City of Art, elegant and charming, Pistoia is situated at the centre of a large plain between the stream Ombrone and Mount Albano.
For certain the city has Etruscan origins, evidenced by the traces found under the Cathedral's square.
It later became a Roman settlement and its name, that derives from the Latin word "pistoris", means Miller. The Latin historian Sallustio wrote that the defeat of Catilina in 62 b.C. had taken place in this area.
The city became important under the Longobardi dominion and was proclaimed to be an independent Castaldato (or Gastaldato) with no more influence, previously submitted by Florence and Lucca; from the XI century onwards Pistoia evolved into a rich commercial centre, taking advantage of its perfect location along the main commercial roads, built mainly on the Roman ones, that cut vertically the Italian peninsula.
During the ages of the Signoria of the Medici, all the government titles of Pistoia were suppressed and the city found itself ruled by the City Council of Florence. The inhabitants had to wait till the times of the Grand Dukedom of the Lorena and precisely under the leadership of Leopoldo, to start to see the return of investments in public buildings and local resources, like in many of the other small city centres of Tuscany
The three lines of fortified walls built over the ages are still visible in Pistoia: the first was completed in the VIII century, the second in the XII century and finally the third in the XIV century.
The Cathedral of San Zeno, built in the High period of the Middle Ages, is the result of mixture of architectonic styles: the porch of the facade was built and decorated between '300 and '400, whilst the inside has been altered with refurbishments over the centuries. The silver altar of San Jacopo, partially completed by the Brunelleschi, is a masterpiece of the Italian Goldsmiths, manufactured between 1287 and 1456.
The Bell Tower, in Romanesque style, was built in the XIV century on the ruins of and old Tower of the Longobardo period and is without doubt one of the most beautiful in Italy. It presents three layers of archways with a spire shape Bell room.
The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte, built in its actual form in the second half of the XIV century, is a precious building in Gothic style even though the exterior dual color (bicromia) preserves the typical Romanesque style of the other building nearby. The words "in corte" are to remember the relationship with the Longobardo "curtis in domini regis" (entitled to the Castaldato reign period).
Not to miss: the Palace of the "Podestà" (the Lord of the city), the Church of San Bartolomeo in Pantano, the Church of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Church of San Pietro Maggiore.