A day trip to Pistoia is a great way to escape the crowds in Florence and explore the less-known Tuscany. Located a short drive from Florence, Pistoia has managed to stay off the tourist radar despite its beautiful churches, frescoed palaces, medieval walls, ancient watchtowers and many priceless masterpieces, - almost all of that in concentrated in the old historic centre that can be explored on foot.
Pistoia’s rich past can be glimpsed as you walk along the streets. The town used to be a Gallic, Ligurian, Etruscan and then Roman settlement. Nearly 700 feet below the old town lies the longest underground path in Tuscany that will take you back to those days.
The central square, Piazza Duomo, is flanked by a beautiful eclectic mix of historic buildings. Climb up 200 steps of the 13th century basilica’s bell tower to admire panoramic views of Pistoia and the surrounding countryside. Inside the main Cathedral, Cattedrale di San Zeno, you will find a stunning treasure – a six centuries old silver altar embossed with biblical stories of the New Testament and St. James.
|Cattedrale di San Zeno|
The nearby Museo Capitolare, with the Cathedral Treasury, are filled with a rich collection of 17th-century Florentine painting and priceless artefacts that were mentioned in the Divine Comedy by Dante. Another excellent museum that is worth a visit is the Municipal Museum in the Palazzo del Comune where you will find frescoes and paintings dating back to the 13th -19th centuries.
|Ospedale del Ceppo|
North of the Palazzo del Comune stands a medieval hospital, the Ospedale del Ceppo, that became part of the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, so some similarities can be observed. Linger here to admire the façade decorated with bright polychrome majolica frieze depicting scenes from the old days. If you feel like visiting another museum, head inside to the museum of surgical instruments and anatomical room. Alternatively, relax in one of the lively cafes in Piazza Duomo. For a hearty Tuscan meal check out the Bonadea restaurant located in a beautiful deconsecrated church or the charming osteria La Bottegaia, a purveyor of Slow Food.
Photos via Flickr by: Peter Visser, Franklin Heijnen, Giovanni Battista Salvietti.