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In the heart of the Val d'Orcia

Pienza – a splendid town in the heart of the Val d’Orcia – was given recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1996 . Today it still enjoys recognition for having been the town incoronating the Renaissance utopian ideals of the perfect city.This was due to its superb layout with a logical use of space and splendid buildings and squares.
Pienza was the brain child of Enea Silvio Piccolomini , who became Pope Pius II in 1458. He wanted to give his birthplace a make over and this task was given to Bernardo di Matteo Gambardelli, otherwise known as Il Rossellino, and pupil of the famous architect and scientist Leon Battista Alberti. The work was carried out between 1458 and 1462 in the old hamlet of Corsignano which according to local legend was founded by the soldier Corsino.
The geometrical prospectives, the amazing volume inside the Cathedral and Palazzo Piccolomini ,the precise use of space in the centre of the town , all bear testament to the architectural genius of that age.
The Cathedral of Pienza is a rare and delicate mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, and inside are some of the most famous names from the Sienese art movement who developed the Marian theme that was much favoured by the Pope.
The whole structure is located on the site of the ancient Church of Santa Maria, but lies in a different direction; it was designed to be a show piece in the main square of the town.

Palazzo Piccolomini – also known as the Papal Palace – is the brainchild of Bernardo Rossellino and was inspired by Palazzo Rucellai by Leon Battista Alberti. It has a square base in large stone blocks and lies on three floors. The windows with pilasters and columns have been divided in some cases using the family emblems carved in stone and with the apostolic signs in gold and silver.
Inside there is a small rectangular courtyard with a loggiato – a covered walkway with arches – plus a garden, all built to Renaissance requirements.
Lastly, the other important building in the square , in front of Palazzo Piccolomini , is Palazzo Borgia. It was named after Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia who received it as a gift from Pope Pius II .At the time he was one of the Pope’s closest advisors and later became Pope Alessandro VI ,making Palazzo Borgia his residence.
Still today the hamlet of Corsignano gives the visitor a glimpse of what the place looked like all those centuries ago in the time of Pope Pius II , the defender of Christianity and devoutee of Maria, and whose story can be read in pictures in the Piccolomini Library, inside the Cathedral of Siena.

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