Pienza is a medieval town in southern Tuscany in the Val d'Orcia, surrounded by the Crete Sinese--clay hills. The texture of these hills and valleys is hard to describe. It's big sky country with vistas wide and far. The clouds come and go ever-changing the light on the hills. One minute this hill is illuminated... the next minute another one, and then the light moves on again. Dappled light from passing clouds enhances the undulating hills. The sharp angle of the morning sun enhances the mottled soft texture of the hills.
We were staying at Agriturismo Cosona, a small B&B in a 500 year old villa complex 12 minutes drive outside of the village. We had wonderful view of Pienza from our windows. This is a fantastic, relaxing area filled with beautiful views of the Crete Sinese. Being here in the autumn, after many crops have been harvested, the terracotta colors and plowed textures of the plowed fields offered a subtle beauty. Driving the back roads in search of the unexpected, our little Fiat 500L got dusted with their fine clay powder. Like most First Loves, Pienza was destined to become our favorite town in all of Tuscany--a Love that will remain with us our whole lives...
What I found refreshing about this town is that even though it's a hilltown, the village itself is fairly flat and easy to walk. The main street through the heart of the village, Corso il Rossolino, is where most of the action is... shops, ristorante, and the main attractions. Pope Pius II was born here and developed the town as a perfect, ideal example of Renaissance town planning. Half-way down the Corso il Rossolino you come to the Piazza Piu II, which holds the most treasures... the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Palazzo Piccolmini (commissioned by Pope Pius II), Palazzo Vescovile (built to house the Pope's bishops), and the Palazzo Comunale. In the corner of the Piazza is La Terrazza Del Chiostro, a fine dining experience within an historic cloisters, with dining rooms in vaulted chambers and outdoor dining in their formal garden overlooking the Val d'Ochia.
But above all, one of the best feature of Pienza is its terrace promenade along the south side of the historic center. If you want to calm your soul with the best panoramic view of a Tuscan valley, this is the place to be. The view is wide and the lighting is wonderful, no matter what time of day you visit. The gently rolling valley is lit from the left at sunrise, the sun is from slightly the rear when the sun is high, and the sun sets toward the right... all day long the light playing with the colors and textures of the landscape. And on a day with puffy clouds (as we had), the shadows and light dance magically across your view. The views from this wonderful belvedere stretch for 15 miles to Monte Amiata.
We found a fantastic cheese shop specializing in formaggio di pecora (sheep cheese) and picked up a ball of caciocavallo and a bottle of aged, syrupy sweet balsamic after tasting and falling in love with both. For refreshments, we had panini for lunch with wine and aqua gassata (very sparkling water) in an outdoor trattoria. We quickly discovered the thing to do to save on drinks is simply order a liter bottle of water for the table when dining. Our son, Lucas picked up on this habit right away and rarely wanted soda after that. Amazing ciocolatto and pistacchio gelato followed. We then took a leisurely stroll and took photos along the promenade to top off our Pienza visit.
Pienza immediately became a favorite village that would be hard to beat on the rest of our Voyage. We all vowed that we'd like to return here and spend more time.
For our first Tuscan village... not bad at all...