Pienza, Italy

Pienza is famous for two things; Renaissance town planning and pecorino cheese – you can choose which is more impressive. In 1459, (early) Renaissance dream-team Pope Pius II and Bernardo Rossellino changed the fate of his humble hilltop town, transforming it into the first Renaissance city; it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Almost 600 years on and Piazza Pio II, the Duomo and surrounding papal palaces are still attracting artists, historians and wide-eyed tourists from around the world. Foodies will know the city as the birthplace of pecorino cheese and home of the Fiera del Cacio – a very Italian cheese festival where locals compete in a cheese rolling competition: Pienza’s answer to boules.

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When to go

Depending on how well you can handle the Tuscan heat, visit Pienza between May and September; it gets progressively hotter from May until temperatures reach highs of 30°C in July and August. Visit in the last week of August and first week of September to witness grown-men competitively roll cheese in the festival.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Rome’s Fiumicino is the closest international airport; from here, it’s just under three hours’ drive north to Pienza. Numerous airlines fly direct to Rome from Europe and America, but travellers from Asia and Australia will need a connecting flight.
  • Automobiles

    A car or moped will get you from campagna to culture in the quickest time; hire one from the Avis booth at Rome Fiumicino. From Pienza, you can easily take day trips to Florence, Pisa, Bologna and Ravenna if you’ve got a set of wheels.