Pistoia, Italy, Travel Guide

Pistoia

Franklin Heijnen/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Pistoia is located in Tuscany, between Lucca and Florence. It is the capital of the Pistoia province. Pistoia is approximately 30km northwest of Florence.

Why Visit Pistoia?

People sometimes refer to Pistoia as a "little Florence" for its amazing concentration of art and architecture in a much smaller city. Pistoia's amazing main square, the Piazza del Duomo, is bounded by some terrific examples of medieval architecture, including the Cathedral of San Zeno and its bell tower and the 14th-century Gothic Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte.

Adjacent is the medieval marketplace, still in service today. The market stalls you see are still in medieval style with heavy shutters and stone benches.

Pistoia is also noted for its fine cuisine. La Botte Gaia Restaurant near the Piazza Duomo and the market is highly recommended.

Plan to spend at least one night in Pistoia--or stay longer and take trips to Florence, Lucca and other nearby Tuscan cities. You can see much of Pistoia in a day trip from Pisa, Lucca or Florence.

Pistoia Train Station

Pistoia Centrale is located to the south of the city. It is a 10-15 minute walk to the center of Pistoia near the Piazza del Duomo or Cathedral Square. Trains to Lucca or Florence take about 50 minutes to reach those cities from Pistoia.

Pistoia Tourist Information

Tourist Information is located in a small building across from the Baptistery in Piazza del Duomo. They can help you with maps, event information or lodging options and are enthusiastic about promoting good restaurants.

Where to Stay

An outstanding place to stay in Pistoia is Bed and Breakfast Locanda San Marco. The Hotel Patria also garners great reviews.

A top rated hotel close to the main attractions is the Residenza d'Epoca Puccini.

Major Events in Pistoia

Pistoia Blues Festival is held on the second weekend in July.

Giostra dell'Orso (Joust of the Bear) takes place in the Piazza del Duomo on July 25th, after a month of activities leading up to the festival which involves 12 knights jousting on horseback with a (fake) bear dressed in a checked cloak, the symbol of Pistoia.

Top Museums in Pistoia

Pistoia delights in advertising "seven museums within 100 meters", and they're all around the Piazza del Duomo. Here's a list of the big three:

  • Percorso Archaeologico - Museo de San Zeno (Archaeology walk and cathedral museum)
  • Museo Civico - The civic museum in the Palazzo Comunale
  • Museo C Rospigliosi in the Palazzo Rospigliosi - a museum of a rich merchant family in Pistoia, lots of paintings plus the Diocesan Museum.

You can buy a "Biglietto Cumulativo" for a reasonable price, which allows you entrance to three museums. It's good for three days. Check for information at the tourist office.

Attractions

Pistoia is a wonderful city to walk around in, especially the areas around the Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) and the old market adjacent to it.

San Zeno Cathedral existed back in 923 but burned down in 1108 and was rebuilt and extended in the 12th Century, then added to over the centuries. Inside, the older Romanesque structures share space with Baroque and Renaissance rework and the mid-nineteenth century apse.

The silver Altar of St James weighs nearly a ton.

The octagonal Gothic Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte built in the middle of the fourteenth century by Cellino di Nese. (Behind the Baptistery is the excellent La BotteGaia restaurant.

The old belltower rises over 66 meters. You can climb the 200 steps for an all-around view of Pistoia, but only on weekends.

A five-minute walk from the center brings us to Ceppo Hospital, which offers a valuable collection of surgical instruments dating back to between the 17th and 19th century, which are displayed in the “Filippo Pacini” Medical Academy Hall. The hospital was founded in 1277 at the wish of a couple of merchants and kept alive in the middle ages by donations put into the "ceppo", a hollowed-out tree trunk. You can see the surgical instruments, the tiny Anatomy Amphitheatre built in 1785, and then go underground to see more of the city's history with the Pistoia Underground Tour, now the top attraction in Pistoia.