Pienza is another hilltop town in Val D’Orcia, situated between San Quirico and Montepulciano. The town dates back to the 9th century, but today it is considered a fine example of Renaissance town planning, thanks to Pope Pius II. Pius II was born in Pienza in 1405 (then known as Corsignano), but after Pius became pope in 1458 he decided to re-build his home town and use it as a summer retreat from the heat of Rome. As a result it was renamed Pienza, meaning city of Pius. Much of the architecture of the public buildings was designed by Bernardo Rossellino, a Florentine architect, however Pius II himself was also involved in the designs.

Pienza From The South

Pienza Cathedral (or the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assumpta) was among the buildings built under the command of Pope Pius II and completed in 1462. It fronts onto the main square – the Piazzo Pio II – but to allow space for the square the cathedral was pushed back so that the rear of the cathedral overhangs the hillside on which Pienza is located. The facade is an early example of the Renaissance style.

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

Inside, the cathedral was unusual for its Hallenkirche style, where the two side aisles are the same height as the central nave. This was a break from the basilica design where the aisle roofs would be lower, allowing side windows to be placed above the nave.

Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta Interior

There are several notable works of art in the Cathedral, including this altar piece by Sano Di Pietro, dating to 1462, and showing the Madonna and child and Saints Maddalena, Filippo, Giacomo and Anna.

Sano Di Petro Altar Piece

Across the square from the Cathedral is the Palazzo Comunale, or town hall. This was also part of Pius II’s re-design of Pienza, designed by Bernardo Rossellino.

Pienza Palazzo Comunale

A short distance from the cathedral is the church of San Francesco, an older 13th century church that survived the urban planning of Pope Pius II. The church is quite plain both outside and in, but there is a small chapel which is intricately decorated, the ceiling in particular being very ornate.

Chapel Ceiling at the Church of San Francesco

As with all the walled towns in Tuscany, there are small intimate areas to photograph, like this view outside one of the many wine shops.

Pienza Wine Shop

Palazzo Massaini

About 4km north-east of Pienza along the SP146 to Montepulciano lies Palazzo Massaini. This is a fine Tuscan villa on a hill overlooking the road with a lovey sweeping track lined by cypress trees. Originally built around the year 1200, it was at one time owned by Pope Pius II from Pienza. Today it is a wine estate with some farmhouses for holiday rental.

Palazzo Massaini

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