Although not visited as much as other cities in Tuscany, 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 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 on 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 century (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 other 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 completed in 1568 and the church consecrated in 1582. In the apse is a painting by Bernardino del Signoraccio (1493).
- Santissima Annunziata, Baroque former church known for its Chiostro dei Morti (“Cloister of the Dead”).
- 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 Knights Templar and then by the Hospitaller Knights.
- San Benedetto (14th century, restored in 1630). It houses an Annunciation (1390) by Giovanni di Bartolomeo Cristiani, a St Benedict with the Redeemer (16th-century) by Florentine painter, and in the cloister Histories of the Order of the Knights of St Benedict by Giovan Battista Vanni (1660).
- San Domenico.
- San Francesco (begun 1289). Franciscan church has an unfinished façade with bichrome marble decoration. It has frescoes with Histories of St. Francis in the main chapel and other 14th–15th century frescoes.
- San Giovanni Fuoricivitas (12th–14th century) Romanesque church
- San Leone (14th century) church enlarged in the 16th–18th centuries. Its Baroque-Roccoco interior houses some notable canvases by Giovanni Lanfranco, Stefano Marucelli and Vincenzo Meucci.
- Santa Maria delle Grazie, Pistoia
- Santa Maria in Ripalta (11th century) It houses a large Ascent of Christ fresco in the apse, attributed to Manfredino d’Alberto (1274).
- San Paolo.
- San Pier Maggiore.
- Pieve di Sant’Andrea, housing Giovanni Pisano‘s Pulpit of St. Andrew.
- Pieve of San Michele in Groppoli, ancient chapel now parish church.
- La Vergine.
- 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).
- Palazzo Panciatichi
- Medici Fortress of Santa Barbara, built at first in 1331 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 a barracks and military jail, while today it serves as a venue for cinema shows during the summer.
- Accademia dei Risvegliati
- Monument in Honour of Brazilians (Soldiers and Pilots) killed in action during Italian Campaign of World War II
- Brazilian Military Cemetery of Pistoia