Pienza, situated in the province of Siena, in the Val d'Orcia between the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino, is the 'touchstone' of Renaissance urbanism.
Pienza was rebuilt from a village called Corsignano, which was the birthplace of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, a Renaissance humanist who later became Pope Pius II. It has been designated as part of the world-wide heritage of humanity by UNESCO.
Although Sienese, Pope Pius II had actually been born in a small town south of Siena called Corsignano. Beginning in 1459, he attempted to establish this town as a papal seat. In 1462 he rechristened it Pienza in honour of himself, rated it to a bishopric, and hired Bernardo Rossellino, who had previously been a capomaestro on Nicholas V's new apse and transepts for St Peter's and had worked in an elaborated classicising style in Florence, to transform its centre into a suitably coherent setting for the town's new status.
Rosselino's plan was determined in part by pre-existing streets, by the medieval town hall at the site, and by the precipitous drop of the hill where Pius planned a new cathedral. To either side of the cathedral Rosselino placed the bishop's palace and Pius's own palace, forming a trapezoidal piazza. Pius's own coat-of-arms appears prominently in the gable of the cathedral, whose triple-arched façade recalls ancient Roman triumphal arches.
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Travel Guide | Unesco World Heritage Sites in Tuscany | Pienza | The Val d''Orcia