Pienza located in the middle of the scenic Val d’Orcia valley is probably the most beautiful medieval village in the whole Italy. I wouldn’t call this place inhabited by slightly more than 2000 people a town.
Some of my friends who visited Pienza for their first time called it a toy town because of its small size, small ancient buildings, cozy narrow streets and homey feel.
I totally agree with them! Pienza is known for Pope Pius II who started building a model Renaissance town in Italy but didn’t manage to complete his lifework.
Pecorino Cheese of Tuscany
What he has managed to complete is now called Pienza a small cozy place full of cafes and shops selling many local products ranging from wines to the local Pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk.
Actually this kind of cheese is made in a number of other regions of Italy. That’s why the name of the region is typically added to its label similar to Pecorino Toscano.
Today Pecorino cheese is produced using the same recipes that they used during the Roman times. The main characteristic of this type of cheese is that it is made using only sheep’s milk as opposed to Parmesan that uses cow’s milk. Pecorino cheese is mostly used for grating and has a sharper flavor if you compare it with Parmesan.
Long time ago I ran into some nice pictures of Val d’Orcia on the internet. That’s when I decided that someday I would love to see this incredibly well setup landscape live.
Visiting Val d’Orcia made me understand why UNESCO has included this area into its World Heritage List. Pienza is located on top of the hill that opens incredible views to the beautiful Valdorcia with its typical Tuscan landscape that inspired a great number of artists.
What amazed me most was the thoughtful approach to planting the rows of the famous Italian Cypress trees and zoning numerous farm fields. Rounded hills, umbrella pines and single farmhouses are all part of the landscape you’ll never forget.
The best time to visit Val d’Orcia area is May when the local temperatures are most comfortable without getting too cold or too worm.
Pienza, Italy: Strategic Location in Tuscany
Pienza is conveniently located in Tuscany right between two of the most famous medieval castle towns in Italy called Montalcino and Montepulciano.
Strategic location makes it a great place to stay while exploring this part of the region with its small neighboring towns. It will take about half an hour to get to Montalcino which is the birth place of the most famous Italian red wine called Brunello di Montalcino. Driving 20 minutes the opposite direction from Pienza will take you to Montepulciano, the home town of another great Tuscan wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Our Pienza Hotel: Arca di Pienza
We decided to stay at the hotel called Arca di Pienza located on the main road near the entrance to the old town. It had all traditional amenities for 95 Euros per night including breakfast.
There is a public parking area right near the hotel that has free and paid parking lots. We were always able to park in the free lots. In addition to that there is a small store nearby where you can buy some snacks or fruit. Our room was facing the main road with an adjacent gas station on the opposite side, but it was very quiet and the traffic was very light.
Overall Arca di Pienza was a decent hotel in a very convenient location.
Pici pasta at the Oldest Pienza Restaurant
This was the first restaurant in Pienza where we had our meal after arriving to the hotel. It was called Dal Falco Pienza located on Piazza Dante Alighieri, 3. They served great traditional dishes there including local Pici pasta.
Just so that you know Pici pasta has originated in the area around Siena hundreds of years ago and looks like spaghetti except much thicker and shorter. In addition to that it is usually rolled by hand as opposed to the regular spaghetti.
We had a great reasonably priced dinner at this Pienza dinery which appeared to be one of the oldest restaurants in town. It had a great selection of wines to fit any budget. This time we ordered a simple bottle of Chianti Classico for 8 Euros to accompany our Pici pasta. Everything was just great!
Visiting Pienza during our travel around Italy was a good idea both in terms of its convenient location, incredible views of Val d’Orcia and of course great food. We have even managed to do some shopping at one of the small boutiques located on the main street. It had some niche Italian clothing brands at great prices.