Tucked into a comfortable corner of my favorite restaurant, Latte di Luna,
I’m savoring the most delicious maialino arrosto (roast suckling pig) that I have found in Tuscany. The Latte di Luna, in the town center near the Porta al Ciglio gate, is a well-known and popular trattoria in Pienza. This is always my first stop for dinner.
Located on a hill overlooking the gorgeous Val d’Orcia, Pienza is “un gioiello”
(a jewel) in the crown of the Tuscan hill towns. Designed in 1459 by Bernardo Rossellino at the request of Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pope Pius II), Pienza is often referred to as the “ideal Renaissance city”. . . fusing art, architecture and civilized living. The main piazza, Piazza Pio II, is paved with Tuscan cotto (terra-cotta) tiles. Only three surrounding buildings, the Duomo (cathedral), Palazzo Comunale (town hall) and Palazzo Piccolomini (papal palace) were completed.
The center of the small village didn’t grow much beyond the piazza. It is an easy walk from one end of the shop-lined main street, Corso Il Rossellino, to the other. This street is intersected by smaller lanes, Via della Fortuna (fortune), Via dell’Amore (love) and Via del Bacio (kiss). Hard to miss the romance of Pienza. In fact, Pienza has graciously set the scene for movies such as Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet and The English Patient.
I first arrived in Pienza immediately after my visit to Sant’Antimo (see Destino blog). When I checked into the Hotel Relais Il Chiostro di Pienza, I was already in a state of absolute euphoria. The loveliness of Il Chiostro, a restored 15th century Franciscan convent in the center of town, only added to the joy of the day. My room and the garden outside the breakfast room had sweeping views of the Val d'Orcia.
I learned during later trips that Pienza is a very popular town for visitors. Perhaps this is why I now visit in the more quiet late autumn. Of course, it’s easy to understand the attraction. Pienza was built to enchant.
After rounding out dinner at the Latte di Luna with a glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and a slice of Pecorino di Pienza (the region’s famous cheese), I like to walk along the Corso Il Rossellino. A turn down the Via dell’Amore ends at the town walls that overlook the Tuscan valley below. If you are lucky, the moon will be casting its light across the ancient stonework. The rest of the world seems to vanish. I have always preferred moonlight to the sun’s rays. That’s when the magic happens.