• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Renaissance 'ideal city' inspires in Tuscany

AFP · 28 Aug 2013, 07:32

Published: 28 Aug 2013 07:32 GMT+02:00

"It looks idyllic!" said a tourist from Melbourne in Australia as she admired the harmonious mix of palazzi, churches and immaculately-kept homes of Pienza, a town of 2,000 people in the Italian region of Tuscany.

"I think it's nice to live in a town like this because the food is grown very close to where you're living," said Kay, part of the growing number of visitors coming to view a town set apart from the usual tourist routes.

Ochre-coloured Pienza is structured around a spectacular piazza and was designed to be as pleasant to live in as possible and to blend with nature.

It overlooks the fields and vineyards of the Val d'Orcia - a picturesque backdrop that has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The town was commissioned by a pope, Pius II, a native son who was born into a local aristocratic family in what was then the village of Corsignano.

The finest architects of the time and some 20,000 workers took part in the construction, which took just three years between 1459 and 1462.

Pius II, born Enea Silvio Piccolomini, was an unusual figure viewed from a contemporary perspective. A cleric steeped in humanist learning and the author of poetry, sociological treatises and even an erotic novel.

The pope dreamt of a Renaissance city, a humanistic city," Vittorio Carnesecchi, curator of the papal palace, Palazzo Piccolomini, told AFP in an interview.

"Pienza was born from the dream of a great humanist who recruited the greatest engineers of his time to realize this utopian city," he said.

It was named "Pienza" ("Pius Town") in his honour.

Manlio Sodi, who comes from near Pienza and teaches at the Salesian Catholic university in Rome, said the urban landscape he created could be seen as "the fruit of the cultural horizons of the Piccolomini pope".

The style of the main cathedral is Gothic, similar to the churches in Germany that the pope had visited during extensive travels which also took him to England, France, Scotland and Switzerland.

The result of his varied tastes was "a cultural fusion between northern and southern Europe" in the architecture of Pienza, Sodi said.

"It is an amazing synthesis that was part of his objective of peace among nations," Sodi said.

Story continues below…

Pienza was the first "ideal city" ever realized - and has been followed by many examples through the ages from the Brazilian capital Brasilia to the utopian urbanism of French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier.

The town has been kept pristine largely thanks to contributions from the Piccolomini family through the centuries and an enlightened urban administration.

But Sodi said the idea of building a similar "utopian city" would be too difficult because the lack of a "common idea" in society of what it should look like.

"At the time, papal authority was sufficient for resolving a lot of things. Today I believe it would be unthinkable to create an ideal city," he said.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Seven courts to try Berlusconi over sex, lies and party girls
Seven courts will try Silvio Berlusconi as part of an ongoing investigation into whether he paid girls to lie under oath. Photo: Gianni Schicci/AFP

Berlusconi is accused of perverting the course of justice by paying dancers and society girls for their silence over what went on at his "Bunga Bunga" parties.

Italy's internet is 30 years old. But is it finally speeding up?
Italy's internet turned thrirty on Friday. Photo:Scott Beale/Flickr

Happy 30th birthday to Italy's internet. Yes it's slow, but experts say it will soon be speeding up.

Italian feared dead in Norway helicopter crash
Rescue forces work at the shore west of Bergen, Norway after a helicopter transporting 13 oil workers crashed. Photo: Rune Nielsen/NTB Scanpix/AFP

The helicopter was returning from the Gullfaks B platform, in one of Norway's biggest offshore oil fields.

Germany tells Italy to stem migrant flow to north Europe
Germany's interior minister has told Italy to do more to stop migrants arriving in northern Europe. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

"What is happening in Brenner depends above all on the Italians."

Joe  Biden takes 'Moonshot' cancer campaign to Vatican
US Vice President Joe Biden (C) has taken his cancer campaign to the Vatican. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

The US Vice President lost his son to cancer last year.

Niqab-wearing tourist stopped from entering Italian museum
A niqab-wearing tourist was prevented from entering a museum in Padua. Photo: Fixers/Flicker

The Saudi Arabian woman was visiting the museum while on holiday with her husband in northeast Italy.

7 breathtaking alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
Cala Rossa on Sicily's Favagnana island. Photo: Lula1977

If you're planning a trip to Italy - or are lucky enough to live here - then get away from the maddening crowds with a visit to one of these gems.

Cheese, wine and family: the Italian way to live beyond 100
There are 19,000 people over 100 in Italy, what's their secret? Photo: Sergio Pani/Flickr

What can we learn from Italy's 19,000 centenarians?

Milan play down crisis as shareholders rage
AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani has played down talks of a crisis amid repots of huge losses and ongoing takeover talks. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The club reportedly lost €89 million last year.

Italy brands Austria's migrant fence 'a waste of money'
Italy has said Austrian plans to build a migrant fence at the Brenner Pass, pictured above, are a waste of money. Photo: Photo: Arnulf Zu Lindern/Wikimedia

The two countries have clashed over Austria's decision to close the Brenner Pass.

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Politics
Long-term Brit in Italy barred from EU vote vows to fight on
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Health
Why Italian merry widows perk up after husbands die
National
Italian stuns talent show with 'living Caravaggio' paintings
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
Lifestyle
It's a long life for Italians as number of centenarians triples
Culture
Mussolini museum project awakes demons of Italy's past
International
How real is the threat from dormant Isis cells in Italy?
Health
Homeless snub famous Italian chef's vegan dishes
Shakespeare and Italy: A literary love affair
Culture
Happy 70th Vespa! The history behind Italy's famous scooter
Piaggio
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The history of the Vespa, Italy's famous scooter
Lifestyle
The top five free smartphone apps for learning Italian
National
Italy dismisses beach terror plots report
Features
The strange history behind five everyday Italian words
Politics
Should Italy really be getting so cosy with Iran?
National
Are 500,000 cats the solution to Rome’s rat crisis?
Politics
Walls go up in Europe again: Austria raises 'migrant fence'
Lifestyle
The next Copenhagen? Bari plans €7.9m seafront revamp
Culture
Lost €120 million Caravaggio 'found in a leaky French attic'
National
Why Italian bookshops are snubbing a mobster's son
Locals first: Venice makes tourists wait for water buses
Italian island hits back at British anti-migrant headlines
Analysis & Opinion
Italian island hits back at British anti-migrant headlines
Italians pour scorn on French attempt to reinvent carbonara
National
Italians pour scorn on French attempt to reinvent
Italian town still empty seven years after deadly quake
National
Italian town still empty seven years after deadly quake
2,571
jobs available