

Palazzo Piccolomini

Palazzo Piccolomini is one of the most impressive buldings in Pienza, especially inside.

The structure is built to echo the landscape: the beautiful loggia overlooks the beautiful Tuscan hill and the palazzo has a breathtakingly beautiful suspended garden that seems to bland in with the colors of the hills behind it.

Duomo di Pienza: Pienza’s cathedral

Piazza Pio II is dominated by Pienza’s duomo, a wonderful building that blends element or Gothic and Renaissance styles.

inside of duomo of Pienza Italy

The main shape of the church has 3 equal naves.

It was inspired by the German Hellenkirchen, but many of the details are clearly influenced by the aestethic of Alberti which the Pope also knew from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella and by the gothic style, especially that of Franciscan churches in Assisi.

The cathedral is wonderful and well worth a visit: inside, big windows let the light flood in from the back of the altar and into the side chapels.

Walk along Pienza’s bastions

Right at the back of Pienza’s cathedral you will find the access to the town bastions, now a beautiful promenade.

Child walking on Pienza Bastions

The bastions are distinctive of Pienza and the first thing you notice as you drive towards the town.

From their top, you get sweeping views of Val d’Orcia and you can also enjoy the back of some of the prettiest houses in Pienza, decorated with lovely flowerpots and balconies that make the town, literally, picture perfect!

Taste Pecorino

If you like cheese, then make sure you take the time to taste Pienza’s specialty: pecorino di Pienza!

Restaurant in Pienza Italy with tables outside

This is a type of mature cheese with a long tradition and one of the most praised products of this area.

Tasting and buying pecorino is easy.

You find many shops in the town offering it, often with the chance of a quick taste, or you can also have in a restaurant, ordering a ‘formaggio’ board or ordering cacio cotto (hot, melted pecorino, amazing in winter!)

We had lunch in ‘La Chiocciola restaurant’ which we can highly recommend (especially the meat!).

Fun fact! In September, Pienza celebrated ‘fiera del cacio’, a folkloric event with local producers testing their skills at making cacio wheels roll around a wooden pole in Pienza’s main square! You can find more fun facts about Italian food and traditions here.

Explore Pienza’s small alleys

Pienza develops around a main street and square however, some of the prettiest corners of the town can be found exploring the little alleys on the two sides of it.

Here is where you find small and cute piazzas and cafes, pergolas, arches, flowery balconies and where you can catch stunning and unexpected views.

Pretty houses in Pienza with laundry at the windows
Square in Pienza

Pienza with kids

Pienza is a family friendly town which we found excellent for kids.

The town center is compact and car free, there is a nice playground just outside the city walls and there are several shops and supermarkets for daily groceries should you wish to cook for yourself or get a picnic.

Pienza is one of the places we recommend to visit in Tuscany with family and spending a day here one of the things we recommend to do in Italy with kids

Practical tips for your visit to Pienza

Where is Pienza and how to get there

Pienza is in the province of Siena, in the heart of Tuscany and is best reached by car.

Siena is a little over 1hour from Pienza

Florence is 2hours away

Nearby towns worth visiting are pretty San Quirico d’Orcia, Montalcino, Montepulicano and unique Monticchiello, all very well worth a visit.

Where to park in Pienza

The historical center is for pedestrian traffic only but large, pay and display parking spaces are available just outside the city walls. Bring coins.

Pienza is overall flat and doesn’t pose any particular mobility issue. If you are visiting with kids, a stroller here is ok.

Where to stay in Pienza

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

If you want to stay in the town, consider the wonderful Relais il Chiostro, just on Corso Rossellino, one minute walk to the main square.

I hope you enjoyed this quick travel guide to Pienza Italy and it inspired you to visit this town that, for us, is one of the most beautiful places in the whole if Italy. Safe travel planning!

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