Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pienza to Scotland with Pius II Piccolomini

Many thanks to Francesco Pignatale for the  photos of Pienza
see more photos  on this link
One of my favorite Tuscan towns is  Pienza  with its  charming  piazzas,  quaint street  names, floral displays  and  magnificent Renaissance architecture.  The  area‘s landscapes,  cypress avenues, fields of grain and  orderly vineyards are  mirrored in paintings  conserved in the  Duomo and  museum .

The town’s most famous son Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini,  future Pope Pius II,  was born here in  1405 when  the town was called Corsignano. 

  The family crest, 5 half moons   on a cross,  decorates the Piccolomini library inside  Siena’s  Duomo.

Aeneas  Silvio Piccolomini  second from left, in red.

a perfect Renaissance courtyard 
 Here  Pinturicchio’s  fresco cycle  shows  the high points of  Piccolomini's careers  as  diplomat,  poet, humanist  and  pope. His  secret memoirs  or  Commentaries written in the third  person  are lively accounts  of   shipwrecks and  travels to  Libyia, Norway, England   and Scotland.  
Duomo  of Pienza and Rossellino's fountain 

He was sent to  Scotland  in  1435  on a secret diplomatic mission and during the terrifying  sea voyage  made a vow to  walk barefoot to a shrine in thanksgiving. 

The ensuing  frostbite   afflicted him for the rest of his life making  the sedan chair his preferable method of transport.  

If you visit Pienza keep in mind  as you sip a glass of local red wine and stroll around this perfect Renaissance city that  it was a local boy  who gave us one of the earliest first hand descriptions  of   Scotland, the land, its people, their strange habits and the fact that they have no wine to go with their oysters. 
Entering  Pienza's pedestrian zone 

“ Below the ground is found a sulphurous rock, which they dig for fuel. The cities have no walls. The houses are usually constructed without mortar; their roofs are covered with turf; and the country doorways are closed with oxhides.
 The common people, who are poor and rude, stuff themselves with meat and fish, but eat bread as a luxury. 
The men are short and brave; the women fair, charming, and easily won.
 Women there think less of a kiss than in Italy of a touch of a hand. 
They have no wine except what they import. Their horses are small and natural trotters. They keep a few for breeding and castrate the rest. They do not curry them with iron or comb them with wooden combs or guide them with bridles. 
The oysters are larger than those in England and many pearls are found in them ".

Comments are welcome. Please share with friends by using the  Facebook, Twitter and Google+  buttons. 
Have you been to Pienza?  How have things changed in Scotland since  Piccolomini's visit ? 


  1. Thanks so much, lovely story. My wife and I love Pienza, such a charming town. Piccolomini's description of the Scots is very interesting.

  2. Thank you Anonymous and Bob for the comments, nice to know what readers think when they read these articles. It makes all the research and time spent worthwhile.

  3. To see more details of Pienza here is a link :


  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Thanks to Francesco for his wonderful photos that accompany the article. For more on Pius II Piccolomini's travels see his "Commentaries" or "Secret Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope"

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Buongiorno da Anna,

    Sento il desiderio di ringraziarla per il suo blog. Da semplice amante di Pienza è diventata un’attrice del territorio, che con le sue armoniche frasi ci aiuta ad accogliere i visitatori. Non si dimentichi di guardare nella nostra direzione; e non si dimentichi di me. Presenze come la sua sono preziose nella vita.

    Cari saluti,

    Anna Ciolfi
    Sales & Marketing Executive

    Prospettiva Pienza snc
    P.zza Dante Alighieri, 18
    53026 Pienza (Siena), Italy
    tel. e fax +39 0578 748359
    tel. + 39 0578 749071
    Cell: 320. 02 60 561