With bags packed off we went to Rome. Along the way we stopped in the hilltop village of Pienza. Pienza had originally been named Corsignano. Parts of the village became the property of the Piccolomini family in the 1200’s. A member of that family became Pope Pius II. He completely rebuilt this small village into his idea of a utopian Renaissance Village. It was one of the first samples of urban planning. There are lots of charming shops and we had plenty of time to explore on our own. Being close to both Rome and Siena, it was an ideal location for a retreat. Pope Pius II also renamed the town as Pienza after himself. Pienza means Pius.
In the center of Pienza is a large square with the church on one side. Across from it is the Palazzo Communal. They needed this building once they officially became a city. Like the church it is an impressive building with high arches and a bell tower. However, neither the bell tower, nor the building was as high as the church, thus showing the superiority of the Christendom. There is a big well in the area. Many folks took pictures there.
Another large building on the third side of the piazza was built so the cardinals could have a residence in Pienza. Once Pienza became a bishopric, the bishop moved there.
Behind the piazza main street and the piazza was a walkway with a low wall. Since it was on top of a hill, we saw wonderful views of he valley below. There were quite a few tiny restaurants with tables outside. Jorge and Ellen sat down for a cool drink and enjoyed the beautiful view while watching folks walk by. When our group got together again, Francine lined us all up against a wall outside of an olive oil and vinegar shop. The owner came out with trays of tiny crackers and had us taste one olive oil after another. He explained the differences in taste between each one. He next did the same with balsamic vinegar. Ellen had fallen in love with balsamic vinegar over ice cream and of course had to purchase some.
When we arrived and got settled in our Hotel Savoy in Rome, Francine took us for in introductory walk around the neighborhood. We then had a pleasant and delicious dinner with Francine plus a few of our tour friends. Since there was a Baptism party on the outside area, we ate inside — very good food and service and wonderfully relaxing after a long day on the road!