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Pistoia, Italy, Travel Guide

Visit the Tuscan City That Gave Its Name to the Pistol

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pistoia cathedral picture

The Duomo di Pistoia

James Martin, Europe Travel
pistoia map, pistoia italy map

Map showing the location of Pistoia, Italy, in Tuscany

James Martin
pistoia duomo picture

Pistoia Duomo (Romanesque Facade)

James Martin, Europe travel

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.

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.

An online Pistoia map is available that shows the major attractions.

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 Piazze 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 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 hallowed-out tree trunk.

Take a virtual tour of Pistoia through our Pistoia Italy Pictures.

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