What to see one day in Pienza, Tuscany
If you’re eager to discover how to make the most of a day in Pienza, continue reading for a curated guide on what to see in one day in Pienza, experiencing the town’s enchanting allure and cultural treasures.
Pienza, nestled in the heart of Tuscany, is a captivating gem renowned for its exquisite Renaissance architecture and captivating vistas. This UNESCO World Heritage Site embodies the vision of Pope Pius II, who transformed his birthplace into an ideal Renaissance town. Known for its harmonious design and architectural beauty, Pienza captivates visitors with its charming cobblestone streets, picturesque piazzas, and stunning panoramic views of the Val d’Orcia countryside. Renowned for its delectable pecorino cheese and rich cultural heritage, Pienza invites travelers to immerse themselves in its timeless beauty, inviting ambiance, and rich historical significance.
How to get to Pienza
Fly into Bari or Brindisi airports, which have regular flights from the UK and Europe.
From Bari airport, you can travel to Pienza by renting a car.
Due to Pienza’s position in the rural Val d’Orcia without a train station, the most convenient method to reach it is by renting a car.
Pienza does not have its own railway station. Travelers relying on public transportation can access the town via bus routes, but this usually involves multiple transfers and could require a considerable amount of time, typically taking at least an hour, yet often extending well beyond this duration based on your departure point.
From Montepulciano: 15 km, 20 minutes
From Arezzo: 60 km, 1.25 hours
From Siena: 56 km, 1.25 hours
From Florence: 115 km, 1.75 hours
What to do in Pienza
Quick Facts about Pienza
- Pienza emerged from a small town called Corsignano.
- Pope Pius II, born there, envisioned and commissioned its Renaissance transformation in 1462.
- Completed swiftly under architect Bernard Rossellino, Pienza remains remarkably unchanged since its creation.
- Named “city of Pius” after the Pope
- It earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996 for its historical and architectural significance.
Visit Palazzo Piccolomini
Palazzo Piccolomini, influenced by Florence’s Palazzo Rucellai, was constructed encircling a central courtyard, affording breathtaking vistas of the town on three sides while the fourth side opens to a splendid Italian hanging garden, offering panoramic views of the mesmerizing Tuscan countryside.
Transformed into a museum across three expansive floors, the palazzo houses a remarkable collection, featuring a rare library brimming with ancient books and the former papal apartments adorned with exquisite period furnishings, captivating paintings, and intricate engravings depicting the esteemed Piccolomini family. The opulent seven-axis loggia invites visitors to savor majestic views, while the meticulously landscaped Italian gardens provide an idyllic setting to immerse oneself in the resplendence of the Tuscan panorama.
Opening Hours And Ticket Price
October 16 to March 14: Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am – 4:30 pm Admission until 4 pm Closed Mondays (Except on holiday Mondays)
March 15 to October 15: Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am – 6:30 pm Admission until 6 pm Closed Mondays (Except on holiday Mondays)
December 25 / January 1: Open from 2 pm – 6 pm Admission until 5:30 pm
Full Price: € 7.00 , Reduced (Groups min. 15 – max. 40 people): € 5.00, Reduced Schools: € 3.50, Free (Children up to 5 years old, differently-abled individuals with a companion)
Stroll through Piazza Pio II
Designed by architect Bernardo Rossellino during the mid-1400s, and bearing the name of Pope Pius II, this compact square sits along Corso il Rossellino.
Standing within the square, a panoramic view unveils several notable landmarks: the cathedral, Palazzo Piccolomini, and Palazzo Borgia. Additionally, an exquisite stone fountain adorns a corner of this elegant square.
Visit The Pienza Cathedral
The cathedral, known as the Cattedrale dell’Assunta, positioned in Piazza Pio II, stands as another architectural endeavor initiated by Pope Pius II and brought to life by Bernardo Rossellino during the 15th century. Built upon the former parish church of Santa Maria, the Cathedral of Pienza is said to draw inspiration from a church admired by the Pope during his Austrian travels. Its construction embodies a Renaissance architectural style infused with traces of Gothic influences.
Don’t miss the opportunity to descend into the crypt and delve beneath the cathedral’s surface during your visit!
Corso di Rossellino
Pienza’s central pedestrian avenue, Corso il Rossellino, serves as the bustling artery traversing the town’s core.
Dedicated to Bernardo Rossellino, the visionary behind Pienza’s Renaissance metamorphosis, this street acts as a gateway to the town’s most captivating attractions, all within easy reach of each other.
Spanning from the Porta al Prato at one terminus to the Porta del Ciglio at the other, Corso il Rossellino unveils a plethora of noteworthy landmarks and points of interest along its path. It would be nearly impossible to embark on a day trip to Pienza and not find oneself drawn into exploring the treasures that grace the length of this charming thoroughfare.
Explore the side streets
Venturing off the main thoroughfare in Pienza opens up a world of discovery along quaint and enchanting streets like Via del Bacio, Via d’Amore, and Via della Fortuna. These charming lanes beckon explorers with their unique character, offering a glimpse into the town’s quieter corners and hidden treasures. Strolling along these paths allows for a more intimate and authentic experience, unveiling picturesque corners, local artisan shops, and architectural gems waiting to be uncovered.
Visit Palazzo Borgia Diocesan Museum
Situated on Corso Il Rossellino, the Diocesan Museum of Pienza occupies the Episcopal Palace, also known as Palazzo Borgia, offering captivating views overlooking Piazza Pio II and contributing to the town’s splendid urban ensemble. Within its confines, the museum comprises 11 galleries exhibiting remarkable artworks spanning the 14th to 16th centuries, featuring celebrated artists like Luca Signorelli and Pietro Lorenzetti.
Step inside the Church of San Francesco
Dating back to the 13th century, the Church of San Francesco predates the construction of the Duomo and was erected by local monks. Despite its unassuming exterior, the interior of this church conceals captivating frescoes, although the passage of time has led to the loss of many of these artistic treasures. Upon entry, the church may initially appear dim. To illuminate the space, simply place a euro in the box located on the wall to the left of the entrance.
Go To The Gladiator Viewpoint
Adjacent to the Pieve dei Santo Vito’s small parking area, a short stroll leads to the viewpoint of Agriturismo Terrapille. This iconic spot gained fame for its appearance in the movie “The Gladiator,” starring Russell Crowe.
Accessible from the parking lot, a brief 10-minute downhill walk unveils the viewpoint, marked as “Gladiator” on Google Maps.
Stroll alongside the village walls and soak in the views of Tuscany
Exploring the perimeter of this charming enclosed town while relishing the panoramic countryside vistas ranks among the most delightful activities in Pienza!
This leisurely stroll offers multifaceted perspectives of both the town and its surrounding rural landscapes. Moreover, as you wander, you’ll chance upon numerous key attractions within the town.
Admire views of Pienza from surrounding areas
There’s another captivating experience waiting for you either on your way to Pienza or departing from it: the breathtaking sight of Pienza perched atop the hill where it stands.
Whether you’re observing Pienza from a distance in Montichiello or catching a glimpse of it along the roadside, the view of Pienza nestled amidst the stunning valley is bound to captivate and enchant you.
What to eat and where
Pecorino stands out as one of Italy’s renowned cheese varieties, with the local Pecorino di Pienza offering a particularly delightful flavor.This firm sheep’s cheese boasts a fantastic taste, especially when complemented with honey. Pecorino di Pienza holds such significance in the town that nearly all visits to Pienza involve at least one tasting of this cheese.Ensure you seize the opportunity to sample it while dining at any of Pienza’s numerous restaurants, and once you develop a fondness for it, consider purchasing some from a local shop to take home.
La Vecchia Bottega offers a variety of appetizers featuring pecorino cheese for tasting. Their menu includes selections of meat and cheese platters, bruschetta, and crostini. Should you find a cheese or wine to your liking during the meal, you have the option to purchase it from the shop after dining.
To savor a cheese-tasting adventure, consider a visit to La Taverna del Pecorino situated on Via Condotti, 1, a stone’s throw away from the main thoroughfare.At an affordable rate of 5 Euros Per Person, indulge in a diverse selection of both fresh and mature pecorino cheeses, alongside balsamic vinegar, and an assortment of other gourmet delights.
In Pienza, you can dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Ristorante Daria. Other highly rated restaurants include Sette de Vino, Poderuccio, and La Taverna di Re Artu.
Is Pienza worth it?
Pienza’s allure extends far beyond its compact size and concise list of must-visit attractions. Nestled amidst the breathtaking vistas of Val d’Orcia and boasting the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, this charming city emerges as a standout gem among the treasures of Tuscany.
Despite its relatively small footprint, Pienza encapsulates the essence of Tuscan beauty and cultural significance. Its carefully preserved historic center, framed by captivating views of the picturesque countryside, invites travelers on an immersive journey through time.
Known for its architectural harmony and Renaissance grandeur, Pienza stands as a testament to visionary design and cultural importance. From its delightful streets and captivating viewpoints to its rich culinary offerings, each facet contributes to an unforgettable experience.
What else can i do in Pienza?
During the early days of September, Pienza comes alive with the vibrant celebration dedicated to the esteemed pecorino cheese. For those fortunate enough to be in town during this period, the Palio del Cacio Fuso is an absolute must-see spectacle. Witness as participants hailing from various towns engage in the thrilling Palio, competing in a unique contest where their skill is tested by rolling rounds of pecorino cheese around a spindle placed at the heart of the square.
This lively event not only showcases the local traditions and fervent passion for pecorino cheese but also embodies the community’s spirit and camaraderie. The jovial atmosphere permeating the square during this festival creates an unforgettable experience, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the authentic cultural fabric of Pienza. Whether as a spectator or a participant in the festivities, the Palio del Cacio Fuso promises an engaging and memorable celebration of the cherished pecorino cheese, ingraining itself as a cherished highlight of the Tuscan calendar.
When should i visit Pienza?
The best time to visit Pienza is in mid-to-late spring (April to May) or early fall (September to October). The Tuscan landscape is at its most vibrant during these times and the weather is particularly pleasant.
Should I choose Pienza as a base city?
One of the marvels of embarking on a road trip in Tuscany is the flexibility it offers—setting up a base in a few select cities or towns allows you to explore a myriad of nearby destinations. Although numerous travelers opt to establish their base in neighboring places such as Siena or Montepulciano, Pienza itself stands out as an exceptional option.
For those seeking a serene haven nestled within the Val d’Orcia, Pienza emerges as an idyllic retreat and an ideal spot to unwind between your escapades exploring the region’s attractions.
How much time do i need in Pienza?
If your plan involves a leisurely city stroll, exploring the cathedral, some shopping, and sampling Pecorino di Pienza cheese, a 2-hour visit to Pienza would suffice.
To delve further into touring Palazzo Piccolomini, exploring the crypt, or enjoying a relaxed meal, consider extending your stay.For those interested in reaching the Gladiator viewpoint, allocate an additional 45 minutes to your visit.