|PIENZA AND MONTEPULCIANO|
|After leaving Rome, we head north towards the most beautiful areas in the Tuscan countryside. So beautiful that the postcards made here seem more like perfect landscape paintings. Our first stop is in the town of Montepulciano, which was built on volcanic rock, from top to bottom, and stands on a ridge at 605 metres above sea level. The town is surrounded by walls and fortification designed by Antonio da Sangalla in 1500 as ordered by Cosimo I. Montepulciano is mainly known for its impressive Renaissance buildings, for the elegant beauty of its churches and for its "Vino Nobile", one of the most highly considered Tuscan wines, even at an International level. The town center was developed along 1½ kilometres and stretches from Porta al Prato to Piazza Grande. The way is slanted by a margin of 50/60 metres. The houses are settled around this area on the short, narrow, and steep streets. Among the treasures to see: the Duomo (cathedral), the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), the temple of the Madonna of San Biagio, the church of St. Agostino, to name a few. Your driver will suggest you a great "trattoria" where you'll enjoy a typical meal accompanied with the "Vino Nobile di Montepulciano".
Following a short trip by car we come to the lovely town of Pienza, recognized by UNESCO as having a world famous cultural and natural patrimony. Pienza is located at the top of a hill, from where you get the most breath taking view of the Val D'Orcia. Pienza owes its founding to Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who became Pope Pio II in 1458. The town's main square "Piazza Pio II" takes his name and is the cornerstone of the town. (It can also be seen in the film Romeo and Juliet directed by Franco Zeffirelli and the Oscar-winning epic The English Patient) It is a trapezoid shape, made of bricks and from here you can admire the Duomo, Piccolomini Palazzo, and the church of San Francesco . Strolling through the charming streets of the center, you will find street names such as "Via dell'Amore, del Bacio, della Fortuna" which means, of Love, Kiss, Luck.
The streets are also filled with craft shops and shops selling regional specialities such as "pecorino di Pienza" and wine, of course. "Pecorino" is sheep's milk cheese, but here it is put in a pit to mature. Most shops feature many different varieties of cheeses and wines and are happy to dole out samples.
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