A Little History, Pienza, Tuscany and the Val D’Orcia
So, we have told you a little about gelato and friends, shopping and cappuccinos. We’ve talked about walks and weather but today… a little history. The building we live in was built in the 13th
century. The walls are very thick and made of stone. All of Pienza is made of this beautiful old stone. But…did you know that Pienza did not start out as Pienza? Originally it was Corsignano, beginning in the 8th
century. We visit the original church (Parish Church of Corsignano) that was built during this time period. This area was already very old in the 4-5 centuries B.C. and right through the settlements of the Etruscans and Romans. Even before that 4.5 M years ago, this area was covered by the sea. There are fossil remains of a distant relative of the dophin.
The most important period for Pienza (Corsignano) began around 1405 when a person by the name of Eneo Silvio Piccolomini was born on October 18th
. Skipping over a lot of history ;-) he was elected Pope with the name Pio II in 1458. He wanted to unite all Christian forces in
a great crusade against the Turks.
The Pope decided to act on behalf of his birthplace and give Corsignano structure and renewal. So this small medieval town of Corsignano is where the Pope decided to build some monumental buildings that are here to this day. The Piccolomini Palace at the place where he (Eneo Silvio) was born, the Cathedral, the town hall, the Palace of the Cardinal Borgia and he suggested to Cardinals that they build their homes here, between 1459 and 1462. In March 1462, the city then takes the name of Pienza. Across Italy in Ancona, in 1462, (a town on the Adriatic near where Jean’s grandparents were born) while putting armies together for his crusade against the Turks Pope Pius II dies. The reconstruction of Pienza essentially stops and Pienza once again becomes a small, isolated town in the Tuscan countryside of the Val D’Orcia.
Centuries go by and Pienza now grows to 2000 people with 6 historic neighborhoods all within a few blocks, within the city walls. During WWII, the town was involved in violent bombings and you can still see where the mortar shells hit the church and other buildings.
small town but now travelers from all over the world have found it. A precious slice of a time gone by. Little by little, small shops have opened catering to tourists, intermingled with local businesses like the meat market, fruit and vegetable store and the hardware store. All located in the stone buildings from the 13th
century. The history of Pienza includes the art of many famous Italians, lots of little churches and places to contemplate life, parks, museums, piazzas and walks around the church overlooking the Val D’Orcia which is just so stunningly beautiful in the changing light of day. Every day on our beautiful walks we come across some piece of history that is fascinating.
Today Pienza is world renowned and in 1996 became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and then in 2004, the entire Val D’Orcia became a World Heritage Site.
If you love history and want to learn more, there is a wonderful book by Iris Origo called “War in the Val D’Orcia”.
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