One day in Pistoia, things to do

Guide to discover Pistoia

Pistoia is one of the main cities of Tuscany and also one of the most beautiful. To understand how important it is from a cultural point of view, just remember the designation “Italian Capital of Culture for 2017“; a recognition of great prestige, due in large part to the vast artistic and architectural heritage that makes Pistoia one of the most interesting cities to visit in the whole region. To visit Pistoia far and wide, perhaps one day it is a bit short, however may be enough to see at least the main attractions of the historic center.

Places to visit in Pistoia

As well as the vast majority of the historical centers of other Tuscan cities, the center of Pistoia is very pleasant to visit on foot and offers many points of interes. Let’s discover together which are the most important monuments to see:

  • Piazza del Duomo
  • Cattedrale di San Zeno
  • Battistero di San Giovanni in Corte
  • Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuoricivitas
  • Fortezza di Santa Barbara
  • Museo Marino Marini

Piazza del Duomo

Historic center of the political and religious life of the city, the Piazza del Duomo of Pistoia certainly deserves a place among the most beautiful squares of all Tuscany. It is a very large square, rich in historical buildings of great architectural importance. Here we find the beautiful Cathedral of San Zeno with its imposing bell tower, the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte, the Palazzo Vescovile, the Palazzo Pretorio and the Palazzo del Comune. Just outside the square, on the opposite side from the Cathedral, you can also admire a tower from the early Middle Ages, called Torre di Catilina because, according to legend, the body of the Roman senator Catilina, who lived in the first century before Christ, was buried here.

Pistoia Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo

Cattedrale di San Zeno

Named after San Zeno, the cathedral of Pistoia dates back to the early Middle Ages, although over the centuries it has been rebuilt several times. The external appearance of the Cathedral dates back to the 14th century, while the interior dates back to the thirteenth century; the predominant style is Romanesque.

Looking at the façade, crowning the pediment, two statues can be seen: on the left that of San Zeno, built by Jacopo di Mazzeo in 1336 and on the right that of San Jacopo, patron of Pistoia, carved in 1721 by Andrea Vaccà.

Pistoia Cattedrale di San Zeno
Cattedrale di San Zeno

The interior, with three naves, is enriched by numerous sculptural elements, frescoes and paintings. The most important of the works that can be admired here is undoubtedly the amazing altar of San Jacopo which is found in the Chapel of the Crucifix. It is a masterpiece of medieval jewelery to which several masters have worked, including a young Filippo Brunelleschi. Made of silver between 1287 and 1456, the altar houses a relic of San Jacopo. Among the other works preserved in the Cathedral, I will only mention an important crucifix on a panel made in 1721 by Coppo di Marcovaldo.

The extraordinary bell tower of the Duomo is also worthy of note. Built on an ancient Lombard tower, the bell tower is the result of a medieval restructuring; more recent is the belfry that has been rebuilt several times following some earthquakes. If you are fit enough, I suggest you to take the 200 steps that take you to the top at a height of over 60 meters: from here the view is really special!

Battistero di San Giovanni in Corte

From the Romanesque of the Duomo we pass to the Gothic style of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte. Built in the 14th century, the baptistery has an octagonal plan and is surmounted by a dome with a lantern. The exterior is entirely covered with strips of marble alternately white and green, while the interior, decidedly more bare, contains a beautiful fourteenth-century baptismal font.

Pistoia Battistero di San Giovanni in Corte
Battistero di San Giovanni in Corte (Photo by Francesco Boggia / CC BY)

Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuoricivitas

After visiting Piazza del Duomo and all the wonderful monuments that overlook it, I recommend going to see the Church of San Giovanni Fuoricitivas. If you want advice, I suggest you go through the picturesque Piazza della Sala where there are several little bars and you can admire the Pozzo del Leoncino, which takes its name from the stone lion above the lintel of the well.

Pistoia Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuoricivitas

The Romanesque Church of San Giovanni owes the name of Fuoricitivitas to the fact that at the time of its foundation, or in the Lombard period, it was outside the circle of the city walls. Like the Baptistery, this church also has a decoration made of white and green marbles. Inside you can admire many sculptures, a beautiful thirteenth-century pulpit and some paintings like the polyptych Madonna with Child and saints Iacopo, Giovanni Evangelista, Pietro and Giovanni Battista realized by Taddeo Gaddi between 1350 and 1353.

Pistoia Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuoricitivas
Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuoricitivas (Photo by MM / CC BY)

Fortezza di Santa Barbara

The Fortress of Santa Barbara was built starting from 1539 at the behest of Cosimo I de ‘Medici in place of a pre-existing medieval fortification of which some remains can still be seen. With its massive scarp walls and corner ramparts, the Fortress of Santa Barbara is a fine example of Renaissance military architecture. Its construction was attended by some great architects of the time such as Buontalenti and Bellucci.

Pistoia Fortezza di Santa Barbara
Fortezza di Santa Barbara (Photo by Gionata Gori / CC BY)

Museo Marino Marini

If you love contemporary art, I suggest a visit to the museum of the Fondazione Marino Marini, located in via Fedi, a few steps from the Church of San Giovanni Fuoricivitas. The museum exhibits numerous works by the famous Pistoiese artist. Marino Marini was a painter, an engraver but above all a sculptor; in the museum, in fact, we find an interesting gipsothèque that collects more than 100 plaster casts made by Marini during his long career.

Official site of the Fondazione Marino Marini.

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