• Day343

    Day 344: Pienza

    January 24, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    Another hotel breakfast where we indulged! Checked out and drove south-east into the heart of Tuscany, the beautiful Val d'Orcia. Main stop for today was the town of Pienza, a typical Tuscan hilltop town surrounded by walls and still full of old stone buildings.

    The main difference here though, is that Pienza has a very famous son: Pope Pius II. He was born and grew up here while his aristocratic family was exiled from Siena. When he finally became the Pope, he revisited the town of his birth (then known as Castignano) and decided to remake it as his summer retreat from Rome.

    He had large parts of the town bulldozed, built a small cathedral and a medium-sized palazzo for himself, and several of his cardinals built palazzos here too (including Rodrigo Borgia, the later controversial Pope Alexander VI).

    It was quite interesting to see the town because the Pope was a great Renaissance patron of humanities and sciences, and had the town laid out according to new principles of urban design. So rather than the tangled mass of streets and alleys like in Siena or San Gimignano, Pienza was quite orderly and navigable.

    It was also very pretty and well-maintained, though after an hour's wandering followed by lunch, we'd basically exhausted our options for entertainment in the town. In summer it's apparently heaving with tourists, but today it was largely deserted. Beautiful sunny weather though, so we just enjoyed being outside in the warmth and sunshine. Such a contrast with gloomy and cold Germany!

    With a couple of hours to go before we could check in to tonight's accommodation, we decided to visit Bagni San Filippo. This is a large thermal spring converted into a pool, sitting in the middle of a town. No swimming in winter, sadly, but it was a lovely spot to just sit and enjoy, taking a few photos and having a drink in the sun. Shandos had wine, but I just had coffee as usual. Although the alcohol limit for driving here is 0.05, I'm always a bit paranoid that if I have a drink and drive under the limit, anything that happens will automatically be my fault and cause for denying any insurance claims.

    Fully relaxed, it was time to check into our accommodation - an "agriturismo" stay in the fields outside Pienza. Essentially it's a large farmhouse, we're staying downstairs while the host stays upstairs. He was very friendly and we had a good chat while he was checking us in. Internet connection is pretty poor but otherwise the place is nice.
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