Pienza | Piazza Pio II

Abbadia San Salvatore

Abbey of Sant'Antimo


Albarese

Acquapendente


Archipelago Toscano


Arcidosso


Arezzo


Asciano


Badia di Coltibuono


Bagno Vignoni

Barberino Val d'Elsa

Beaches

Bolsena Lake


Bomarzo

Brunello di Montalcino

Buenconvento

Campagnatico


Capalbio


Castel del Piano


Castelfiorentino

Castell'Azarra

Castellina in Chianti


Castelmuzio


Castelnuovo Bererdenga


Castiglioncello Bandini


Castiglione della Pescaia


Castiglione d'Orcia


Castiglion Fiorentino


Celleno


Certaldo


Chinaciano Terme


Chianti


Chiusi


Cinigiano


Città di Castello

Cività di Bagnoregio


Colle Val d'Elsa


Cortona


Crete Senesi


Diaccia Botrona


Isola d'Elba


Firenze


Follonica


Gaiole in Chianti


Gavorrano

Gerfalco


Greve in Chianti


Grosseto


Lago Trasimeno


La Foce


Manciano


Maremma


Massa Marittima


Montagnola Senese


Montalcino


Monte Amiata


Monte Argentario


Montefalco


Montemassi


Montemerano


Monte Oliveto Maggiore


Montepulciano


Monteriggioni


Monticchiello


Monticiano


Orbetello


Orvieto


Paganico


Parco Naturale della Maremma


Perugia


Piancastagnaio


Pienza


Pisa


Pitigliano

Prato

Punta Ala

Radda in Chianti


Roccalbegna


Roccastrada


San Bruzio


San Casciano dei Bagni


San Galgano


San Gimignano


San Giovanni d'Asso


San Quirico d'Orcia


Sansepolcro


Santa Fiora


Sant'Antimo


Sarteano


Saturnia


Scansano


Scarlino


Seggiano


Siena


Sinalunga


Sorano


Sovana


Sovicille

Talamone

Tarquinia


Tavernelle Val di Pesa


Torrita di Siena


Trequanda


Tuscania


Umbria


Val d'Elsa


Val di Merse


Val d'Orcia


Valle d'Ombrone


Vetulonia


Viterbo

Volterra



 

             
 
Piazza Pio II: Palazzo Comunale e Palazzo Vescovile, Pienza
Piazza Pio II: Palazzo Comunale e Palazzo Vescovile, Pienza[4]

 



'These are the labors of the night. For we have borrowed the hours owed to sleep and spent the better part of them writing. Another man it is true, might have used his watch better, but I felt an obligation to my mind, which took such delight in the task.'

Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II), from his Commentaries

 

 


Enlarge map

 

Surroundings
       
   

Pienza | Piazza Pio II (Piazza Spagna)

 
   
   
Pienza, situated in the province of Siena, in the Val d'Orcia between the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino, is the 'touchstone' of Renaissance urbanism.
Pienza was rebuilt from a village called Corsignano, which was the birthplace of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, a Renaissance humanist who later became Pope Pius II. It has been designated as part of the world-wide heritage of humanity by UNESCO.

Although Sienese, Pope Pius II had actually been born in a small town south of Siena called Corsignano. Beginning in 1459, he attempted to establish this town as a papal seat. In 1462 he rechristened it Pienza in honour of himself, rated it to a bishopric, and hired Bernardo Rossellino, who had previously been a capomaestro on Nicholas V's new apse and transepts for St Peter's and had worked in an elaborated classicising style in Florence, to transform its centre into a suitably coherent setting for the town's new status.
Rosselino's plan was determined in part by pre-existing streets, by the medieval town hall at the site, and by the precipitous drop of the hill where Pius planned a new cathedral. To either side of the cathedral Rosselino placed the bishop's palace and Pius's own palace, forming a trapezoidal piazza. Pius's own coat-of-arms appears prominently in the gable of the cathedral, whose triple-arched façade recalls ancient Roman triumphal arches.

 


Piazza Pio II (Piazza Spagna)


 

'In February 1459, the Humanist Pope Pius II (Enea Silvio Piccolomini) paid a visit to Corsignano, his native village, and decided to change it into an ideal city to be called Pienza, the city of Pius. Within three years, the Piazza Pio II would be enclosed within a group of buildings that included the cathedral, a papal palace, a city hall, and a bishop's palace. Leon Battista Alberti, one of the most famous architects of the period, took part in the visit and gave advice to the Pope, but the task of designing and constructing the ideal city was given to Bernardo Rosselino (1409-1464). Rosselino was a distinguished architect in his own right and was also the architectural executant for Alberti on the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence (1447-1451). The pope, who was keenly interested in architecture, engaged with Rosselino in a process of intense collaboration.

In the center of the village, at the end of a main street that measures just under 1,000 feet in length, Rosselino created a town square such that the approaches from the intersecting side streets would be visually attractive. Rosselino treated the square, or piazza , 90 by 80 feet, as if it were an interior room with walls created by the façades of the cathedral and the three surrounding buildings. For Rosselino, town design was simply an extension of architecture. He designed the piazza/room as a strict exercise in perspective, organizing the pavement as a horizontal grid and the building façades as vertical grids, like those that would be used in constructing a perspective drawing of the square. The pattern of the rectangles implied by the grid identify the mathematical rules used in creating the proportions for all aspects of the piazza. This sort of construction conformed to Alberti's theories.

Rosselino treated the façade of the cathedral like a Roman triumphal arch . The plan of the church, like that of the piazza, is square, so that volumes of church and square are nearly comparable, the piazza being an "open room" and the cathedral an enclosed room--a "covered square." Pius, who had developed an interest in Late Gothic Austrian church design when he was apostolic secretary and ambassador, chose to build Pienza cathedral as a German "Hallenkirche," a church with nave and side aisles of the same height.

To the right of the cathedral, the Pope's Palace, called the Palazzo Piccolomini, was designed by Alberti and built by Rosselino. It closely resembles the Palazzo Rucellai, which the same pair built in Florence. The façade is built of mellow ocher stone with all details organized by the dominant rectangular grid. Windows in the upper stories are bipartite, that is, divided in two by a central column and framed by a thick, round arch at the top and two pilasters   to the sides. Two strong horizontal stringcourses resembling classical entablatures divide the three stories and the palace is topped by a powerful cornice . The module of the bifurcated window between pilasters is repeated on the walls, giving a visual density to the palace block. Like Florentine palaces, there is a square interior courtyard, from which a gallery leads to a planted terrace that overlooks the immensity of the surrounding landscape. Analogous to the piazza-church pairing, the area of the terrace-garden is equal to the ground plan of the palazzo, creating a similar case of open versus closed volumes. To carry the open/built comparison further, the piazza, the cathedral, the palazzo, and the terrace-garden are all comparable in size, and they oblige us to consider and to understand the way in which they were combined by Rosselino.

The Bishop's Palace and the town hall are simpler than the other two buildings and they follow Tuscan tradition. The façade of the town hall opens into a lovely Ionic gallery. Although the mixture of different architectural styles may be surprising, it actually reflects the flexibility of Renaissance design.

A closer look at the space of the piazza reveals that the walls of the Palazzo Piccolomini, the bishop's palace opposite, the town hall, and the cathedral are not perpendicular to each other. As at Michelangelo's much later Campidoglio in Rome, the buildings create a trapezoidal plan for the piazza, in effect reversing the normal perspective sense of parallel lines appearing to converge. The effect is to make the façade of the cathedral seem larger than the façade of the papal palace, which is in fact the larger of the two buildings.

One more element should be noted: the exterior landscape. Two openings between the palace and the cathedral, and between the town hall and the cathedral, reveal the countryside with a view of distant mountains, a view of Mount Amiata covered with snow in the winter. Like the terrace-garden of Palazzo Piccolomini, the cathedral choir sits on the very edge of the village's platform above the valley. The Piazza Pio II demonstrates to how great a degree the new element of Renaissance design, the landscape, influenced the planning of the city. Pius II, a highly educated man who was fond of art and deeply involved in the poetry of the natural environment, was so fascinated by the forest and the open-air landscape that he took Catholic cardinals to the mountain facing Pienza and gave audiences to ambassadors by a spring where water cascaded into a lake.'[2]

Further Reading

Furnari, Michele. Formal Design in Renaissance Architecture from Brunelleschi to Palladio. New York: Rizzoli, 1995.

Mack, C. R. Pienza: The Creation of a Renaissance City. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.
   


 


Pienza, View of the well, Pozzo dei Cani
in the Piazzo Pio II

 


Piccolomini garden

 


Pieve di Corsignano

 


Pinturicchio, Pope Pius II Arrives in Ancona, 1502-08, fresco, Piccolomini Library, Duomo, Siena [1]



   
   


[1] Pinturicchio, Frescoes in the Piccolomini Library of the Duomo in Siena | In the recently restored Piccolomini Library Pinturicchio's fresco cycle is a rare example of a unified decoration of the early sixteenth century. Well-suited to Pinturicchio's skills and to a somewhat provincial Siena, his lyric style fits comfortably into the medieval setting of the Cathedral. The subject matter concerns incidents in the life of Pius II, the Sienese pope and humanist, an unusually complete program for someone neither a saint nor a ruler.
The donor of the library and its furnishings was Francesco Todeschini (1439-1503) who wished to create a monument to his family and a memorial to his mother's brother Enea Silvio Piccolomini who had served as Pope Pius II from 1458 to 1464. In 1460 Pius II elevated Todeschini to the rank of cardinal and permitted him to assume the Piccolomini name and the family's coat of arms. In 1503 Francesco succeeded Pope Alexander VI as Pius III but his reign was brief, he died twenty-six days later.
The contract for the decoration of the library was signed in the presence of Francesco Todeschini-Piccolomini on June 19, 1502 and the painting was finished in April 1508.
The source for the ten episodes from the life of Pius II was Pius II's autobiography, the famous Commentarii, written between 1462 and 1464. In addition to being the official life story of a pope, it is a fascinating political and historical chronicle. The narratives are illustrated with descriptive clarity, the figures precisely drawn, the unatmospheric landscape bright and sharply defined.
[2] Jean Castex, Architecture of Italy, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, London, 2008
Jean Castex is an architect and professor of architectural history at the Versailles School of Architecture, where he has served as president of the faculty. He has published several books and articles on urban studies, including Urban Forms, the Death and Life of the Urban Block (1977), and Renaissance, Baroque, Classicisme, 1420-1720. Covering all regions of Italy - from Turin's Palace of Labor in northern Italy to the Monreale Cathedral and Cloister in Sicily - and all periods of Italian architecture - from the Colosseum in Rome to the Casa Rustica apartments built in Milan in the 1930s - Architecture of Italy examines over 70 of Italy's most important architectural landmarks.
[3] Sources: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, La Foce, and Holly Kerr Forsyth, Gardens of Eden | Among the World's Most Beautiful Gardens, Melbourne University.
[4] Photo by Quinok, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license


 
   
 
Villa La Foce

   

La Foce is a large estate that lies close to the towns of Montepulciano, Chiusi, and Chianciano Terme in the Southern Tuscan region of Val d'Orcia.
Centered around a 15th Century villa, the estate was restored by Iris Origo and Antonio Origo in the 1920s. The gardens are designed by the English architect, Cecil Pinsent, who also designed the gardens at Villa Le Balze. The book War in the Val D'Orcia by Iris Origo is set in this estate.

Italy - particularly the region around Florence provided many attractions for English expatriates and leisured Americans in the first half of the 20th century, between World Wars I and II. And many wanted Cecil Pinsent, who had first visited the city in 1907, to restore their houses and build their gardens. Pinsent had trained at the Royal Academy School of Architecture in London, where he was taught to eschew the naturalism of William Robinson and honour formality in garden design,
La Foce, near the Tuscan village of Chianciano Terme, close to Siena, is considered Pinsent's most important postwar garden, and with it his design career entered a new and vibrant stage.
His client, Marchesa Iris Origo, was gardening aristocracy: her mother was the American heiress Lady Sybil Cutting, who bought the 15th-century Medici Villa in Fiesole overlooking Florence in 1911 , Iris married the Marchese Antonio Origo in 1924 and bought 100 hectares of somewhat eroded land and its rundown building with a dramatic view of Mount Amiata and the valley of the Orcia River.
Over 15 years, Pinsent and his colleague, designer Geoffrey Scott (who later married Sybil Cutting), along with the Origos, created the many-layered gardens that are today superbly maintained by their daughter Benedetta Origo.
La Foce is a garden of formal enclosures, squares and rectangles, edged in low box hedges and walled with clipped evergreens - all overlaid with exuberant plantings. The gardens unfold, on several levels, from the ochre-washed house, first to the sunken Iimonaia or citrus garden, then - by staircases of mellow stone - inexorably south, towards that extraordinary vista. Great use is made of long walkways and pergolas to lead from one compartment to the next, to create boundaries and provide a coat-hanger for climbing roses and wisteria.
Nature and art collide successfully in this part of Italy, where stands of Cupressus sempervirensens seem to top the ridges of each languid hill, leading the eye into the distance, and the mind to ponder what lies beyond. [3]

Gardens in Tuscany | Villa La Foce

 

 


La Foce garden

 


La Foce garden

 

Cypress trees were frequently planted along roads to commemorate the dead from wars.But the trees on this road were planted by Iris Origo from La Foce to make a nice view from her house and gardens.

The famous road lined with cypress is just southeast of Monticchiello, a small town south of Pienza, overlooking the Val d'Orcia.The urban structure of the town is well preserved and you get a strong feeling for rural and agricultural life of the past 800 years.

Visit the new Museo del Teatro Popolare Tradizionale Toscano or Theatre Museum of Popular Tuscan Tradition, but especially the Teatro Povero. Written and performed by the inhabitants of Monticchiello, Teatro Povero looks at the past, present and future life of the town.


 

Cypress Trees along road at Monticchiello, view from La Foce


The Maremma spreads in southern Tuscany. It is a still wild region where ancient traditions survive in pure nature. To sea lovers, the Maremma offers kilometres of sandy beaches, small bights and crystalline sea where to scuba dive at the discovery of the animals and plants living in this corner of paradise.
The Maremma is not only synonym with beach and sea: the Maremma is also art, history and culture, with the Etruscan cities of Populonia, Vetulonia and Roselle and its numerous hamlets and castles; the Maremma is also health and well-being, with the spas in Saturnia; and to mountain lovers, the Maremma offers the possibility of hiking on the mount Amiata.
Podere Santa Pia, a 19th century stone house has been carefully and beautifully restored with tiled floors, beamed ceilings, the internal stone and wood structures an the the wood-burning inside pizza-oven.
The villa is located approximately 2,5km from Castiglioncello Bandini and is divided into two units, each enjoying private gardens and terraces. Santa Pia is set in an extremely panoramic spot, dominating over the valleys, the countryside, up to the Tyrrhenian coast. For those seeking a peaceful, uncontaminated environment, yet be just a short drive from some one of Tuscany's most intoxicating cities, Santa Pia is the perfect choice.

Tuscan Holiday houses | Podere Santa Pia
   
   
Monte Amiata and the Val d'Orcia, view from La Foce

Podere Santa Pia
Castiglioncello Bandini
Century-old olive trees, between Podere Santa Pia and Cinigiano
         

Bagno Vignoni
Crete Senesi, Asciano
San Qurico d'Orcia
         

Monte Oliveto Maggiore abbey
Pienza

Sunsets in Tuscany

         
The surroundings of Podere Santa Pia, cypress trees in San Quirico d'Orcia between Montalcino and Pienza .
The cypress tree  has become the symbol of the Val d'Orcia.

Cypress trees in the Val d'Orcia | Birdtraps for blackbirds and thrushes