Pistoia is a beautiful city in the heart of the Tuscany region of Italy that lies in close proximity to Florence and Pisa. The city has a current population of 90,000 and is a popular summer destination for both tourists and Italians who come to admire its stunning medieval architecture. During ancient times, this city was settled by the Etruscans and then became a Roman colony. During the wars between the Guelph’s and the Ghibellines Pistoia changed hands several times and was mainly under Florentine control. This city is also known for being the birthplace of the pistol firearm, and it is said that this form of handgun was first created here during the 16th century.
As a tourist destination, Pistoia is a truly picturesque city and has a host of wonderful historical buildings such as the gorgeous Duomo and its Baptistery and the Palazzo del Comune. Furthermore, Pistoia is perfectly situated in the Tuscan countryside and many charming spa towns and mountain retreats are within a short drive of the city. If you are looking for a combination of history, culture, and relaxation, this idyllic Italian commune is the perfect place to visit.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Pistoia:
1. Cathedral of St. Zeno
The Piazza del Duomo is the central point of interest in the city centre and the Cathedral of St. Zeno is a magnificent centrepiece.
This cathedral was constructed in the 12th century and has a stunning front façade and bell tower.
Covered with striped polychrome marble, the front façade is colourful and opulent.
The adjacent bell tower features a similar design and its topmost levels are crowned with the same striped marble.
Inside the cathedral there is a plethora of fantastic decoration such as the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the Presbytery that is covered in some gorgeous 17th century frescos.
This is undoubtedly a must see building when visiting Pistoia!
2. St. Zeno Baptistery
Opposite the magnificent cathedral is an equally as opulent and impressive structure – the Baptistery of St. Zeno.
This baptistery was constructed after the cathedral during the 14th century and uses a similar external design.
The exterior is covered in a beautiful striped marble design with alternating white and green rows of polychrome.
Furthermore, there is a series of ornate stone statues of important figures such as John the Baptist and St. Peter.
The inside is quite a contrast and features a plain design with exposed brick walls; the baptismal font is quite striking however and also features a coloured marble design.
3. San Giovanni Fuorcivitas
This stunning religious complex is one of the most beautiful buildings in Pistoia and features a gorgeous façade that resembles the famous Duomo in Florence.
Created in the 14th century, the northern face of the church is truly monumental and features a striped polychrome marble design.
Furthermore the arch of the main doorway features a sculpture of the last supper.
The interior of this delightful church has a myriad of religious artefacts such as a marble statue depicting the visitation and a gorgeous polyptych created by Taddeo Gaddi.
4. Church of Sant’Andrea
This beautiful church is located to the north of the Piazza del Duomo and can be reached in less than 5 minutes on foot.
Inside this church, you can find the famous Pulpit of Sant’Andrea designed by Giovanni Pisano.
This pulpit is considered to be a true masterpiece and features a series of finely carved sculptures depicting scenes from the bible such as the Dream of the magi and the Crucifixion.
The exterior of this church features a similar design to the other religious buildings of Pistoia and has some gorgeous green and white striped marble.
Furthermore, the front doorway features a decorative arch that has a series of 15 intricate statues.
5. Palazzo del Comune
The Piazza del Duomo is full of historical buildings and the Palazzo Commune is an extremely old structure dating back to the 13th century.
This palace is actually unfinished and its front façade features stone work with a series of ornate arched windows and the Medici coat of arms.
Within the confines of the palace is the Pistoia municipal museum – this museum features some fantastic artwork and artefacts from Pistoia and the surrounding region.
Furthermore, some of the rooms are decorate in their original style and feature some gorgeous paintings and decoration.
6. Museo Capitolare
For those who are intrigued by historical and religious artefacts, the Cathedral Treasury and Museo Capitolare are the perfect place to visit.
Located in the Piazza del Duomo, this fantastic museum contains a staggering amount of relics and artefacts taken from the Cathedral and other sources in Pistoia.
Some notable pieces include the Reliquary of St. Zeno, the Cross of St. Atto and the monument of Cardinal Niccolo Forteguerri.
Furthermore, there is a series of Renaissance paintings by local artists and a host of other important items relating to the history of the city.
7. Visit the spa town of Montecatini Terme
Pistoia is located conveniently in close proximity to several spa towns and Montecatini Terme is one of the Europe’s most well-known retreats.
You can reach this fantastic town in under an hour and regular buses travel between the two destinations.
Montecatini was originally used by Roman settlers as a healing retreat due to its hot springs and this tradition has been maintained to this day.
Within the town there is a plethora of fantastic historical structures such as the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.
Furthermore, you can find a range of world class spa retreats that offer facilities such as thermal baths and provided relaxing spa treatments.
8. Pistoia Zoo
Situated to the west of Pistoia city centre you can find the wonderful Pistoia Zoo.
This wonderful attraction covers over 7 hectares and features more than 400 species of animal.
The grounds are well maintained and the habitats of the individual species are spacious and it is clear to see the animals are well cared for.
This is the perfect place to visit for a family day out and you can see such animals as Lions, Red Pandas, Tigers, Giraffe, giant turtles and rare species of frogs.
Furthermore, there is also a restaurant and a garden that provides a place to eat and relax.
9. Monte Cimone
For those seeking adventure and exploration, Pistoia lies in close proximity to the immense Monte Cimone.
This mountain is the highest in the Apennines of Italy and has an elevation of 2165m.
The whole region is known for its skiing opportunities and Monte Cimone itself is a great place to hike.
A common starting point to ascend Monte Cimone is the town of Sestola – from here you can buy supplies and prepare for the hike.
The walk to the summit of this mountain is one of the most breath-taking in this region and the scenery is simply stunning.
Furthermore at the top you can find an old chapel and several military installations.
10. Church of San Michele Arcangelo
Located in the small commune of Ponte Buggianese in close proximity to Montecatini Terne, the Church of the archangel Michael features some truly breath-taking artwork and frescos.
Constructed in the 17th century, this church has a simple front façade and looks quite plain – the real treat is the interior.
Inside you can find a series of beautiful frescos on the walls and ceilings of the church that depict various religious scenes such as the apocalypse, the last supper and the resurrection of Jesus.
The colour, detail and quality of the artwork is unbelievable and the paintings look so realistic it can be quite unnerving.
11. Visit the town of Montecatini Alto
This charming mountain town is a brilliant place to visit when staying in Pistoia and lies in close proximity to the popular Montecatini Terme.
Perched on top of a small mountain, this village offers amazing views of the surrounding countryside and is a true hidden gem.
Contained within the confines of this delightful village you can find a number of interesting buildings such as the Church of SS. Ansano and the Romanesque CastleVecchio.
You truly feel as If you are walking into a different era and the relaxed atmosphere and lack of modern amenities make Montecatini Alto appealing.
12. Take a day trip to Florence
Florence is one of the most visited cities in Italy and it contains some of the country’s most beautiful historical buildings.
A trip to Pistoia would not be complete without visiting the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Florence can be reached in less than 50 minutes on train or bus and Pistoia has great transport links that are both regular and reliable.
Some of the main attractions in Florence include the magnificent Duomo and Baptistery, the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Vecchio and the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Furthermore, Florence features a plethora of insightful museums, and a host of fantastic shopping locations.
This city has it all and it is easy to see why it is so popular!
13. Villa la Magia
You can find this beautiful Medici Villa in the small commune of Quarrata and it is actually a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage site together with 13 other villas in Tuscany.
You can reach the village in under 20 minutes and it is a truly wonderful place to visit.
The grounds of the villa have been well maintained and feature a number of landscaped gardens and wooded areas perfect for walking.
Furthermore, there are some interesting remains in the grounds such as the stairway to pincushion and the monumental entrance.
This villa and grounds has been beautifully maintained and it provides a pleasant place to visit away from the busy city.
14. Riserva naturale Acquerino
This protected area can be found to the north east of Pistoia along the SP24 route.
Covering an area of 243 hectares, this area is used to monitor the population of deer and contains some important archaeological sites and medieval ruins.
Covered mainly in dense woodland, the reserve offers a vast array of hiking trails and you could literally walk for hours or day through this beautiful landscape.
For those who love to simply start on a trail and see where it leads, this protected area will be a true haven.
15. Enjoy a fine meal at the Ristorante Rafanelli
Located to the east of the historic town centre on the Via E Fermi, the Ristorante Rafanelli is a fantastic venue and serves some top quality Italian cuisine.
The ambience of this restaurant is welcoming and the walls are decorated with various photos and collections.
If you enjoy a high quality steak, then you will be delighted with the meat available at the Ristorante Rafanelli.
Aside from steak, the restaurant offers other items from the grill together such as veal and kebabs.
The staff are attentive and provide an impeccable service – an evening at the Ristorante Rafanelli will be a highlight of your trip!