Piazza Pio II. A splendid Renaissance square designed by Rossellino with an elegant well and many of the town’s main buildings: the Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption and home to important works of art from the 1400s, the Palazzo Comunale and the Palazzo Piccolomini.
The Ancient Pieve of Corsignano. Just outside the old town of Pienza and dedicated to Saints Vito and Modesto, this is a relevant example of the Tuscan Romanesque style. The current appearance dates back mostly to the 12th century with restorations from 1925. The bell tower has a circular plan, which reveals influences from Ravenna and which can be traced back to the 11th century. Of particular interest is the window on the facade and the side portal with its relevant examples of sculptural decoration.
The village’s original name was Corsignano. According to local tradition, it was named after a certain Corsinius, one of Silla’s crusaders among whom the territory of the city of Chiusi was divided. There are reports of sporadic late Etruscan and Roman burial mounds around the town, but the first verifiable historical information dates back to 828, when the Abbazia of S. Salvatore on Monte Amiata bought some land in the area. It was confirmed as a possession of the abbey by the emperors Otto III (996), Enrico II (1004 and 1007) and Corrado II (1027 and 1036). The first mention of the castle dates back to 1208, when it belonged to the Republic of Siena. Between the 13th and 14th centuries, the Piccolomini family, exiled to the Val d’Orcia, acquired more and more properties in the territory. On October 18, 1405, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, one Italy’s most eminent humanists, was born here. He became pope in 1458, taking the name Pius II. His deep attachment to his homeland led him to transform the small town into a true Renaissance city, entrusting the project to Florentine architect Bernardo da Settignano, known as Rossellino. In addition to the main public buildings (including the Cathedral), Pius II also built 12 houses under the direction of Porrina and a chapel dedicated to St. Francis, then invited several cardinals (including Giacomo Ammannati, Francesco Gonzaga and Rodrigo Borgia, future Pope Alexander VI) and others to build other mansions for themselves in the same style as those he had built. When both Pius II and Rossellino died in 1464, the work was not completely finished, but the town had nevertheless assumed the aspect that had been envisioned by the pope, so much so that in his honour, the town changed its name to Pienza. The pope also wanted to erect a church dedicated to the Assumption at the Cathedral, giving rise to the new diocese of Pienza-Montalcino, to which numerous parishes of the neighboring dioceses of Grosseto, Chiusi and Arezzo were aggregated.
The town suffered much damage during the war of Siena and was lost and regained several times by the Republic, who expanded its walls and its fortress, then reinforced and completely demolished them. The town was occupied first by the Spaniards and then by the French, until the latter surrendered it to Florence in 1559 after the Florentines had obtained a definitive victory over Siena and annexed its state. During the Medici domination, the city suffered a progressive decline with a significant demographic decrease, following the fate of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until modern times.
Pienza today is home to about 1,300 inhabitants.
HOW TO GET HERE (103 km)
Take the Aurelia state road towards Grosseto. Take the exit for Siena / Roselle entering onto the E78 highway (SS223). After about 18 km, exit for Paganico and take the SP64 to Cipressino. After about 15 km, turn left onto the SP52 and continue on the SP14 until you reach Montalcino. From here, take the SP15 until you reach the SR2 Cassia, then continue towards San Quirico d’Orcia. In San Quirico, leave the Cassia and take the SP146 towards Chianciano until you get to Pienza.