Two jewels of the Val d’Orcia: Pienza and Montepulciano
Pienza and Montepulciano: the most loved destinations of the Val d’Orcia
Usually those who stay in Siena dedicate at least one day to the exploration of the Val d’Orcia. Tours are more or less extensive depending on the time available, but all of them stop at Pienza and Montepulciano; These towns, in fact, are the most loved by visitors from around the world. The Val d’Orcia, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2004, stretches to the south of Siena and Pienza is located in the northeastern part of the valley. It can be reached from Siena along the SR 2 Cassia up to San Quirico d’Orcia and then by the SP 146, with a total displacement of about 50 km. Montepulciano can be reached from Pienza with a further shift of about 19 km, through the SP 146 and the SP 15. The itinerary can also be conveniently carried out with the TRAIN bus line and winds through beautiful landscapes.
Visiting Pienza and Montepulciano
Pienza strikes its visitors for its beauty and its unique history. Originally it was called Corsignano and was a small village, but the presence of the aristocratic Piccolomini family made it relevant among nobles. In 1458 one of the members of the family, Enea Silvio, became Pope with the name Pius II; the Popes have always promoted the arts, and Pius II was no exception. In fact, he commissioned to the famous Renaissance architect Bernardo Rossellino the reconstruction of the city, which on this occasion was renamed Pienza. In just four years it became a real “ideal city” of the Renaissance, inspired by the principles of order, beauty and harmony. Since then, Pienza has not changed and today still revolves around the Pio II square, where you can find the Cathedral, the Town Hall, Palazzo Borgia and of course Palazzo Piccolomini. Montepulciano is located on a 600m high hill, from which you can admire the Val d’Orcia and the Val di Chiana. The city was founded by the Etruscans in the fourth century BC, but neither the Etruscans nor the Romans left many traces. Montepulciano has had a revival in the Lombard period and enjoyed its golden period between the beginning of ‘400 and half of the ‘500s, then in 1559 the Republic of Siena, to which it belonged, came under Florence’s domain, so the city began its slow decline. The most important religious building is the Cathedral of 1586-1680, designed by Ippolito Scalza. Among other churches, it’s worth mentioning San Biagio of 1518-1567, outside the town: designed by Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio, it is a rare example of a Catholic church with a Greek cross. The town center is also full of buildings designed by the greatest Renaissance architects, such as Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio, Vignola, and Baldassarre Peruzzi.
Things to know before visiting Montepulciano and Pienza
The best time to visit Montepulciano is in August, during the Bruscello Poliziano, a festival of folk and rural theater. Also, the last Sunday of August, the 8 city districts compete in the race called Bravio delle botti. Montepulciano’s offer is not limited to art: its territory, in fact, holds the nature reserve of the lake of Montepulciano and the Terme di Montepulciano. It is worth to schedule even just a few hours for relaxation! And do not forget that with this tour you will also discover many culinary specialties, like the pecorino cheese and the Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG wine.