an open-air museum
Located at the centre of the vast plain formed by the Ombrone river, exactly halfway between Florence and Lucca, closed to the North by the Apennines, Pistoia is characterized by the size of its walls (largely still standing), erected in the first half of the 14th century and then fortified by the Medici, within which gardens and green spaces alternate with Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance buildings.
The city of Pistoia, elected “2017 Capital of Culture”, is best explored on foot, walking along the streets of the historic centre from its beating heart, the enchanting Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by medieval buildings that form an impressive architectural backdrop. The square hosts the Romanesque-style Duomo, also known as Cathedral of San Zeno, a religious building of rare beauty flanked by a tall bell tower, the Episcopal Palace and the slim octagonal Gothic architecture of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte, next to which stand the severe and majestic palaces of Podestà and the Town Hall.
Also worth mentioning are the Renaissance basilica dedicated to the Madonna dell’Umiltà, the beautiful Chiesa di Sant’Andrea, which preserves the Pergamum by Giovanni Pisano, one of the masterpieces of medieval Italian sculpture, and the ancient Ospedale del Ceppo, from where guided tours of part of its basements start, a 650 meters long route into the reclaimed subsoil of the city.
Lively and dynamic, Pistoia maintains a singular balance between the qualities of its illustrious historical past with the dynamics of more recent development. Among the most popular places in the centre, which can be visited in one day, are the very central Piazza della Sala, still home to the city market and a meeting point for the people of Pistoia, and the Piazzetta degli Ortaggi, dotted with bars, outdoor cafes and shops.
In the Pistoia area, on the slopes of Montalbano, stands the majestic Villa La Magia, in Quarrata, built by Francesco I de’ Medici who bought it from the Panciatichi family in 1583, with the intention of continuing his father’s plan to expand the family lands and properties, thus strengthening the power of the Florentine dynasty.