Situated between Florence and Pisa, the Tuscany province of Pistoia, although less visited than many other Tuscany regions, has many attractions to offer to tourists' sight.
The roman "Pistoria" was most probably an outpost connection with the Apennines and a junction between the north and the centre, later to become an important Longobard town on the border of the Byzantine Italy. After establishing itself as a commune, it reached the height of its glory in the 13C when the Pistoian bankers lent money to French kings and princess. In 1306 it was defeated by the allied forces of Lucca and Florence and in 1309 fell once and for all under Florentine sway. This marked the beginning of an inexorable decline, which was however stopped in the mid-19C with a new phase of development, where industry, farming and craftwork led to the expansion of the town beyond its Trecento walls.
Pistoia is divided into three main regions which are separated by geographical criteria - these are the Ombrone plain where the province's capital is situated, the Valdinevole in the region's south west corner and the Pistoiese mountains of the region's north side, where its ski resorts are situated.
The region has several well-preserved Medieval villages and towns, whose history dates back before the Roman colonisation.
Famous for its flower markets, the city is characterised by narrow streets, churches and palaces dating back to Mediaeval times, although its history as a significantly sized settlement dates from the 6th century BC at the time of Roman colonisation. The Etruscans, who preceded the Romans, also settled here.
The historic and artistic centre of the town is Piazza del Duomo, which gathers together in a fascinating setting monuments fo the religious, civic and judiciary powers. The Duomo of San Zeno dated from the 5th century, but was destroyed by fire in the 12 century The rebuilding of the present cathedral, a romanesque building in the Pisan style, was begun during the 1200s. In the mid-14C a marble portico was added; the interior houses the dossale of San Jacopo (frontal altar), a monumental masterpiece of silversmith work with 628 silver-worked figures, begun in 1287 and completed in the 14 C by Sienese, Florentine and Pistoiese craftsmen. Next to it rises the mighty bell-tower, one of the loveliest in Italy, with Pisan-style loggias and a Renaissance spire.
The Baptistry (1338-59) is a gothic building on an octagonal plan. The bishop's palace, an important medieval building, houses the Capitulary Museum containing valuable vestments and church plates. The museum is linked to the mysterious underground Archaeological Path, which documents the rise of the city from the Roman era.
The Town hall is a majestic building (1294) enlarged in 1334-85, which houses the Civic Museum with works which span the 13C-20C. A sector is dedicated to the Puccini Collection, with ancient and Neoclassical paintings and 19C furnishings. The Basilica of the Madonna dell'Umiltà is a fine testimonial of the Renaissance (1492-1522), inside is a lovely cupola by Vasari. The Church of San Francesco remodelled with baroque additions, contains important Trecento Pistoian frescoes. The Church of Sant'Andrea has a Romanesque facade and contains a materpiece of Gothic sculpture: a pulpit by Giovanni Pisano, inspired by the one created by his father, Nicola, in Pisa.
The Hospital del Ceppo (13 C or 14 C) whose name derives from the tree-trunk (ceppo) used to collect alms, has a Florentine portico on its facade with a magnificent polychromatic terracotta by Giovanni della Robbia and Santi Buglioni (1525-26).
A rare example of medieval architecture in sandstone rock is the Church of Sant'Antonio del Tau, whose name stems from the Greek letter "tau" in pale blue enamel which the friars used to wear on their cloaks. Inside is a rich fresco decoration of the 14C-15C, the work of several artists.
One of the city's largest churches is San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, building begun in the Pisan Style in the 12C and completed by Comacene master in the 14C.
The city of Pistoia boasts numerous monuments of great historical and artistic interest, and many museums keep important works of art and of great cultural interest. Piazza del Duomo is a starting point for tourists who want to discover all that the city of Pistoia has to offer in terms of art, history and culture.
On the right side of the Palazzo Comunale, Palazzo Rospigliosi is hosting the Museum Diocesan Museum and the Rospigliosi, where tourists can enjoy a variety of miscellaneous items and furniture, many of whom belonged to Pope Clement IX.
Near Piazza Garibaldi, opposite the church of San Domenico, the Marino Marini Foundation is housed in the former hospital-convent of the Order of St. Anthony, restored in 1987. It houses inside numerous works of contemporary art by the painter and sculptor Marino Marini, native of Pistoia.
Among the events that you can find every year, you'll find the Pistoia Blues Festival and the Giostra dell'Orso, or Joust of the Bear, both taking place in Pistoia in July.
The Pistoia Blues Festival is the most important event that has made Pistoia famous throughout Italy. Every year during the summer, the most famous rock and blues artists from all over the world are welcomed in Pistoia. Piazza Duomo, Teatro Bolognini and Teatro Manzoni are the main locations where you will find the most famous artists performing.
The main square - the Piazza del Duomo - marks the site where annually the Giostra dell'Orso takes place. Horsemen (‘knights') of the region compete against each other in jousts with the dummy of a bear. The joust takes place every 25th of July, on the feast day for the city's patron saint, St. Jacob.
Another event you should take note of is the Dialoghi Sull'Uomo or Dialogues on Man, that is now in its 5th year. This festival holds meetings, shows and dialogues each year on a different topic (this year on contemporary anthropology). The past year's focus was "Share the World. For a shared common ecology".