Pienza, a small town near Siena, is a rare example of Renaissance town building. Defined, from time to time, the "ideal city", the "utopian city", it represents one of the best planned Renaissance towns, where a model of ideal living and governing was realized thus working out the idea of a town able to satisfy the need for a pacific, civil and hardworking living. It represented the so called utopia of the "civitas" vainly cherished by people for centuries.Pienza has at present two museum, a third one into being. Its location in the middle of Val d'Orcia, a wonderful and untouched valley, enables the town to perfectly embody the basic interest which the humanistic architecture gave to the relationship man - nature.
Nowadays Pienza is part of a territorial system called "Parco artistico, naturale e culturale della Val d'Orcia", which aims at preservation of the extraordinary artistic heritage of the five boroughs which constitute it: Castiglion d'Orcia, Montalcino, San Quirico d'Orcia, Radicofani and Pienza.
The center of Pienza was completely redesigned by Pope Pius II in Renaissance times. He planned to transform his birthplace into a model Renaissance town. The architect Bernardo Rossellino was commissioned to build a Duomo, papal palace and town hall, the construction were completed in three years.
The Duomo was built by the architect Rossellino (1459) and is now suffering from serious subsidence at its eastern end. There were cracks in the walls and floor of the nave, but the splendid classical proportions are remained inctact. It is flooded with ligth from the vast stained glass windows request by Pius II; he wanted a domus vitrea (litterally "a house of glass"), which would symbolize the spirit of intellectual enlightenment of the Humanist age.
Palazzo Piccolomini was built by Pope Pio II as a family residence.
In order to build it, the architect Rossellino had the old Piccolomini homes demolished. In this building the influence of the architect Alberti is very strong. Indeed, Rossellino was directly inspired by Palazzo Ruccellai in Florence, a building designed by the great architect himself and overseen by the pupil-collaborator Rossellino.
Even with its grand structure the palace blends in with the other much smaller buildings around the square. One such example is the white travertine well, located at the foot of the palace, which blends in harmoniously with the great building itself, even though it is not of monumental proportion.
The well's design is also by Rossellino. It is a perfect and elegant structure that was often imitated in the following century, especially around Tuscany. Of particular interest is the courtyard within Palazzo Piccolomini. It is extremely elegant and surrounded by Corinthian columns. It leads on to a hanging garden onto which the palace faces, with three loggias placed one above the other. The Italian garden is still intact and to this day acts as an ideal bridge between the architectural space and the surrounding nature, a marvel to withhold from Monte Cetona to Monte Amiata.
Nowadays Palazzo Piccolomini has become a museum where one may visit the old arms room, Pope Pio II's study and bedroom and the library.
Church of San Giovanni (Battistero)
The church is built under the apse of the Duomo, and holds the christening font and some of the ruins of the ancient Romanesque church of Santa Maria, that was demolished in 1459 to make way for Pio II's new church. Because it is situated below the Duomo's apse, the Pienza Baptistry has the appearance of a true crypt. Unfortunately the cracks that are visible in the cathedral are also present in this lower construction that rests together with the apse on an unstable clay cliff.
Pieve of Corsignano
Pope Pius II was baptized in this 11 th. century Romanesque parish church on the outskirts of Pienza. It has an unusual round tower and a doorway decorated with flower mytholgical motifs. A crib is sculptured on the architrave of the side doorway.