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The year following his papal nomination, he hired the architect Bernardo Rossellino to transform his obscure village into a city. Piazza Pio II opens up in the centre of the little town and is the hub of Pienza’s urban structure. The little Renaissance square was studied to welcome the urban constructions being built at the time, and in fact all of the main monuments of the town face onto it. You can see the squared flooring and the travertine well with the coat of arms of the Piccolomini family. The Cathedral is the most grandiose and imposing element among the constructions. It was in fact the Pope who wanted this building to be the most important as a symbol of his faith. Its vigorous Renaissance façade is divided into three parts by arched columns, at the centre of the gable is the Piccolomini coat of arms in a delicate crown of foliage and fruits carried out by Siennese masters. On the left wing is the octagonal, cuspidate bell-tower that shows a strong resemblance to those of Austrian and German churches. Its eclectic style was strongly inspired by the Hallenkirchen (hall churches) of Northern Europe that Enea had seen before becoming Pope. The Crypt conserves fragments that come from the Romanesque church of St. Mary, destroyed to make space for the new Cathedral. Palazzo Piccolomini is Rossellino’s masterpiece, the second most important building that faces onto the piazza. This was Pio II and his family’s home and to build it the architect took inspiration from the forms of the Rucellai palazzo in Florence. On the southern side is a magnificent loggia of three orders with a view of the roof garden, the Val d’Orcia and Monte Amiata: the courtyard is bordered by travertine columns. The first floor has been turned into a museum where you can visit the apartments and see the furnishings. Palazzo Borgia was given by Pio II to Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and its aspect reveals his pre-existence more compared to the other buildings. The Cardinal limited himself to merely lifting the structure up a level and substituting the gothic windows with cross windows, adding a travertine doorway and an internal courtyard. The building is the seat of the Diocesan Museum that is formed around the nucleus of the Cathedral Museum; the ancient museum collected works that belonged to the Cathedral, as well as numerous sacred furnishings that belonged to the Pope and the bishops that followed him over the course of the centuries. In the eleven rooms that make up today’s museum, in chronological order from the 13th to the 18th century, important paintings, sculptures, sacred furnishings and manufactured fabrics all relative to the area of the Pienza Diocese are exhibited. Of particular interest: the Cross painted in the XII century that represents Christ Triumphant over Death; The Madonna with Child painted in the 14th century by Pietro Lorenzetti; the large panel of the Madonna della Misericordia painted by Bartolo di Fredi in 1364. Palazzo Comunale is the most recent of the buildings of the piazza with its ample loggia and its façade decorated with a scratched plaster technique and by a brick tower, built later. This is lower than the bell tower to underline the more important power of the church compared to the civic power. The Church of St. Francis is the only monument that remains of the ancient village of Corsignano, other than being one of the oldest Franciscan buildings in Italy. It dates back to the second half of the XIII century and presents a gabled façade, decorated with a Gothic style doorway. Inside we find frescoes that tell the story of the life of St. Francis. In the vaults are shown the three Franciscan virtues and on the walls can be found twelve episodes of the life of St. Francis carried out by Cristofano di Bindoccio and Meo di Pero, Siennese artists of the second half of the XIV century.
The palazzos Ammannati, Gonzaga and of the Cardinal Atrebatense complete a very fascinating urban fabric. Pienza is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Every second weekend in May the “Pienza and its flowers” show and market of plants and flowers is held. In occasion of this exhibition plant breeders and schools of the sector meet up to re-propose wonderful floral scenes inspired by Renaissance art, within the most beautiful areas of the city. The first Sunday in September is the Festival of Cheese. Pienza is considered the “capital” of pecorino cheese; this is because the little town is situated in the middle of a clay area, the Val d’Orcia, in which the sheep pasture is characterised by a series of aromatic herbs that make the milk particularly tasty and fragrant. Every year in September there is an exhibition dedicated to a grand master of contemporary art. In 1996, upon request by the Park’s Civic Administration, the “Festival of the Val d’Orcia” was founded, a cultural itinerary that every summer, in August, is articulated in spectacular events in the context of places in the area that are already well-known or to be discovered.