Dear Traveler friends,

Today I’m going to add a little extra to the Grand Tour of Tuscany, an unusual destination that is often overlooked.

I’m talking about Pistoia, a small town between Lucca and Florence.

Even if it’s not as rich in monuments and works of art as the nearby towns, it’s interesting nonetheless. You can visit its centre in a couple of hours, spending your time in a quiet place, without crowds of tourists, and walking around a pleasant historical centre.

Since most of the city centre is a restricted traffic area, you can park your car in the Parking Pertini, a little more than one kilometre from the Cathedral.

The most beautiful part of town is Piazza del Duomo. Here you can see the buildings that are the symbols of Pistoia.

Duomo di San Zeno - Photo Credit: Andrea Gigliotti
Duomo di San Zeno – Photo Credit: Andrea Gigliotti

As the name of the square suggests, the building you surely don’t want to miss is the Cathedral (Duomo), dedicated to St Zeno. After several calamities, such as fires and earthquakes, and some structural changes to decorate the Cathedral following the taste of the different epochs, the building is quite different from the original of the Ninth century, both inside and outside.
The latest restoration works brought back the original aspect, at least in part. The result is a fascinating mixture between the romanic and the baroque styles. Inside the church, you can see some peculiar elements, such as the Chapels of the Crucifix and the Last Judgement.

Next to the Cathedral, you can see an imposing Bell Tower on the right and the Bishop’s Palace on the left. If you want, inside the Bishop’s Palace you can visit an archaeological walk, the Cathedral’s museum and a collection of works of art. Visitors are allowed only with a tour guide at scheduled times.

Opposite to the Cathedral, there is the Baptistery, probably the most beautiful building in town. The exterior, richly decorated, is the counterpart to the inside, which is quite bare.

Battistero di Pistoia - Photo Credit: Andrea Gigliotti
Battistero di Pistoia – Photo Credit: Andrea Gigliotti

Not far from Piazza del Duomo, in Piazza Papa Giovanni XXIII, you can see the Spedale del Ceppo. This building contains a museum about pharmacy and surgical instruments. Beside the museum exhibition, what’s interesting about the building is its facade. Over the archways of the loggia, in fact, you can admire a long frieze and several tondi made of glazed terracotta. This work of art, realized by Giovanni della Robbia and Senti Buglioni, depicts the Seven Acts of Mercy and the Virtues.

Spedale del Ceppo - Photo Credit: Andrea Gigliotti
Spedale del Ceppo – Photo Credit: Andrea Gigliotti

Along the road to get back to your car, don’t forget to stop in Piazza della Sala. This place had been the centre of the city life of Pistoia for centuries. Try to imagine a huge market, vibrant with life and full products, where you could buy everything you may need.

Our tour of Pistoia is at its end. The last thing is a quick tour of the Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas. This church is imposing and elegant, but it’s partly masked by the narrow alleys surrounding it. However, the atmosphere is suggestive.

Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuorcivitas - Photo Credit: Andrea Gigliotti
Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuorcivitas – Photo Credit: Andrea Gigliotti

Now it’s time to go back to your car.

Our Grand Tour of Tuscany, however, isn’t concluded yet. It’s time for the grand finale — Florence!

See ya!