Pienza was rebuilt from a village called Corsignano, which was the birthplace (1405) of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Italian: Enea Silvio Piccolomini), a Renaissance humanist born into an exiled Sienese family, who later became Pope Pius II. Once he became Pope, Piccolomini had the entire village rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance town. Intended as a retreat from Rome, it represents the first application of humanist urban planning concepts, creating an impetus for planning that was adopted in other Italian towns and cities and eventually spread to other European centers.
The rebuilding was done by Florentine architect Bernardo Gambarelli (known as Bernardo Rossellino) who may have worked with the humanist and architect Leon Battista Alberti, though there are no documents to prove it for sure. Alberti was in the employ of the Papal Curia at the time and served as an advisor to Pius. Construction started about 1459. Pope Pius II consecrated the Duomo on August 29, 1462, during his long summer visit. His included a detailed description of the structures in his Commentaries, written during the last two years of his life.
The trapezoidal-shaped piazza is defined by four buildings. The principal residence, Palazzo Piccolomini, is on the west side. It has three stories, articulated by pilasters and entablature courses, with a window set within each bay. This structure is similar to Alberti's Palazzo Rucellai in Florence and other later palaces. Noteworthy is the internal court of the palazzo. The back of the palace, to the south, is defined by loggias on all three floors that overlook an enclosed giardino all'Italiana and spectacular views into the distant landscape of the Val d'Orcia.
The Duomo (Cathedral), which dominates the center of the piazza, has a façade that is one of the earliest designed in the Renaissance manner. Though the tripartite division is conventional, the use of pilasters and of columns, standing on high dados and linked by arches, was novel for the time. The bell tower, however, has a Germanic flavor as is the layout of the Hallenkirche plan, a "triple-nave" plan where the side aisles are almost as tall as the nave; Pius, before he became pope, served many years in Germany and praised the effects of light admitted into the German hall churches in his Commentari. Artworks in the duomo include five altar paintings from the Sienese School. The Baptistry, dedicated as usual to San Giovanni, is located next to the apse of the church.
Pius encouraged his cardinals to build palazzi to complete the city. The Palazzo Borgia, on the third side of the piazza, was built as the palace to house the bishops who would travel to Pienza to attend the pope. It is now home to the Diocesan Museum, and the Museo della Cattedrale. The collection includes local textile work as well as religious artifacts. Paintings include a 7th century painting of Christ on the Cross (La Croce), 14th century works by Pietro Lorenzetti (Madonna with Child) and Bartolo di Fredi (Madonna della Misericordia). There are also important works from the 14th and 15th centuries, including a Madonna attributed to Luca Signorelli.
Across from the church is the town hall, or Palazzo Comunale. Since Corsigniano was originally a village without a town governance, before the transformations there was no town hall. But when Corsigniano was given the status of an official city, a Palazzo Comunale was required, though it was certainly more for show than anything else. It has a loggia on the ground floor and council chamber above; a third floor was added in 1599 (Mack 1987). It also has a brick bell tower that is, however, shorter than its religious counterpart, to symbolize the superior power of the church. The Palazzo Comunale was probably also designed by Rossellino. The travertine well in the Piazza carries the Piccolomini family crest, and was widely copied in Tuscany during the following century.
About fifty meters west from the piazza, is the church of San Francesco, with a gabled façade and gothic portal. Among the buildings that survived from the old Corsignano, it is built on a pre-existing church that dated from the 8th century. The interior contains frescoes depicting the life of Saint Francis, those on the walls having been painted by Cristofano di Bindoccio and Meo di Pero, 14th century artists of the Sienese School. Other noteworthy buildings in Pienza include the Ammannati Palace, the Gonzaga Palace and the Palazzo del Cardinale Atrebatense i. e. Jean Jouffroy, all built in the 15th century.
The Pieve of Corsignano, in the neighbourhood, is one of the most important Romanesque monuments of the area.
The frazione of Monticchiello is home to a characteristic Romitorio, a series of grottoes carved in the rock by hermit monks
We’ll proceed to MONTEPULCIANO
Montepulciano, a town and commune in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany, (Italy), is a medieval and renaissance hill town of exceptional beauty. Montepulciano, with an elevation of 605 m (around 2000 ft), sits on a high limestone ridge. By car it is 13 km (8 miles) E of Pienza; 67 km (40 miles) SE of Siena; 124 km (74 miles) SE of Florence; 186 km (115 miles) N of Rome.
Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Wine connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile among Italy's best. However, the Vino Nobile de Montepulciano should not be confused with the varietal wine (Montepulciano grape) of the same name. Montepulciano is also known for its pork, cheese, "pici" pasta (a thick, rough, chewy variant on spaghetti), lentils, and honey.
The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 11.5 kilometers from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The city is renowned for its walkable, car-free nature. The main landmarks include:
The walls of the city were designed and built under the direction of Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici in 1511 by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.
Proceed to ROME, arrival at your hotel, end of our services.