Pienza is known as the ideal city of the Renaissance, creation of the great humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who later became Pope Pius II. He planned to transform his native village into an ideal Renaissance city. The architect Bernardo Rossellino was commissioned to build a cathedral, a papal palace and a municipal building; the works were completed in three years (1459-1462). Much of Pienza’s historical and artistic heritage is concentrated in the charming square dedicated to Pope Pius II. Today there are many buildings dating back to the 15th century along the Rossellino and Piazza Pio II (the heart of the town) suronded by the Duomo, the Palazzo Piccolomini and the Palazzo Comunale.
Today, Pienza represents one of the building modalities which during the Renaissance was tought to make an “ideal” model of life and government, elaborating an idea of a city that was able to give concrete answers to the desire for civil coexistence, peaceful and productive for the people.
The city today is part of the area known as “Artistic, Natural and Cultural Area of the Val d’Orcia”, which aims to preserve the extraordinary artistic heritage of the five municipalities in it: Castiglion d’Orcia, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani and San Quirico d’Orcia.
Finally, toponymy is a peculiar characteristic. In fact, the main street is Corso Rossellino and bears the name of the great architect-urbanist, parallel to it is the Via del Casello, very romantic for its narrow streets, such as Via dell’Amore, Via della Fortuna, Via del Bacio and Via Buia.
The Duomo, dedicated to the Virgin of Assunta, is one of the most important monuments of the Italian Renaissance. However, there are some typical elements of the French Gothic style, such as in the gabled roof, in the windows and in the central rose window. The façade is divided into travertine and four pilasters corresponding to the internal aisles, it is divided into two zones, the lower one in which there are three entrance doors and the upper one with three arches supported by columns. The coat of arms with the emblem of the Holy See of Pius II dominates the tympanum of the façade.
The Piccolomini palace of Pienza
The palace, adjacent to the Duomo was the home of the descendants of Pius II until 1968, it is square, developed on three floors, made of living stone finely worked in a light, from the bottom up to the top. The apartments open to the public include the room and the library of Pio II. Inside the building there is a courtyard decorated with columns that leads into a loggia overlooking the Italian garden; from here you have a spectacular view of the Val d’Orcia and the wooded slopes of Monte Amiata.
The Municipal Palace
In the main square we find the Palazzo Comunale, the seat of the Municipality offices. It is characterized by a portico with three arches resting on Ionic columns. The facade, all in travertine, is open at the top by four mullioned windows and has a clock tower built in brick. Inside the portico the façade is adorned with graffiti and the coats of arms of the various Podestàs who lived there, as well as those of Pius II. Inside the Palazzo, in the Sala del Consiglio, there is a fresco of the Sienese School of the ‘400 that depicts the Madonna and Child and the Patrons of Pienza (San Vito, San Modesto and San Matteo).
The pieve of Corsignano
This eleventh-century Romanesque church, just outside the historic center of Pienza, is important because Pope Pius II was baptized. Beautiful is the cylindrical tower and the portal decorated with mythological and fantastic themes.