From Monticchiello we are off to Pienza, a small town that we can see on the hill in the distance. Pienza, is on a hill, but after arriving in the town, walking here is on flat ground. Unlike Montepulciano, which is all up hill, Pienza is flat. There is a parking lot outside of town, but since it is full, we drive closer to the school and find a spot there. Walking to the Town Gate, Porta Prato, I stop and admire a beautiful lawn and garden. Before I know it an older gentleman came from the porch of the house and down to his gate to talk to me. He speaks Italian and when he realizes I am an American, he thanks my husband and me for saving Italy in WWII! Then he opens the garden gate and offers me a tour of his lovely flower garden. It was beautiful and just one of the many flower gardens in this small village. Directly in front of Porta Prato is a public garden and the fragrance here is unbelievable! The lawn is surrounded in a small bush hedge covered in white blossoms that are so fragrant! I tried asking everyone and no one knew what that bush was and even my elderly gentleman friend was gone when I went back by his house to ask him, as we made our way out of town. Darn! That’s what I will always remember about Pienza, the flowers and the fragrances.
Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464) was born in Corsignano, the small town on a hill overlooking the Orcia and Asso Valley. In 1458, Piccolomini became Pope Pius II and when he returned to his home town, he decided to transform the town with the first humanist concept of urban design, (Renaissance) with the aid of Bernardo di Matteo Gamberelli, known as Rossellino, ingenere di palazzo, of Pope Nicholas V in Rome. Rossellino was responsible for the overall layout of the town which consisted of a main street joining two town gates. On this basic structure he planned the major buildings around a town square, which served as an outdoor room, called the Piazza Pio II. The Piazza is surrounded by the Duomo, the Piccolomini Family Palace, City Hall with the Bell Tower, and the Bishop’s Palace. All were designed by Rossellino in five years time. In 1464 the work stopped because both Pope Pius II and Rossellino, the architect, were dead. What we see today was completed a century later. The town was renamed, Pienza after the Pope. What remains now is a mixture of old stone, potted plants, grand views and a fragrance not to be forgotten.