Val d'Orcia and Pienza Pecorino Cheese: the Excellence of Tuscany
Walking through the ideal city of the Renaissance, tasting Pecorino cheese and discovering what to visit in this unique Tuscany village.
Any journey to Tuscany should include a visit to the nice village of Pienza, in the southern part of the region, and Val d'Orcia, one of the most beautiful on-day tours from Siena of Florence suggested by tour operators.
Pienza is known all over the world as a urbanistic attempt to build the ideal city, a human-scale town that Pope Pius II has strongly wished and designed with the help of an important Renaissance's architect: “Il Rossellino”. Pius II, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, was born in 1405 in a village that was then called Corsignano. When he became Pope, he rebuilt the town according to the principles of the humanist culture. The square was designed and built in perfect Renaissance style, in the quest for the balance typical of Roman classicism. Pienza's plant became a model for Italian and European architects.
In addition to the invaluable historical value, this town is also appreciated for the beauty of its landscapes and above all for the quality of the Pecorino cheese produced in Pienza cheese farms.
Pecorino di Pienza
The Pecorino di Pienza is a very appreciated sheep cheese, available with different seasonings and in numerous aromatic variants. This particular kind of Pecorino is a DOP Cheese, produced with artisanal and strictly controlled methods.
What makes Pecorino di Pienza unique and different from the other kind of Pecorino cheese, is the composition of Val d’Orcia pastures: the lawns of Val d’Orcia are covered by special herbs like winter savory, wild thyme, helichrysum, wild mint and absynth, that give a unique aroma to the milk.
The cheese, after being processing and salted, is aged for at least 90 days in oak barrels, which is another important stage of the Pecorino cheese-making. Pienza Pecorino wheels are smaller than other type sof Pecorino cheese.
Walking along the streets of Pienza you will find many shops where you can taste different types and seasoning of Pecorino di Pienza cheese. On the road that connects Pienza with Montepulciano there are also restaurants that offer a Pienza pecorino cheese tasting menu: if you stop there, do not forget to taste the cheese paired with a a good Montalcino or Montepulciano red wine. In fact another popular attraction among travellers are the well furnished Val d'Orcia wineries.
What to See in Pienza
In Pienza you definitelyt have to plan a stop a the Pienza Cathedral, Palazzo Piccolomini, often set of famous films, Palazzo Borgia, the Renaissance building par excellence, and have a walk in the romantic streets "Via dell'Amore" and "Via del Bacio" (the Love and Kiss Streets), from which you can enjoy a marvelous panorama of the valley.
Downhill you can head to Pieve di Corsignano (less than 1 km from Pienza), with a nice the Romanesque church dating back to the seventh century, famous for a baptismal font where two popes were baptized, Pius II and his nephew Pius III. Today it is one of the favorite locations for wedding planners.
To do a complete Valdorcia tour you can also visit Monticchiello, a nice village with a wanderfull landscape and an interesting experience of popular theatre: every summer its inhabitants make a theatre performance with subjects with social significance. Continue the tour and visit the nice village of Radicofani, Bagno Vignoni – don’t forget to bring your swimsuit for a bath in the spa! - San Quirico and Montalcino, land of the most famous pregiate Italian red wine the “Brunello di Montalcino”. Driving North you will be back to Siena, city of the Palio and of Panforte.
Pienza Cheese Festival
If you love traditional celebrations, the best period cto visit this area is late August and the beginning of September: on the last Sunday of August, Montepulciano hosts a traditional barrels race called "Bravio delle Botti", while on the first Sunday of September Pienza becomes the city of “Cacio al fuso” a traditional cheese rollling competition. The word Cacio is the original Tuscan word for pecorino.
For those seekeing for peace and quiet, it is better to choose other periods, especially June.
"A city born of a thought of love and a dream of beauty" - Giovanni Pascoli (Italian Poet)