Pistoia Tourist Attractions
SituationThe provincial capital of Pistoia lies at the northwest end of Tuscany on the southern slopes of the Apennines, some 28km/17mi northwest of Florence.History and artPistoia was the Roman Pistoria. During the Middle Ages it was the scene of bitter conflicts between Ghibellines and Guelfs, and in 1295 it came under Florentine rule - a subjection confirmed in 1530. The town's surviving medieval buildings demonstrate the vigorous spirit of enterprise of even the smaller Tuscan towns. In the older churches the influence of the Pisan style, widely diffused in the 12th century, is still predominant, but from the 14th century the artists working here came almost exclusively from Florence.
The Church of the Madonna dell'Umiltà, begun in 1495, was built by Ventura Vitoni, in the manner of Brunelleschi, to house a miraculous image of the Virgin which had begun to perform wonders in 1490. It replaced the earlier Church of Santa Maria Forisportae. The ground-plan of the church is highly unusual. A domed central octagon lies beyond a wider vestibule, and to the rear is a rectangular chapel. The barrel vaulting and the vaulting of the central dome over the vestibule are coffered, and the four successive levels of the central octagon are foreshortened to give an effect of perspective. On the high altar is the miraculous image of the Virgin.
St John Outside the Town
The building of this church (St John outside the town), on the site of an earlier (eighth century) church beyond the town walls, began in the mid 12th century but was completed only in the 14th century. Although the west front is in plain brick, the south side of the church is faced with bands of white and green marble. It has three orders, differing in height, of blind arcading; within the arches are rhombs filled with ornament. On the lintel of the doorway in the south front is a relief, the "Last Supper" by Gruamonte (c. 1160), and in the tympanum above this is a figure of John the Baptist (14th century Pisan school) flanked by two lions. The most notable feature in the interior of this aisleless church is the pulpit by Fra Guglielmo da Pisa (1270), which has reliefs of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Adoration of the Kings, the Washing of the Feet, the Crucifixion, the Descent from the Cross, the Descent into Limbo, the Ascension, Pentecost and the Death of the Virgin. The holy water stoup has representations of the three Theological Virtues and the four Cardinal Virtues (the latter an early work by Giovanni Pisano). To the left of the high altar is a polyptych (1353-55) by Taddeo Gaddi, and on the left- hand side altar a terracotta of the Visitation from the workshop of the della Robbias.
To the south of San Giovanni stands the Church of San Doménico, built in the 12th century and enlarged about 1380. Originally the church of a Dominican friary, it shows the unadorned Gothic style of the Mendicant Orders. In the spacious interior are remains of 14th century frescoes. Behind the first side altar on the right is the church's most notable monument, the Tomb of Filippo Lazzari by Bernardo and Antonio Rossellino (1462-68). The chapterhouse has a 13th century fresco of the Crucifixion, and in the adjoining rooms are other frescoes of the 15th and 16th century, formerly in the church.
This large church dedicated to St Francis, begun in 1294 and completed about 1400, stands in the Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi. In later centuries it was converted to secular use as a store and as a barracks. The facade, banded in white and green marble, was not added until 1717. The interior was remodeled during the Baroque period, when the 14th century frescoes were damaged; during restoration work in 1930 many of them were again revealed. The wall-paintings (14th century) in the principal chapel, by Lippo Memmi, Pietro Lorenzetti and Puccio Capanna (a pupil of Giotto), depict scenes from the life of St Francis. There are other 14th century frescoes in the side chapels, and in the sacristy and chapter-house (which adjoins the cloister) there are also frescoes on the legend of St Francis.
A little way east of San Francesco is the Church of Sant'Andrea, the origins of which go back to the eighth century. Work continued in the 12th century, but the church remained unfinished. The facade has blind arcading of white and green marble. In the main doorway are two lions flanking a statue of St Andrew in the manner of Giovanni Pisano. On the architrave is a relief depicting the Three Kings before Herod and in Bethlehem by Gruamonte and Adeodato (1166). The capitals of the pillars framing the doorway have, on the left, representations of Zacharias and the Angel and the Visitation and, on the right, the Annunciation and St Anne. The nave is impressive: tall and narrow, with an open timber roof structure. The pulpit, one of Giovanni Pisano's finest works (1298-1301), is similar to the one in the Cathedral of Pisa. It rests on seven porphyry columns, two supported on lions, one on a bent human figure and the central one on a lion and an eagle. On the capitals, which are linked by arches with Gothic tracery, are figures of Sibyls and Prophets. The relief panels round the pulpit depict the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Kings, Joseph's Dream, the Slaughter of the Innocents, the Crucifixion and the Last Judgment. Between the panels are Old and New Testament figures. Giovanni Pisano was also responsible for the wooden Crucifix on the tabernacle in the third chapel on the left.
Palazzo del Comune
To the left of the cathedral, at the far end of the Piazza del Duomo, is the Palazzo del Comune, a bare and forbidding building which with its symmetry and solidity is of powerful effect. It was begun in 1294, during the period of office of Giano della Bella, a Florentine governor who ruled the city fairly and well, but thereafter work came to a halt; it was resumed in 1334, and the building, now enlarged, was completed in 1385. The bridge linking it with the cathedral was added in 1637. The facade is divided vertically into five sections; at the base is a portico, above this are double-arched windows, and above these again triple-arched windows. In the center of the facade can be seen a large Médici coat of arms, with the keys of St Peter (for the Médici Popes Leo X and Clement VII). To the left of the central window is a black marble head, the significance of which has various explanations; one story is that it represents the Moorish King of Majorca who was defeated by Pisa in 1114.
Today the Palazzo del Comune houses the Municipal Museum with painted panels, frescoes and pictures from the 13th-18th centuries.
Address: Palazzo del Comune, Piazza del Duomo 1, I-51100 Pistoia, Italy
Opening hours: 10am-7pm; Sun: 9am-12:30pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Easter - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Free admission on Saturday afternoons.
San Bartolomeo in Pantano
A short distance east of the Palazzo del Comune stands the Church of San Bartolomeo in Pantano (St Bartholomew in the Marsh), so called because the site of the church (built in 1159) was an area of drained marshland. The beautiful facade, with five arcades borne on columns, has remained unchanged throughout the centuries. On the lintel of the central doorway is a relief (1167; attributed to Gruamonte), "Christ sending out the Apostles", its formal pattern based on the reliefs on Roman sarcophagi. The most notable feature of the narrow interior is the pulpit by Guido da Compo (c. 1250). Its beautifully carved but restrained figures from the New Testament reflect the transition from the simple Romanesque style to the rich and dramatic compositions of a sculptor such as Andrea Pisano (pulpit in Sant'Andrea).
Ospedale del Ceppo
The Ospedale del Ceppo, to the north of the Palazzo del Comune in Pistoia, was founded in the 13th or 14th century; it takes its name from the offertory-box (ceppo) in which alms for the poor and sick were collected. At the beginning of the 16th century it became a dependency of the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova in Florence, and, following the Florentine pattern, a portico was built in front of the facade. The splendid polychrome majolica frieze was the work of artists from the studio of the della Robbias (in particular Santi Buglioni and Giovanni della Robbia). It depicts the Seven Works of Mercy alternating with the Cardinal and Theological Virtues (from left to right: Clothing the naked; a sphinx; Taking in the stranger; Prudence; Visiting the sick; Faith; Comforting the prisoner; Charity; Burying the dead; Hope; Feeding the hungry; Justice; Giving drink to the thirsty; a sphinx). In medallions below the frieze are scenes from the life of the Virgin.
Santa Maria delle Grazie
To the northeast of the old town center is the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, built between 1452 and 1484 to the design of Michelozzo. It has a plain façade with a beautiful doorway.
East of the Palazzo del Comune stands the Palazzo Rospigliosi (16th century), with the Museo Clemente Rospigliosi (17th century panel painting), and also the new Diocesan Museum (vestments, liturgical objects, paintings).
Adjoining the north aisle of the cathedral is the old Palazzo dei Vescovi (Bishop's Palace; 14th century) which houses the Cathedral Chapter Museum (Museo Capitolare) containing pictures and goldsmiths' and silversmiths' work, as well as geological finds.
A little way east of San Domenico, in the broad Corso Silvano Fedi, is the church of San Paolo (c. 1302), with a fine Pisan-style facade.
Palazzo Fabroni is a 17th century palace property that belonged to a high ranking Fabroni family. It has been restored to house the Centro Arti Visive Contemporanne on the first floor. This is a site of exhibitions dedicated to famous international artists and an important center for collections of modern art.
Marino Marini Documentation Center and Foundation
Marino Marini (1901 - 1980) was born in Pistoia and attended courses in painting and sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. His work is found in museums around the world.The Documentation Center and Foundation was created in 1979 in the Palazzo Comunale of Pistoia, but has recently moved where the Hospitallers of St. Anthony Abbot where housed in the 14th C. On display there are approximately 350 examples of his graphic work including etchings, engravings, dry point, sculpture and paintings.
Giovanni Michelucci Documentation Center
Giovanni Michelucci, born in Pistoia in 1891, is considered one of the greatest contemporary Italian architects and town planners. This Documentation Center, installed in a mezzanine room of the Town Hall to a design by the architect Bruno Sacchi, was inaugurated in 1980 and contains a large number of drawings, models and tracings from the famous architect.
Acquerino is an area with wonderful forests, considered to be of the most beautiful in the whole Tosco-Emilian Apennine range.
There are three successive defensive walls surrounding Pistoia and they are still traceable.The first was built in the eighth C., the second in the 1130 A.D. and the third in 1306.
Surrounding areas of Pistoia offera combination of history and nature for the traveler to enjoy.
Castagono is an ancient village in the valley of the Ombrone. It is known for its narrow lanes which lead to the Oratory of St. Francis. In 1975, an open air museum was created with over 60 pieces of art. There is an annual national prize for painting and poetry in Castagno.
Villa and Park Puccini
The Villa and Park Puccini was originally built by Tommaso doctor at the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and later rebuilt at the end of 1700 by Guiseppe Puccini. Today, only a fraction of the great garden remains while the villa has become a home for the elderly.
Fortress of Santa Barbara
The Fortress of Santa Barbara was built by Nanni Unghero by order of Cosimo I of the Medici, who wanted to put an end to the constant warship of the Pistoians, as well as to confront possible enemies.
Val di Brana
Val di Brana is a small village set on a hill. It is known for the revered Mary's sanctuary. An image of the Virgin thought to be miraculous, was enlarged firstly in 1650 then later modified to its present state of neoclassic taste.
The Zoological Gardens are situated in a country setting with a collection of approximately 600 animals.
Map of Pistoia Attractions