Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Val d'Orcia & Pienza

The drive south from Siena to Pienza is probably one of the best drives I have ever done. In reality, there's nothing "spectacular" about it like the craggy cliffs of the Dolomiti or the vast deserts punctured by distant mountains and mesas like the American Southwest. The valley is really just a series of small green hills with a smattering of farms and buildings here and there, and the occasional hill town or two now and then. Peaceful, but not jaw-dropping.

I think the beauty of the valley really comes from the way in which agriculture dominates the landscape, yet refrains from destroying it. Just like much of the country, farms, vineyards, and olive groves dominate every significant parcel of land. Every corner of the vista is occupied by roads, farms, olive trees, or at least a row of cyprus too neatly arranged to be natural. But each element almost undulates and conforms to the contours of the land. Farm hedges go up and down hill slopes, roads run along the hill sides. Everything works to form a wholesome entity.

Although small, Pienza importance is centered around its urban design, representing the classical harmony of the ideal city of the Renaissance. The only part of the town that actually conforms to the original Renaissance plan is the main square, the church, and the two buildings that flank it. Most everything else were built after the commissioning pope died or were the few remnants of the old town of Corsignano that was torn down to make way for the new Pienza. But the effect is still out-of-this-world, with the chaos of the mish-mashed buildings leading to the relative calm and order of the main square.


  1. I absolutely LOVE Pienza. I always seem to end up back there. I highly recommend checking out Podere San Gregorio if you'd like to stay at an amazing agirturismo within walking distance of the town.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion! I want to go back there for exactly that reason. It was unfortunate that I had very little time to really experience the surrounding countryside. Thanks for stopping by!