Pienza, in the Val d`Orcia in Tuscany, between the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino, is the `touchstone of Renaissance urbanism.` In 1996, UNESCO declared the town a World Heritage Site, and in 2004 the entire valley, the Val d`Orcia, was included on the list of UNESCO's World Cultural Landscapes.
It is widely known as the `ideal` city of the Renaissance, the creation of the great humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini that later became Pope Pius II. Piccolomini had the money and influence to transform his birthplace village, the humble Corsignano, into what he considered a Utopian city should be, exemplifying the principles and philosophy of classical times and of the great Italian Renaissance. The project was designed by the architect Bernardo `il Rossellino`. In only 3 years, a group of amazing and harmonious buildings were realized: the Cathedral, the Papal or Piccolomini Palace, the Town Hall, and the lovely central square. Today, village of Pienza retains its remarkable city-size piazza, one of the grandest achievements of Renaissance architecture and the only intact example of a city-planning scheme from the era. Director Franco Zeffirelli was so taken by the village's look he dethroned Verona as the city of the Montagues and Capulets and filmed his Romeo and Juliet in Pienza. Pienza was also used in the Oscar-winning epic The English Patient.