The curious case of Pope Pius II

Welcome back to Tuscany Month, featuring another chunk of the Lost Tuscany Text, some of my favorite content that didn’t make it into the totally redesigned 2010 Lonely Planet Tuscany & Umbria.

Today’s Lost Text is a box I wrote about Pope Pius II for the previous Tuscany & Umbria guidebook. Pius is easily one of the most interesting, successful, yet oddly narcissistic and peculiar popes in history. That we name-drop the guy in the guidebook about as often as St Catherine is evidence of the mark he made during his wildly prolific life.

Pius’ intangible contributions to society, both before and after being named pope, were immeasurable. The largest physical example of his impact on Europe can still be admired today in the form of Pienza’s Piazza Pio II. In an effort to jazz up his birthplace, Pius commissioned the total renovation of Pienza’s central square (done in a mere three years between 1459 and 1462), designed by architect Bernardo Rossellino. Urban planning geeks will particularly dig this square as it became the Renaissance blueprint later adopted in other towns and cities across Italy and eventually Europe.

Here’s the text:

The Notorious P-I-U-S

Let’s be honest, there’s been a lot of popes over time and not all of them have been newsworthy, or even pope-worthy for that matter. Pope Pius II (1405-1464) was both. Born Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the man was everywhere. He was a tireless traveller, writer of erotic and comic stories, poet laureate, diplomat, bishop, exhaustive autobiographer (13 volumes!) and medieval urban-planning trend-setter. And most of that occurred before he was even pope! His early ‘faults’ in life being no secret, that he redressed his motivations and developed into such a distinguished and likeable leader is particularly estimable. Noted above all for being ‘human’, an elusive papacy trait apparently, he’s also remembered for his tireless diplomacy, even in the face of uncooperative leaders and insurmountable odds.