There’s another kind of light here, as if the sun rises differently. There’s another kind of time here, as if nature dictates the hours.
Pienza is a small gem located in Val d’Orcia. This tiny village has its origins dating back to Renaissance times. I could spend hours describing its little streets, with special names such as La via dell’Amore, overlooking the poetic and soothing hills, or the equally impressive La via della Fortuna and La Via del Bacio. Everything here is steeped in love references, and it is probably why Pienza is nicknamed the city of love. I fell in love nearly every minute, admiring its hills, its colours, and the sounds of nature.
Pienza is located on a hill overlooking the spectacular Val d’Orcia valley. The town was renamed and redesigned in the late 15th century by the great humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini who later became Pope Pius II. His humble birthplace, originally named Corsignano, was transformed by Pope Pius in the image of a Utopian city, blending principles of classical philosophy and the great Italian Renaissance. The harmonious buildings such as the Cathedral, the Town Hall and central square composed a unique architectural structure of the town. The historical centre of Pienza kept its authenticity in design, settings, historic structures, and materials. This allowed the surrounding agricultural landscape to flourish. Walking through the streets the extreme perfection and proportion make a striking combination. The Romanesque church of la Pieve di Corsignano is the starting point from which, walking down to the breathtakingly unique landscape, you get to admire one of the most iconic views as seen in the film Gladiator.
The food is unbelievably flavourful. Maintaining the power of simplicity you can lose yourself in the perfect pairing of various cheeses and red wines. There’s another rhythm to life here.
The sky is cloudy, the sun shyly peeking out from behind the hills. I choose the panoramic route and take the gravel road, just a few kilometers from the main road, past the historical centre. It’s pure magic. This road will lead me to the agriturismo (holiday farmhouse) I booked for the weekend. Perfectly framed cypresses line up with other adjoining little gravel roads. It is like stepping into another world, it could easily be mistaken for a painting. Slowing the car down, I notice blackberry bushes lining both sides of the road. Fig trees, their gold and brown patterns soothing my eyes. It is all like a heavenly vision.
At the end of the road, after a few curves,the road starts to climb; that’s when you know you’ll soon reach the agriturismo.
The agriturismo complex features a few apartments connected to each other, a private one down the hill, and the dining space. The cow stall, the pigsty, and the henhouse enrich the experience. Almost everything here comes from the land and from the farm. I get to taste produce I can definitely say is.
I leave my luggage in the apartment, the one I picked has the best view, a breathtaking panorama I will admire at sunrise. I quickly change into my swimsuit, ready for a refreshing jump in the pool right on time for sunset.
I sit for twenty minutes in silence, listening to the sounds of Pienza as the golden hour silently paints the sky.
Water, tractor, church bell, wind, rooster; all sing at regular intervals, as the swallows fly. I feel like I gained entry to an exclusive event without having had to pay for admission .
I allow myself some more time to enjoy this show before heading to dinner.
Dinner is served in a cozy room next to the kitchen. The limited tables make me realize how this kind of agriturismo fully respects the value of slow living, which is a unique experience in itself. Rural paintings on the walls, some showing farm activities of the ancient past, basket making and women working the land. Cured meats for appetizers and for the main course, lasagna with Chianina beef that could easily pass for my nonna’s. Everywhere I go in Tuscany I like to end my dinner with some good cantuccini. Some call them cantucci but I like to respect my Florentine traditions and call them cantuccini, a simple crunchy biscotti with generous pieces of roasted almonds (if you are lucky enough, the best available) that you may want to dip in the traditional dessert wine Vinsanto, until soaked through and a tad boozy. I may have had 3, or 4. I just don’t count.
I decided to go for a walk at sunrise, so I set my alarm and go to bed. Sunrise here is quiet, and I probably could have relied on the rooster to wake me but this time technology wins. Next trip I’ll let light and wildlife take over. One of the many beautiful things about this place is that you can reach everything by walking; you don’t need to drive to Pienza, it’s just a 20-minute walk from the agriturismo. You can also go on one of the countless panoramic walking paths, marked in red and white paint by the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI). If you are a good hiker this is the place to be. On my early morning walk, nature melds with a thousand smells as life starts to stir and bloom anew.
There are quite a few memorable takeaways from this weekend, but if I had to pick one it would have to be this experience of early sunlight and the calm sounds of the wind and wildlife together.
Thank you Tuscany,
Thank you hills,
Thank you swallows, that haven’t left yet,
Thank you rooster singing at sunrise,
Thank you simplicity,
Thank you, for here in Pienza, life feels so damn good.