Pienza is the most well-known center of the Val d’Orcia and is famous as being the home town of Pope Pius II, born Enea Silvio Piccolomini in 1405. Pius II, once elected Pope, transformed his home town, Corsignano, into an urban-architectural jewel, in this way contrasting it with the city that had marginalized his family: Siena. He entrusted the town’s reconstruction to the architect Bernardo Rossellino, who in just four years, from 1459 to 1462, developed the harmonious and typically 14th century appearance of what would become Pienza. Thus, the Città d’Autore took shape, the Ideal City “born from a thought of love and a dream of beauty,” as Giovanni Pascoli once wrote. Another almost unique characteristic of this place is that it has survived to today intact, allowing us to admire the sense and intention of Rossellino’s work. Indeed, after those four years, Pienza has largely remained unchanged, thanks also to the premature death of Pope Pius II.
In 1996, together with the whole of the Val d’Orcia, Pienza was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Monticchiello also deserves a mention, a small medieval hamlet near the town that, with its Cassero, walls, and medieval gate, stands out in the stunning landscape of the valley. Residents of Monticchiello keep the ancient tradition of Teatro Povero, or Poor Theatre, alive and active, evidence of the town’s cultural vivacity and the community’s attachment to their history and identity.