What to do and see in Pistoia: guide to the city and its surroundings

In 1140, the fate of the city of Pistoia – founded in Roman times and then changed hands until the period of Lombard rule, when it experienced a significant development – would have changed thanks to a religious event: in that year Bishop Atto managed to bring a precious relic of St. James to the city. The event projected Pistoia into a European dimension, making it a privileged pilgrimage that, in the long run, determined its cultural and economic growth. The exhibition The Middle Ages in Pistoia. Crossroads of artists between Romanesque and Gothic, at the Antico Palazzo dei Vescovi (there is time for the end of May to visit it), photograph this moment with valuable artistic testimonies dating back to between the 12th and 15th centuries, mostly arrived from the city’s churches , which has precious heritage. A visit to the discovery of Pistoia is therefore a natural extension of the exhibition, which has also been able to nurture a lively contemporary art scene, and is the starting point for interesting excursions in the area, between the Pistoia mountains, examples of industrial archeology, artist gardens.

San Zeno Cathedral, Pistoia
San Zeno Cathedral, Pistoia


The medieval town center is well preserved, though not affected by the massive tourism that hits other Tuscan art cities. The visit can start from kl cathedral dedicated to San Zeno, recognizable by the Romanesque style of the façade – enclosed between the two marble statues dedicated to San Jacopo, the city’s patron saint, and San Zeno – and by the tall bell tower (with three orders of loggias, with a spire added in the 16th century), which stands out on the city roofs. Inside, we discover a masterpiece of medieval sacred jeweler art, the silver vault in San Jacopo, which will be worked on until the middle of the fifteenth century, also with the intervention of a young Filippo Brunelleschi. Next to it stands The baptistery of San Giovanni in Cortebut among the churches of the city, erected along the old Via Romea Strata, it also deserves a visit Our Lady of the Basilica of Humility (on a project by Vasari), the monumental complex of San Francescothat Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas and Sant’Andreas Parish Church, with the pulpit by Giovanni Pisano. Documentation of medieval town planning is especially the well-preserved Via della Torre.

Ceppo Hospital, Pistoia
Ceppo Hospital, Pistoia


Founded in the thirteenth century (and remained in operation until 2013, from the second seventeenth century also the seat of an important surgical school, which is responsible for the paternity of the scalpel), the old city hospital, according to legend, owes its name to a tribe that miraculously bloomed during the winter, through the intercession of the Madonna. From the outside you can admire the noble painted and glazed terracotta frieze made by the Della Robbia family in the early 16th century, which runs along the entire length of the loggia (other examples of the mastery of the Della Robbia workshop in the city can be appreciated in the church of San Giovanni Fuoricivitas and in the cathedral). But even inside the building reveals surprises, e.g. the smallest anatomical amphitheater in the world, and in the underground, the underground Pistoia, an underground path that stretches 650 meters below the hospital, along the old bed of the Brana stream, revealing ancient architectural testimonies of the city. In addition, it is the longest underground path in Italy accessible to the disabled and blind (we emphasize in this regard the benefits of many cultural institutions in the city in developing advanced accessibility strategies).


Palazzo de 'Rossi, Pistoia
Palazzo de ‘Rossi, Pistoia


The Pistoia Musei system is divided into four museum sites, three in historic buildings in the city center, one in the old church of San Salvatore. In Piazza Duomo, thePalace of Old Bishops it is dedicated to ancient and modern art, but hides an equipped archaeological itinerary in the subsoil, which illustrates the city’s archaeological stratifications. Among the jewels in the collection is the weight tempera (dry spread) by Giovanni Baldini, who comes from Villa La Falconiera and is set up in a room dedicated to the artist. The initiative Tactile Museum it allows the visually impaired and the blind to “touch the city”, reproduced in scale in its most important monuments. TO Buontalenti Palace the core of works by the Pistoian painter Giacinto Gimignani is preserved, while one Palazzo de ‘Rossi – which shows rich artist decorations from the nineteenth century – we discover the art of the twentieth century in Pistoia. The exhibition venue for San Salvatore: excavations in the church – now consecrated – have brought to light Roman pre-existences (near the place where the legend tells that Catilina was buried) and the early Middle Ages, including an incomplete fresco from the end of the thirteenth century with a lament over the dead Christ. The museum’s set-up brought here works from the deposits of the Civic Museum of Pistoia and from the archives of the Capitolo del Duomo.

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Garden of Palazzo Fabroni, Pistoia Courtesy @Serge Domingie
Garden of Palazzo Fabroni, Pistoia Courtesy @Serge Domingie


From the summer of 2021, those who visit Palazzo Fabroni can also count on the green area designed by architects Alessio Gai and Michele Fiesoli with artistic advice from Federico Gori, regaining the history of the place and revisiting the taste of the Italian garden in the Renaissance. . The collection is instead a valuable collection of modern and contemporary art consisting of bourgeois means and acquisitions. These include tributes to local artists such as Mario Nigro and Agenore Fabbri, but also paths in Arte Povera, in Minimal Art, in conceptual art, up to visual poetry. The calendar of temporary exhibitions is also nurtured (the exhibition dedicated to Gualtiero Nativi, master of Italian abstraction in the second half of the twentieth century, runs until June 5).

Esther Klas, Room2, 2019, SpazioA Gallery, Pistoia
Esther Klas, Room2, 2019, SpazioA Gallery, Pistoia


The gallery was founded in 2008 by Giuseppe Alleruzzo, and since 2013 the gallery can also count on a project space, in a space adjacent to the main one, where site-specific and new artists and mid-career artists exhibited. If you are in the city it is always interesting to discover the ongoing exhibitions (from 28 May Esther Klas, with More starting points).



The Garden of Cino is an urban renewal project which for some years has made Piazzetta Sant’Atto and Vicolo dei Bacchettoni an outdoor cultural space curated with the support of local residents and shoppers. However, the idea belongs to the cultural association Spichisi, which here regularly arranges meetings, artistic stays (with support from the Caript Foundation) and workshops aimed at citizens. All this in a renovated room with trees and potted plants, design seats designed by Ecòl (which also signs the site-specific intervention Autarkic romancecreated in 2019) and one of the most photographed street art works in the city, the mural by Millo, No hesitation.

Farm of Celle
Farm of Celle


In the Santomato locality in Pistoia, the Fattoria di Celle is housed in a monumental villa from the seventeenth century, which today houses Gori Collection, private collection of environmental art (it can be visited, by reservation, from May to September, with fairly strict access rules, to control attendance). There are eighty works to be appreciated during the tour of the park, an English garden redesigned in the name of site-specific interventions, from Robert Morris’ Labyrinth to La cabane éclatée by Daniel Buren, at But no by Loris Cecchini. Even the interior of the courtyard has from the mid-1980s collected interventions from Italian and international artists, as well as the manor house, where they have left traces, among others Mimmo Paladino, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto (at Cascina Terrarossa, part of the complex, were instead edited by Anselm Kiefer, Stefano Arienti, Simone Gori).


Ferriera Papini, Maresca
Ferriera Papini, Maresca


From the 14th century, the Pistoia Mountains became an important iron and steel bar, the pride of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and an important economic resource for the area, thanks to the iron that came from the deposits on the island of Elba. Thus, the ironworks multiplied, of which the Maresca plant, which remained in operation until the 1980s, was one of the earliest examples. Today at the museum (in the Ecomuseum circuit of the province), it allows you to discover this story through ancient tools from blacksmiths and historical hydraulic and mechanical machines (but here they also got a patent for an innovative system for the production of compressed air). The teaching is very active, so you can get started with processes that copy life in the ironworks.



At the gates of Pistoia, Castagno di Piteccio is a small museum village, with a circuit of outdoor works of art that the art critic Tommaso Paloscia gave an early impetus to – since the 1960s. The operation took place in 1975, with the arrival of twelve artists invited to participate in the annual edition of the National Castagno Painting Award.
Today, the itinerary touches on the twelve frescoes from ’75, dedicated to the months of the year, thirty sculptures created between ’76 and 2004 and a new cycle of works dated 2019-21. An interactive map helps to orientate oneself, while a digital archive is created to prepare for the visit.


Atman and Villa Rospigliosi, Lamporecchio
Atman and Villa Rospigliosi, Lamporecchio


In the city center, the Locanda del Capitano del Popolo ensures a gastronomic journey into the local tradition, between a peposo from Impruneta and a soup from the prisoner, based on stale bread and veal.
Among the addresses to recommend, always in a central position, also the small restaurant on BotteGaiawho use local products but update the traditional recipe book, in combination with a good selection of wines.
The fame of Baldwinbeautiful cellar (next to the same property manages the wine bar Bibendum, for a faster stop) and a modern menu, based on the sublimity of the raw material, from squid in zimino with chard to fried chicken ravioli with cacciatore sauce and dark parmesan.
The landscape inside the city park is different Montuliveto, which a young association undertakes to relaunch, rebuild the rooms and devise new services (such as the farmers’ market on Wednesday afternoon). In the park’s greenhouse – café, cocktail bar and pizzeria – you can sit down for breakfast, a coffee break, a quick lunch or an aperitif
Welcome to Villa Rospigliosi (Lamporecchio), whereThat started by Igles Corelli is today firmly headed by Marco Cahssai, a talented chef. You can choose from three taste menus while enjoying the magnificent rooms of the seventeenth-century villa built by Pope Clement IX, based on a project by Bernini.


Livia Montagnoli

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