“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

TravelHaven Journal: Italy 2013 – Montepulciano and Pienza

Montepulciano is built along a narrow limestone ridge 1,950 feet above sea level, encircled by walls and fortifications designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder in 1511 for Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Pienza  Pienza

Inside the walls, the streets are crammed with Renaissance-style palazzi and churches, but the town is chiefly known for its good local Vino Nobile wines, which, of course, we sampled. A long, winding street called the Corso climbs up into the main square, which crowns the summit of the hill.

We visited the beautiful church of Sant Agostino (St. Augustine), built in 1427, with an elaborate carved portal featuring the Madonna and child flanked by St. John and St. Augustine. Both the portal and the church itself are beautiful. 

Photo-91FD3D16-432A-4932-9B9F-440E9397F414-20130602-065229-2048  Church In Pienza

In the 15th century, famed architect Michelozzo added a tower and façade to the original Gothic town hall in the Palazzo Comunale. The building is now a smaller version of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. On a clear day, the views from the tower are said to be amazing. 

The Duomo in Montepulciano was designed between 1592 and 1630 by Ippolito Scalza. The façade is unfinished and plain, but the interior is Classical in proportions. It’s the setting for an earlier masterpiece from the Siena School, the triptych “Assumption of the Virgin” painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401.

While in Montepulciano, we had lunch at a charming Enoteca (or wine shop) called Bottega del mobile. It was beautiful with brick ceilings and walls and several dining rooms.

Dining Room At La Bottega Del Montepulciano  Dining Room Of La Bottega Del Nobile

We decided to eat there because I wanted to try wild boar before we went home and they had on their menu an appetizer of mixed pork and wild boar meat. So we ordered one of those to share and we each ordered a pasta dish. None of us saw much difference in the wild boar salami and any other salami but I can say I tried it. I know all of you are very surprised that I was the one who wanted to try it, but I was!! The pork on the appetizer was from the hindquarters, the sides, and the jowl. It was all good! And, of course, the wine was really good!

Lunch T La Bottega Del Nobile - Montepulciano

Then onto Pienza, which was not on my list of towns to visit until Rosado, the manager of our villa, told us we should go.  It’s a nice contrast to large, busy Montepulciano, not as touristy, and more relaxing, with more historical significance. In 1996, Pienza was designated as a UNESCO site because it was in this Tuscan town that Renaissance town-planning concepts were first put into practice in 1459 when Pope Pius II decided to transform the appearance of his hometown. This new vision of urban space and design played a key role in the development of the concept of the planned ‘ideal town’ that was to play a significant role in subsequent urban development in ltaly and beyond. The application of this principle in Pienza, and in particular in the group of buildings around the central square, resulted in a masterpiece of human creative genius.

Aside from that, it is a beautiful city. The Church of the Assumption was lovely and the buildings and arches with their crumbling stone were interesting. Once again we were treated to a slice of real life. We wanted to go into the Church of the Assumption since the churches are so beautiful over here. But we learned that the church was closed to visitors because a funeral was taking place. So we wandered the streets, admiring the crumbling stone arches and the views. Just as we were about to get a gelato, we saw the procession led by the priest and altar boys, followed by the hearse, followed by the mourners–all walking, saying their rosaries. As much as I wanted to document the solemnity of this occasion, I didn’t want to be disrespectful so the only picture remains in my head. 

After respectfully standing until the cortege passed, we got our gelato, stopped in to look at the church, and soon left Pienza, glad we had included it in our journey.