ITALY, Sep. 2008

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

In September we drove down to Italy and visited some cities in this beautiful country.
After visits to Bologna, Perugia, Siena and Firenze (Florence), we found ourselves at nearby Pistoia.

Click on the thumbnail images to view a larger image



Musical welcome
Well, how nice: to be welcomed by a band, in the streets of Pistoia !


Our (rather nondescript) Hotel Milano (Viale Pacinotti 10-12) had 2 advantages; 1. large carpark and 2. its location on the medieval curtain wall and only minutes walking from the historic center.

So in 5 minutes we found ourselves at this church; there was a service going on so we did not enter, but impressive enough to note.

A little history on this remarkably striped church, 'Chiesa di San Giovanni Fuorcivitas'. The building of this church was done on the site of an earlier, 8th century church, and began in the 12th century. It was completed in the 14th century.
The south side is faced with bands of white and green marble, but the photo on the right shows that on the west side part was done in plain brick.

Garibaldi, now there is a name that has a resounding echo in Italian history!

In 1860, General Garibaldi landed in Sicily with his famous 1,000 volunteers determined to march on Rome and liberate the City. After a big battle on the Volturno River, he held plebiscites in Sicily and Naples, and then gave the whole of southern Italy to Cavour, proclaiming Victor Emmanuel as king of a united nation. He returned to the island of Caprera, which then remained his permanent home.
In 1862, he made another attempt to liberate Rome without success...
In 1867, he led another attempt to liberate Rome also without success. Garibaldi was like a caged lion on the island of Caprera and longed day and night to liberate his land from the roaring lion in the Vatican.
Pope Pius IX was feeling more and more secure with the French garrison securing the City and Garibaldi a prisoner on the island of Caprera.
Then, like lightning, disaster struck. France and Prussia went to war and the French garrison had to be withdrawn. The Italians rushed into the City and the fall of the Papacy was complete.
For those who want to read more on Guiseppe Garibaldi, here are two websites: and Wikpedia

Men talking
Men gather to talk about 'current affairs'
News stand Italian style
Typical Italian newsstand

It is back to the small streets of Pistoia..

The claim that the word "pistol" (pistola in Italian) is derived from Pistoia is not supported by scholars... Pistoia did give its name to a type of two-sided hunting knife called a pistolese in Italian. Connecting Pistoia with guns and knives has, however, a rationale. In late Medieval and Renaissance times the "feudiní, fussiní and fightin'" in Pistoia were particularly violent and intense, even by Tuscan standards!
Dante and Machiavelli commented negatively about Pistoia in this regard. Michelangelo called the Pistoiese "enemies of heaven.."
Robert Nordvall on


Another church.. but rather derelict looking. Fortunately there was a plaque outside with information:
"Church and Convent of san Pier Maggiore.
The original ancient church built in the Longobard period (8th century) gave its name to the gateway on the city's southern side, Porta Sancti Petri. It was enlarged in the 11th century and 12th century and its interior remodelled in the Baroque style in the 17th century by Jesuit architect Tommaso Ramignani.
The front and side of the building are in white and green marble.
The marble sculpture in the architrave over the central doorway shows Jesus Giving the Keys to St.Peter between the Virgin Mary and the Apostles (1264-65).
The 19th century organ on the wall behind the façade inside was designed by Benedetto Tronci. The former monastery adjoining the church has an elegant 16th century cloister with a double colonnade.
It is now the State Art Institute."


Pistoia is a city in the Tuscany region of Italy, the capital of a province of the same name, located about 30 km west and north of Florence.
Pistoria (in latin other possible spellings are Pistorium or Pistoriae) was centre of Gallic, Ligurian and Etruscan settlements before becoming a Roman colony in the 6th century BC, along the important road Via Cassia: in 62 BC the demagogue Catiline and his fellow conspirators were slain nearby. From the 5th century the city was a bishopric, and during the Lombardic kingdom it was a royal city and had several privileges. Pistoia's most splendid age began in 1177 when it proclaimed itself a free commune: in the following years it became an important political centre, erecting walls and several public and religious buildings.
In 1254 the Ghibelline Pistoia was taken over by Guelph Florence, but supposedly resulted in the division of the Guelphs into "Black" and "White" factions. Pistoia remained a Florentine holding except for a brief period in the 14th century, when Castruccio Castracani captured it for Lucca, and was officially annexed to Florence in 1530. During the 14th century Ormanno Tedici was one of the Lords of the city.
In 1786 a famous Jansenist episcopal synod was convened in Pistoia.
Dante mentioned in his Divina Commedia the free town of Pistoia as the home town of Vanni Fucci, who is encountered in Inferno tangled up in a knot of snakes while cursing God, and Michelangelo called the Pistoiesi the "enemies of heaven".
Pistoia lent its name to the pistol (see above, is pssibly folklore..), which it started manufacturing in the 16th century. But today it is also notable for the extensive garden nurseries spreading around it. Consequently, Pistoia is also famous for its flower markets, as is the nearby Pescia.


Pistoia, unlike Florence, is not home to exclusive shops featuring the merchandise of the most famous Italian and European designers, but there are stores featuring clothes and other items at various levels of luxury and price. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings there is a large travelling market in the central Piazza and adjacent streets. Everyday, there is a fruit and vegetable market in the Piazza Della Sala close to the Duomo Square. Restaurants are numerous at prices more modest than those in Florence.
Robert Nordvall on
Time to visit the Pistoia's piece de resistance: The Piazza del Duomo, clearly one of the most beautiful town centres in Tuscany, in a low key sort of way.
All roads seem to end here, our ramblings at least all ended up here.

The façade of the Cathedral is topped by two statues, St. Zeno and St. Jacopo (the patron of pilgrims), the city’s two patron saints.  Pistoia is along the Via Francegena, the pilgrimage route going from France either to Rome or to Santiago di Compostella in Spain.  Tourist revenue was important in Tuscany even 500 years ago.  Inside the Duomo there is one of the town’s prime artistic treasures – a large silver altar of St. Jacopo completed in 1456 after almost two centuries of construction.Unfortunately, you have to find the sexton to gain admission to its location if you want to examine it closely.  Robert Nordvall on

The large Piazza del Duomo is lined with attractive original buildings 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 districts of the town tilt with lances at a target held up by a dummy shaped like a bear.

The square was quiet when we first came across it, but it came alive later that afternoon and evening.

Note the striped marble façade, clearly remarkable for the region and certain period.

Fun and games.


A detail on a wall nearby.


Also on the square was this impressive door and it was open... So we went in and had a look.
This is the Town Hall, it was founded towards the end of the 13th century. Inside the town hall you can find the Civic Museum and Michelucci Centre (dedicated to this architect, who was born in Pistoia and produced many of his works there).



Willie Nelson was here?
Well, I'll be ... Surely this must be Willie Nelson! Or a dopplegänger..?


Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola


Chiesa di San Salvatore.
On the exterior I found a sign with details of its history.

It was already know in 979, but the present building dates from the 13th century, when it probably was lengthened and the façade with 3 wide arcaders, was moved towards the west.
The memorial plaque on the right pillar (?) tells of a restructuring in 1270 by Master Buono di Bonaccolta.
On the northern side the masonry shows use of river pebble, which proves the antiquity of this church.
The inside was enlarged and restored in the 17th century.
Nowadays it preserves the original architectonic structure and it is used as a warehouse.
Hospital ?
Ceppo Hospital..
The hospital of Pistoia is famous for its elegant Renaissance portico along which a polychrome frieze runs, made by Giovanni Della Robbia. The frieze has glazed terracotta figures as in a "strip cartoon" that shows the performance of the works of that period.
And back to the small streets...


Once more at the Piazza del Duomo..
This photo shows previous buildings (?) have been connected to the Town Hall. I love to wonder around in search for markings such as these.

Gradually more people show up at the square.

The sun setting on the bell tower.


The weather had recovered to a nice evening temperature and we could enjoy a meal outside again.


We could look back on a nice visit to historic Pistoia.







ITALY 2008