Pienza unique in the Orcia Valley

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World Heritage: Pienza and the Orcia Valley

  • Duration: 1/2 to 1 day
  • Map view: click here
  • Reachability: moderate, over country road

Small town in a dreamlike landscape

The small town of Pienza is somehow very typical of Tuscany, but still a very special gem. With a little more than 2.000 inhabitants, it is so unique that it is an important sightseeing stop on the travel routes of the major tour operators. Pienz belongs to Province of Siena.

A pearl in a fascinating landscape that is also worth a longer detour. Pienza is in the center of the Val d'Orcia (Orcia Valley), which you can imagine as a largely dry river bed that is only reasonably filled with water in winter and spring. And rising from this river valley is a veritable sea of ​​hills that offers countless motifs for the photo album.

You are here about 60 km southeast of Siena, the main traffic artery is the SS2 Cassia, the well-developed state road from Siena to Rome.

Architectural importance

One could almost overlook the town if it hadn't been for an ambitious Pope in the middle of the 15th century who resolved to transform his birthplace into a town perfectly planned on the drawing board.

The result is still admired today and also became the benchmark for future urban planning. It is the piazza, towards which all the streets of the village approach in a star shape, as the center, surrounded by monumental buildings, the town hall, the cathedral and two patrician houses for the landed gentry, from which the founder Pius II emerged. Between the architecturally impressive buildings, there are repeatedly views of the wave landscape of the Orci valley.

The Orcia Valley

Orcia Valley in Tuscany
Orcia Valley in Tuscany

This region, which was economically very undeveloped until about 50 years ago, is simply the picture-book landscape of Tuscany. Hills, hills, hills that have been picturesquely decorated with cypress trees. A landscape that has been enhanced in its natural beauty by the care and maintenance of the residents.

Traditional sheep cheese
Traditional sheep cheese from the Orcia Valley

After the end of the war, many of the local farmers left the barren fields. The Sardinians, who were even worse off on their island, came as followers and brought the sheep with them from Sardinia.

The Orciatal became a center of sheep breeding and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004. And it is also the Eldorado of pecorino, sheep's cheese.

You can find it at many sales outlets in Pienza. It has a strong taste and goes well with a full-bodied one Chianti. You can try a wide variety of flavors and then find your favorite cheese, which you can take with you as a reserve for mild nights.

And if you are in Tuscany in September, visit the cheese festival in Pienza, Fiera del Caccio, on the first weekend and experience the "cheese rolling" in the piazza, a kind of boules game with cheese wheels, as a competition between the individual districts .

In the midst of well-known wine regions

tuscany pienza

You will quickly get a good impression of Pienza. Pienza is not overcrowded, so you have time to explore the surrounding area. Pienza is pretty much in the middle between the famous wine towns of Montalcino (Brunello) and Montepulciano (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano).

Here you will find the matching wine to your Pecorino and meet other small towns well worth seeing, for example on the route to Montalcino you cross San Quirico d'Orcia, another romantic and rather sleepy place in the Orcia Valley. The views from these places, which were built on the tops of the hills and provide an unbelievable, downright breathtaking view, are particularly beautiful.

Painters and photographers alike create pictures that, even with the same motif, always look different, depending on the time of year and time of day. The area is recommended for vacationers who are looking for peace and quiet and want to enjoy nature.

Image source: ENIT /fotoseca

Last updated: 06.02.2024

Images courtesy of PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay, cocoparisienne on Pixabay, and minakitty15 on Pixabay

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