Pistoia

Small and cosy, Pistoia is centuries of history and art without the crowds of tourists. A beautiful city in northern Tuscany that deserves to be rediscovered.
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Pistoia was elected Italian Capital of Culture in 2017: a title that belatedly put the spotlight on a city rich in artistic and architectural beauty but little considered. Tourism in the city has certainly increased but is still far from, and will never reach, the levels of Florence, Pisa and Siena.

Small, easy to get around, less crowded and cheaper than the most famous destinations, Pistoia is a quiet and welcoming city of art: the ideal destination for slow tourism far from the mass tourist routes. The city lies on a plain, so no steep slopes or narrow streets: urban walks are easy and very pleasant.

It is about halfway between Florence and Lucca, Pisa is not that far away, so Pistoia can also be considered as a base for exploring northern Tuscany.

On a day trip, one can visit cities of art and villages, relax at the thermal baths, sunbathe on the beaches of Versilia, go skiing at Abetone or trekking in the nearby hills.

Pistoia is also an unusual destination for a couple’s holiday or a wine and food tour of Tuscany because it has a very sweet typical product that will appeal to lovers and gourmands: the confetto a riccio or birignoccoluto. It is still made using an ancient processing system and you can taste it in the city’s historical confectioner’s and chocolate shops.

Things to do in Pistoia

The things to see in Pistoia are concentrated in the historical centre, a short distance from each other. Half a day is sufficient to visit the city, but we recommend staying longer to admire all the sights at a more leisurely pace and to have time to taste the local gastronomic specialities.

Cathedral Square

An excellent reference point for exploring the centre of Pistoia is Piazza del Duomo, the city’s main square. Less famous than other squares in Tuscany, it captivates visitors with its decidedly less frenetic atmosphere and the undeniable harmony of the architectural elements.

The square also has great symbolic importance because the symbols of the city’s power, both civil and religious, are concentrated here: the Duomo, the Bishop’s Palace, the Baptistery, the Palazzo del Podestà and the Palazzo degli Anziani (seat of the municipality).

Piazza Duomo is also the splendid setting of the Giostra dell’Orso, the Pistoia Palio held every year on 25 July, and of all the most important city events.

Duomo

Pistoia’s most important religious building is the Duomo or Cathedral of San Zeno, a magnificent Romanesque-style church with a polychrome stone façade and an elegant portico. The church houses the relics of the body of San Jacopo, the patron saint of Pistoia.

Numerous works of art embellish the interior and exterior of the Cathedral: among them, the statues of San Zeno and San Jacopo, the Crucifix by Coppo di Marcovaldo, the Dossal that holds the relics of San Jacopo and the tomb monument of Cino da Pistoia.

Bell Tower

Next to the Cathedral stands the Bell Tower, originally built as a defence tower in the Lombard era and modified several times over the centuries. Three different styles can be recognised: the base with the clock, from the Longobard period, is austere, devoid of decorative elements; more elegant are the upper floors in Pisan and Pisan-Lucchese style.

At 67 metres high, the Bell Tower of Pistoia Cathedral is a fantastic vantage point for viewing the city from above. To reach the top, you will have to climb about 200 steep steps.

Baptistery of San Giovanni in corte

Opposite the Duomo, almost in the centre of the square, stands the Baptistery of San Giovanni in corte, an octagonal building in Gothic style decorated in white and green marble. It was built between 1301 and 1366 on the remains of the Church of Santa Maria in Corte, from which it takes part of its name.

The exterior is rich in detail, while the interior is simpler: the marble cladding has remained unfinished.

Palace of the Elders

The Palazzo degli Anziani, also called Palazzo Giano or Palazzo Comunale, is the symbol of civil power in Pistoia. Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, it is connected to the Duomo by a tunnel built in 1637.

It is currently the seat of the city hall and houses the Museo Civico di Pistoia, the oldest museum institution in the city. The museum itinerary is a journey through the artistic history of Pistoia from the 12th to the 20th century; on display are paintings, sculptures, ceramics, glass and jewellery.

Piazza della Sala

Piazza della Sala is the other focal point in the centre of Pistoia: if Piazza Duomo is recognised as the historical-artistic primacy, Piazza della Sala has the social and recreational one.

Full of bars and clubs perfect for an aperitif, it is the most popular meeting place for young Pistoiese; during the morning it is the location of a popular open-air market. The centre of the square is marked by an ancient well with a statue of a sandstone lion made in the 16th century symbolising Florence’s victory over Pistoia.

An offshoot of the Piazza della Sala, which many consider part of the same, is the Piazzetta degli Ortaggi: here one can admire the sculpture Giro del Sole (Tour of the Sun ) created by the contemporary Pistoiese artist Roberto Barni.

Spedale del Ceppo

The hospital of a city is not usually a place one would wish to visit… in the case of Pistoia, however, it is one of the main tourist attractions.

In operation until 2013, the Spedale del Ce ppo performed its medical function for more than seven centuries. The buildings that make up the former hospital complex are historical buildings of great architectural and artistic value.

The marvellous painted and glazed terracotta frieze decorating the upper part of the external loggia is particularly famous: it is a true masterpiece and has become a symbolic image of Pistoia. Also noteworthy are the roundels of the Annunciation, the Glory of the Virgin and the Visitation made in the first half of the 16th century by Giovanni della Robbia.

The ancient health facility now houses the Spedale Museum, which traces the history of healthcare in Pistoia. You can see an 18th-century anatomical theatre, a collection of surgical instruments, historical documents on the lives of the most illustrious doctors, and more.

Pistoia Underground

The Ospedale del Ceppo can be visited inside and also… underneath. Pistoia S otterranea is an almost 800-metre-long footpath that winds beneath the historic buildings of Pistoia, following the bed of the ancient Brana stream.

Along the route, information panels illustrate the different phases of expansion of the city, which, as it expanded, incorporated walls, towers and bridges. Other panels are dedicated to the history of the construction of the Ospedale del Ceppo.

Beyond its historical importance, Pistoia Sotterranea is worth a visit because it is a fascinating place and shows an unknown face of our city.

Pieve di Sant’Andrea

Another beautiful church in Pistoia is the Pieve di Sant’Andrea, probably dating back to the 7th century and modified several times over the centuries; its current appearance dates back to the 12th century.

The pulpit is a true masterpiece, entirely sculpted by Giovanni Pisano with scenes from the lives of saints.

Cino Garden

A special place hidden in the historical centre of Pistoia is the Giardino di Cino: not usually on the tourist routes, yet it would be a shame to leave Pistoia without seeing it.

It is a cultural centre created thanks to a project for the urban redevelopment of Piazzetta Sant’Atto and Vicolo dei Bacchettoni; public and private entities participated in the project. Very active, the centre organises exhibitions, artist residencies and numerous other cultural events.

As part of the redevelopment project of the area, a magnificent mural has been created that entirely occupies a side wall of one of the buildings facing the small square. The title is No Hesitation, the author is street artist Millo; the mural depicts two young people opening the door to each other’s hearts.

Museo del Novecento e del Contemporaneo

Another Pistoia attraction that looks to the present is the Museo del Novecento e del Contemporaneo, housed in the elegant Palazzo Fabroni.

The museum displays a collection of works by artists from Pistoia or who have worked in Pistoia, with a focus on conceptual art, arte povera, minimal art and visual poetry. The exhibition itinerary is chronological and ranges from the 1920s to the present day. The outdoor space is used as an art garden.

Montuliveto

A pleasant green oasis in the centre of Pistoia is Montuliveto, a splendid urban park. In the park there is a cafeteria-restaurant with a modern design, which is very popular, and cultural events, film festivals, meetings with authors, workshops and other activities are continually organised.

Where to stay in Pistoia

Pistoia’s accommodation offer cannot be compared to those of the most visited cities of art in Tuscany, but it is adequate considering the smaller number of visitors who stay here rather than in Florence, Pisa or Siena.

The best solution for sleeping in Pistoia is to book a flat or b&b in the historical centre: this allows you to comfortably move around the city on foot and have plenty of places to dine and spend the evening.

If you are travelling by car, you can move a few kilometres and stay in a hotel or agriturismo surrounded by greenery. The most luxurious ones have a swimming pool and spa.

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How to reach Pistoia

Its proximity to Florence means that Pistoia is located along some of the most important road and rail routes in Tuscany.

Arriving by car is very easy: just take the A11 motorway, exit at the Pistoia tollgate and follow the signs for the centre. There are some very convenient free car parks near the centre.

Reaching Pistoia by public transport is just as easy because the city is connected to Florence by very frequent direct trains; the journey time is about 40-50 minutes, more or less the same time it takes to arrive by train from Lucca.

Pistoia’s railway station is located a short distance from the centre: it is possible to reach the heart of the city on foot or by city bus.

Regional buses connect Pistoia to the main locations in Tuscany; there are also some long-distance buses to national destinations.

Theclosest airport to Pistoia is Florence, but also consider Pisa airport as it offers a greater choice of low-cost flights.

Pistoia Weather

What's the weather at Pistoia? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Pistoia for the next few days.

Saturday 20
10°
Sunday 21
Monday 22
Tuesday 23
Wednesday 24
10°
Thursday 25
12°

Where is located Pistoia

Pistoia is a municipality in northern Tuscany and capital of the province of the same name. It is almost equidistant from Florence and Lucca: 35 km south-east in the former case, west in the latter. Pisa is about 60 km away, Siena 90 km.

Around Pistoia

Montecatini Terme

Montecatini Terme

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