Pistoia: Gritty & Glorious

Pistoia is an ancient and somewhat gritty walled city tucked between Florence and Lucca. It’s just far enough off the beaten track for locals to outnumber tourists, which is just about the right balance.

We arrange a week in an ancient yet contemporary, updated apartment — a favorite combination. We find ourselves the up-the-street neighbor to the glorious Madonna dell’Umiltà, below right.

A week is the perfect amount of time to experience Pistoia’s open market, a few museums and galleries, her fabulously striped cathedrals, and several well-chosen restaurants.

Sip & Savor

Aparagus Flan with fonduta di pecorino, wow-wow-wow!

La Fiaschetteria is known for fresh pasta and laid-back atmosphere. The staff is charming and the fare, delizioso. A delicate asparagus flan bathed in parmesan cream is unctuous, velvety and addictive.

Spending a lazy afternoon in the bohemian, jolly and relaxed ambience of La Fiaschetteria while eating our way through the stellar menu is a great choice — highly recommended!

“Mangia Poco, Mangia Bene, Mangia Toscano.”

We mangia Toscano at Bono di Nulla. The Driver savors a beautiful plate of pork Etrusca con Patate, tender and flavorful. I stay in my lane with a fragrant plate of Pici Tartufo. I eat truffle pasta at every opportunity while traveling in Tuscany — I can’t get enough!

To Market

Don’t miss Piazza della Sala, an ancient market square with a stone well topped by a lion. The piazza’s bars and restaurants open in late afternoon, and della Sala becomes a lively and engaging hub.

Dazzling fruit and vegetable markets rock the Piazza della Sala daily. Here you can buy everything from curlers to cannelloni. We pick up a juicy lemon for our evening meal at our hip home-away.

Art & Soul

Adjacent to Piazza della Sala is Piazza dell’Ortaggio, with arresting bronze, “Giro del Sole” by Roberto Barni, in which three blindfolded men walk in different directions, carrying an oil lamp. Hm.

Climb the stairs of Palazzo del Giano, a stone palace that was city hall for centuries, now il Museo Civico d’Arte Antica, a serene and sprawling collection of art and artifacts from centuries past.

In the entryway stands Il Miracolo, a bronze created by Marino Marini, Pistoia’s most famous native son, of a rider and fallen horse. The rider does not fall off, and hope prevails – an inspiring image for troubled times.

Don’t miss the grandissimo museum dedicated to Marini, il Museo Marino Marini, Pistoia’s own world-class modern artist — many of his finest works are here.

There are plenty of exhibitions and galleries for fans of contemporary art. A biglietto cumulativo will get you entrance to three museums, and is good for three days, available in Palazzo del Giano.

Blues Fest

Another great reason to return is the annual Pistoia Blues Festival, featuring international blues legends. Check out this 1986 poster we found at Fiaschetteria. What a lineup! Booking our return now…

Stripes & More Stripes

The Driver studies the facade of the Church of Sant’Andrea. The remarkable relief over the door depicts the Journey of the Magi from France to Rome – via the very street on which The Driver stands.

Each day we pass the striking black-and-white stripes of Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, stunning!

And Piazza de Duomo‘s gorgeous Gothic Baptistery of San Giovanni, built in the mid-14th century. We adore her stripes and sexy octagonal contours.

You can’t miss the mighty bell tower in the Piazza del Duomo – over 220 feet tall, with a few modest stripes. She can be seen from all over the city. Savvy travelers use the tower to orient themselves.

Grit and Glory

Pistoia occupies a fascinating intersection of gritty and pretty. The contrast occasionally stops me in my tracks, like this grimy pig’s head jutting from Sant’Andrea. How I would love to know her story!

And Ospedale del Ceppo, a distinctive historic hospital building adorned with colorful glazed terracotta saints and flowers, and storytelling relief by Piero Della Robbia.

Ospidale Ceppo also houses a creepy collection of surgical instruments from the 17th century, displayed within. Not for the faint of heart.

Serene Surprise

Try a Sunday afternoon in Pistoia’s sprawling, local parks full of families, kids and dogs. This is a livable city, family-friendly, eco-forward, and proud of its Tuscan history. We will return!

Arrivederci, ciao! •

About Epicurious Travelers

Ms. Margolis-Pineo created to showcase her published work and ongoing food-travel adventures. Based in Portland, Maine, she travels frequently both in her home state and north to Montreal, her favorite North American city. Although she refuses to use the word "foodie," she has an abiding interest in food and wine. Ms. Margolis-Pineo's background as a designer gives her site an edge in the oversaturated blogosphere. New contacts, "likes," subscribers and content are always welcome!
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  1. Mcsobo says:

    OMG, my old boss in San Francisco had a villa in Pistoia and we went there for an elegant dinner when we were in Florence years ago.  Your pictures and text  brought back wonderful memories.Marcia

  2. Yeah! Stay tuned, more coming. It was a long month away. Miss you xoxoxoxox

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