Pistoia (Italian pronunciation: [pisˈtoːja] ( )) is a city and comune in the Tuscany region of Italy, the capital of a province of the same name, located about 30 kilometres (19 mi) west and north of Florence and is crossed by the Ombrone Pistoiese, a tributary of the River Arno. It is a typical Italian medieval city, and it attracts many tourists, especially in the summer.
Pistoria (in Latin other possible spellings are Pistorium or Pistoriae) was a centre of Gallic, Ligurian and Etruscan settlements before becoming a Roman colony in the 6th century BC, along the important road Via Cassia: in 62 BC the demagogue Catiline and his fellow conspirators were slain nearby. From the 5th century the city was a bishopric, and during the Lombardic kingdom it was a royal city and had several privileges. Pistoia's most splendid age began in 1177 when it proclaimed itself a free commune: in the following years it became an important political centre, erecting walls and several public and religious buildings.
In 1254 the taking of Ghibelline Pistoia by Guelph Florence, was among the origins of the division of the Florentine Guelphs into "Black" and "White" factions. Pistoia remained a Florentine holding except for a brief period in the 14th century, when Castruccio Castracani captured it for Lucca, and was officially annexed to Florence in 1530. During the 14th century Ormanno Tedici was one of the Lords of the city. Dante mentioned in his Divina Commedia the free town of Pistoia as the home town of Vanni Fucci, who is encountered in Inferno tangled up in a knot of snakes while cursing God.
One of the most famous families of the city was that of the Rospigliosi, owners of agricultural estates and wool merchants; the Rospighliosi provided a pope in 1667 with Giulio Rospigliosi, who briefly reigned as Clement IX (1667-69), and gave several cardinals to the church.
In 1786 a famous Jansenist episcopal synod was convened in Pistoia.
According to one theory, Pistoia lent its name to the pistol, which started to be manufactured in Pistoia during the 16th century. But today it is also notable for the extensive plant nurseries spreading around it. Consequently, Pistoia is also famous for its flower markets, as is the nearby Pescia.
Although not as visited as other towns in Tuscany, mostly due to the city's industrial environs, Pistoia presents a well-preserved and charming medieval city inside the old walls.
Piazza del Duomo
The large Piazza del Duomo, dominated by the cathedral, is lined with other medieval buildings, such as the Palazzo del Comune and the Palazzo del Podestà: it is the setting (in July) of the Giostra dell'Orso ("Bear Joust"), when the best horsemen of the d\city's traditional quarters tilt with lances at a target held up by a dummy shaped like a bear.
The original Cathedral of San Zeno (5th century) burned down in 1108, but was rebuilt during the 12th century, and received incremental improvements until the 17th century. The façade has a prominent Romanesque style, while the interior received heavy Baroque additions which were removed during the 1960s. Its outstanding feature is the Altar of St James, an exemplar of the silversmith's craft begun in 1287 but not finished until the 15th century. Its various sections contain 628 figures, the total weighing nearly a ton. The Romanesque belfry, standing at some 67 metres (220 ft), was erected over an ancient Lombard tower.
In the square is also the 14th -century Baptistry, in Gothic style, with white and green striped marble revetment characteristic of the Tuscan Gothic.
The Palazzo dei Vescovi ("Bishops' Palace"), is characterized by a Gothic loggiato at the first floor. It is known from 1091, initially as a fortified noble residence. In the 12th century it received a more decorated appearance, with mullioned windows and frescoes, of which traces remain. It was later modified in the mid-12th (when the St. James Chapel, mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the XXIV canto of his Inferno) and in the 13th century; to the latter restoration belongs the white marble-decorated staircase, one of the most ancient examples in Italy in civil architecture. In the 14th century the Chapel of St. Nicholas was decorated with stories of the namesake saint and of martyrs
The Tower of Catilina is from the High Middle Ages, and stands 30 metres (98 ft) high.
Basilica of Our Lady of Humility (Madonna dell'Umiltà) (1509), finished by Giorgio Vasari with a 59-metre (194 ft) high cupola. The original project was by Giuliano da Sangallo, but works were begun in 1495 by Ventura Vitoni. The dome was commissioned by Cosimo I de' Medici to Vasari, the lantern begin completed in 1568 and the church consecrated in 1582. In the apse is a painting by Bernardino del Signoraccio (1493).
Santissima Annunziata, baroque church famous for its Chiostro dei Morti ("Dead's Cloister").
San Bartolomeo in Pantano (12th century).
San Giovanni Battista (15th century). Damaged during World War II bombardments, it is now used as an exhibition center.
San Giovanni Battista al Tempio (11th century), owned for a while by the Templar and then by the Hospitaller Knights.
San Benedetto (14th century, restored in 1630). It houses a 1390 Annunciation by Giovanni di Bartolomeo Cristiani, a 16th-century Forentine school St. Benedict with the Redeemer and, in the cloister, Histories of the Order of the Knights of St. Benedict by Giovan Battista Vanni (1660).
Franciscan church of San Francesco (begun in 1289). It has an unfinished façade with bichrome marble decoration. It has frescoes with 'Histories of St. Francis in the main chapel and other 14th–15th centuries frescoes.
San Giovanni Fuoricivitas (12th–14th century) Romanesque church
San Leone, built in the 14th century but enlarged in the 16th–18th centuries. Its Baroque-Roccoco interior houses some notable canvasses by artists such as Giovanni Lanfranco, Stefano Marucelli and Vincenzo Meucci.
Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Santa Maria in Ripalta, mentioned from the 11th century. It houses a large Ascension fresco in the apse, attributed to Manfredino d'Alberto (1274).
San Pier Maggiore.
Pieve di Sant'Andrea, housing Giovanni Pisano's Pulpit of St. Andrew.
Pieve of San Michele in Groppoli, ancient chapel in the neighbourhood of the city.
The 14th-century walls. These had originally four gates, Porta al Borgo, Porta San Marco, Porta Carratica and Porta Lucchese, all demolished at the beginning of the 20th century.
Ospedale del Ceppo (13th century).
The Monument in Honour of Brazilians (Soldiers and Pilots) killed in action on Italian Campaign (World War II)
The Medici Fortress of Santa Barbara, built a first time in 1331 century by the Florentines, but destroyed by the Pistoiese citizens in 1343. It was rebuilt by order of Cosimo I de' Medici from 1539, and later enlarged by Bernardo Buontalenti. It sustained one single siege by the Barberini troops in 1643, before being disarmed by Grand Duke Peter Leopold in 1734. Later it was used as barracks and military jail, while now houses cinema shows in summer.
Accademia dei Risvegliati
Brazilian Military Cemetery of Pistoia
Its station is located on the Viareggio–Florence railway and it is at the southern end of the Porrettana railway, the original line between Florence and Bologna.
Cino da Pistoia
Pope Clement IX
Badia a Pacciana, Baggio, Bargi, Barile, Bonelle, Bottegone, Campiglio, Germinaia, Canapale, Candeglia, Capostrada, Case Nuove di Masiano, Castagno di Piteccio, Chiazzano, Chiesina Montalese, Chiodo, Cignano, Cireglio, Collina, Corsini Bianchi, Corsini Neri, Fabbrica, Gello, Iano, Le Fornaci, Le Grazie, Le Piastre, Le Pozze, Le Querci, Lupicciano, Masiano, Masotti, Nespolo, Orsigna, Piazza, Piestro, Piteccio, Piuvica, Pontelungo, Pontenuovo, Pracchia, Pupigliana, Ramini, Sammommè, San Biagio, San Felice, San Rocco, Sant'Agostino, Sant'Alessio in Bigiano, Santomato, Saturnana, Spazzavento, Stazzana, Torbecchia, Valdibrana, Vicofaro, Villa di Baggio, Villanova di Valdibrana.
Twin towns — sister cities
Pistoia is twinned with:
Oneşti, Bacău County, Romania
Pau, France, since 1975
Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
Pistoia Blues, an international music festival held since 1980.
Giostra dell'Orso ("Joust of the Bear"), a ceremony that is mentioned even in a chronicle of 1300, when a dozen riders organized a ritual combat against a bear. Despite many changes, this traditional ceremony was staged every year until 1666, when the abandonment was recorded by the ritual celebration of the people. It was restarted in 1947, and takes place on July 25.
David Herlihy. Medieval and Renaissance Pistoia: the social history of an Italian town. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1967.
Comune di Pistoia
Pistoia Tourist Consortium: lots of information and city map download
Pistoia Blues Festival
Virtual Tour of the City
Pistoia Travel Guide