Tips when visit in Pistoia

Stepping into Pistoia’s Piazza del Duomo for the first time, you get an eerie feeling that you’ve time-travelled. The ground beneath your feet was first a Roman forum, then a medieval market place and then the civic heart of a rich Renaissance town. A fine, 67-metre-high campanile sits in the centre of the square, drawing your eyes upwards to the expanse of blue sky and giving the square a feeling of grandeur.

The square is largely unchanged since the days of Dante and Machiavelli. To the left of the campanile is the Palazzo Comunale with its bold Medici insignia, while to the right is the Bishop’s Palace and a beautiful green-and-white marble baptistery, which faces off with the Romanesque cathedral. To see them in perspective, climb the 200 steps of the campanile. From the cool, dark base of the tower you ascend into the bright light of the crenellated roof terrace. From here you can peer down on the square and a sea of terracotta roofs framed by the swooping foothills of the Apennines.

Explore the subterranean passages beneath the Ospedale del Ceppo

The underground tour of the Ospedale del Ceppo offers a more visceral view of medieval life. As the Black Death laid waste to the Tuscan population in the 13th century, the hospital needed to expand rapidly and the only way to do that was to divert the nearby river below ground. It’s along this damp water course that the walk takes place, in a barrel-vaulted tunnel that holds the historic city above your head.

Beside the stratified clues to the city’s construction there are a host of other curiosities. As the concept of ‘hospital’ changed from hostelry to hospice and then medical centre these underground chambers found uses as a laundry, oil mill and even a publicly-rented grain mill powered by the underground river. Fragments of pottery reveal advancing knowledge of infectious diseases (black pots for plague victims only, please), while new surgical blades advanced anatomy classes in the anatomical theatre upstairs.

Discover Marino Marini, the Tuscan Henry Moore

The monks of the order of St Anthony who built Palazzo del Tau would probably have felt right at home with the epic modernist sculptures of Marino Marini that are now displayed in its halls and corridors, and the chapel next door. Like Niccolò di Tommaso’s moving frescoes of sad-eyed Adam and Eve and St Anthony exiled in Egypt that have adorned the chapel walls for centuries, Marini’s sculptures speak volumes about man’s daily struggles.

Many of them depict a mythic horse and rider in various stages of conflict and cooperation: sometimes the horse is stiff and unyielding, at other times it rears wildly, its rider clinging on for dear life. In September 2017 Marini will also receive top billing at the city’s premier contemporary art gallery, Palazzo Fabroni, with a retrospective of his work held in collaboration with the Guggenheim Foundation.

Make friends and drink spritz in Piazza della Sala

You might not be in the market for bull’s heart tomatoes or bags of chestnuts, but like every shopping-trolley toting nonna (grandmother) you’ll be magnetically drawn to Piazza della Sala. ‘La Sala’ is one of the oldest squares in Pistoia and there has been a market here since the 11th century. It sells everything from fish to fruit, vegetables to flowers, all of which are piled high on benches beneath shady canopies. It’s like an open-air food court and a community hub rolled into one.