It is here in in Pienza in the Palazzo Piccolomini, standing on the piano nobile loggia that Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini , aka Pope Pius II ( 1458), went for contemplation and to look out over the valley of his youth and his giardino segreto, or secret garden.
Framing the landscape
Standing here, on this loggia, one feels lost in a moment in time, when a Renaissance mind thought beyond creating a beautiful formal garden. The big idea here was to link the palazzo to the garden and extend the vision out to the landscape beyond, in this case the breathtaking Tuscan country side of the Val d' Orcia.
The sandstone columns of the loggia frame the landscape that reaches as far as the eye can see to Mount Amiata.
The Piccolomini Palazzo and garden are in Pienza,
an incredible Tuscan hill town ( more on this soon). During our stays in Italy, James and I call the small Medieval Umbrian town of Panicale home. Panicale is only a short distance to the Tuscan border, so visits to places like Siena, Montepulciano and Pienza are easy and frequent. We are always drawn to Pienza probably because it is so rich in Renaissance architecture, it is famous for crafting the best pecorino cheese, it has good places for lunch, and if that is not enough it is simply beautiful. Oh, and I forgot to mention, inside the town walls there are very few cars to dodge.
On this visit our plan was to revisit the Piccolomini Palazzo so we could see the garden once again. This of course, meant taking the tour, which was
much more interesting in the past when presented by a guide rather than the new method with the dreadful audio device.... entering library, press option number 4. Tedious and robotic without a chance to ask questions.
Oh well, enough about that, we are here to look at the garden.
The inner courtyard of the palazzo is similar to the design of the outer loggias. The entrance to the garden opens from here. Reveal and conceal.... the garden really starts here inside the palazzo courtyard where one gets the first glimpse through the arcade and door. Step out the door onto an arcade of columns, where the secret garden unfolds. The central axis leads to an arch at the back wall, but before looking at what is beyond, we first walked through the garden. It is actually quite compact yet in scale with the palazzo..... it is a phenomenal concept and use of space.
Standing close to the center of the garden of evergreens and boxwood hedges is a look back at the palazzo from the garden.
There are three open loggias on the front of the palazzo that look over this formal garden also referred to as giardino pensile....a hanging garden.
Time for a look through the arch on the back wall of the hanging garden. A view out over this Tuscan landscape, as planned by Aeneas S. Piccolomini...Pius II. The greens of the garden are cool and serene....very ordered. The landscape beyond speaks to agriculture and to the wild.
Pienza is built on a hill so the view of the Val d'Orcia is commanding from here, with cultivated fields, grassy slopes with grazing sheep, outcroppings of crete, olive orchards on hillsides, farms and lines of cypress trees along dirt roads.
So here we have Renaissance vision of palazzo ( city), garden, and countryside all joined into one uninterrupted vision .