A short drive from Montepulciano took us to the medieval town of Pienza. While those showing perhaps more favor to the church rather than the land will relish telling you Pienza was home and birthplace (1405) of Pope Pius II (elected in 1458), others with mouth watering affinity to formaggio will gladly explain that Pienza is home to world famous pecorino cheese. And within 5 minutes of pulling into this ancient town and walking into a local cheese shop the waft of stinky cheese nearly knocks you down. Feasting your eyes and nose on the great sheep cheese and I’m reminded once again of something I’d never find back home.
To say Pienza is beautiful would be too much and understatement and frankly typical and expected. What hill top medieval town in Tuscany isn’t scenic? You could walk the entire village in less than 15 minutes. But we stayed most the afternoon. Some may travel to check major sights off their list, or simply to have their photo taken by a notably monument, architectural feat or storybook vistas, but for many others travel is about experience. Not what you see through the lens or read in a tour book.Wandering the narrow alleys lined with flower decorated windows, travertine paths and locals hanging their laundry to dry. Cute old couples walk arm and arm slowly off the main road. I do my best to catch their eye after a few tourists ahead of me blow by them as if they were simply shadows taking up no space. “Buongiorno!” I say. Smiles appear and their stooped bodies straighten a bit and the woman returns with the colloquial or lazy response, “Giorno.”
What appears to be a small art class, several students huddle in the Piazza Pio trying to capture the late afternoon sun as it casts light and playful shadows on the Bernardo Rossellino’s designed Piazza, which was built by Pope Pius II to honor himself. The Duomo and Palazzo Piccolomini, the former papal palace, punctuate the piazza. As I meander the streets my curiosity is peaked by more than several references to the moon [^] Luna in the name of many of the shops and cafés. Not sure the fascination with the moon here in Pienza, but it doesn’t matter. I could walk these streets for days. Easy.
I round the corner and find a gelataria. Time for a little stratciatella.
Photos: 1) the view from Montalpulciano looking over Tuscan hills to Pienza; 2) Local cheese and salami shop in Pienza, Italy; 3) Duomo (cathedral) in Pienza at Piazza Pio; 4) Travertine walkway with classic Pienza window; 5) Romanesque arches with ionic columns of Pienza town hall off Piazza Pio; 5) You gotta be short to enter the doorway to this shop in Pienza — what’s with the Luna?