Relais Il Chiostro Di Pienza, Pienza ****
Relais Il Chiostro Di Pienza - this Pienza hotel is in the heart of this lovely Tuscan hill town, a superbly converted fourteenth century convent allowing you to enjoy one of Italy's most remarkable cities. View hotel
Double rooms from €89
Hotel Corsignano, Pienza ****
The Hotel Corsignano, Pienza - providing terrific vistas onto the Val d'Orcia (Orcia Valley) this friendly family-run Pienza hotel is the perfect base from which to experience the magic of this lovely Tuscan town. View hotel
Double rooms from €65
Hotel Arca di Pienza, Pienza ***
This pleasant little three-star hotel in Chianti is strategically located just off the major A146 road and not far from the historic centre of Pienza. Nearby are all the facilities one would expect in a modern city: banks, shops and high-quality restaurants. The historic centre is lined with beautifully preserved... View hotel
Double rooms from €60
Described as the 'touchstone of Renaissance urbanism', Pienza can best be described as a 'Renaissance new town', one of the earliest examples of the late medieval Italians' fascination with urban planning. During the late 1400s, the little village of Corsignano was entirely rebuilt as a balanced and elegant construct, with four grand town buildings around a trapezoidal-shaped central piazza. Formal gardens radiate out from the 'city', beyond lies the verdant beauty of the Val d'Orcia valley. In the centuries after, the concept would be applied to larger cities, including Florence and Rome (and of course Christopher Wren had similar plans for London).
Sadly for the man playing God to this project, Pope Pius II, Pienza never really took off. We have a cathedral, the Palazzo Borgia, the Ammannati and Gonzaga Palaces and some fine churches, and we have the grand central square of Piazza Pio II. What we don't have is people - today only around 2500 live in Pienza. Zeffirelli filmed his 'Romeo and Juliet' here, and half deserted Pienza does have the feel of a film set rather. But it's unmissable for all that, and you are unlikely to be irritated by crowds. There are fine buildings to explore and there is the whole strange concept of Pienza to savour - an early attempt to create a town from nothing. Basildon it is not, and in 1996 UNESCO declared the whole city (as we must call it, for it has a cathedral) a World Heritage Site. For good measure, the stunning Val d'Orcia is on the list of UNESCO's World Cultural Landscapes. Hiking in the Val d'Orcia is a delight. Back in town, you'll find some excellent restaurants (standouts include The Falco in Piazza Dante and the Latte di Luna) and Pienza has become something of a centre for shops selling organic and local fare.