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Holidaymakers searching for holiday rentals in Pistoia also enquired about apartments in Lucca, villas in Camaiore and villas in Bagni di Lucca

Pistoia, the hidden jewel in Tuscan's crown

Tuscany has been popular for many years and is visited daily by a mass of tourists who explore its entire length and breadth; from Pisa and Lucca to Florence, Siena, and San Gimignano, and all places in a between, but it is still possible to find a few places in Tuscany that have been overlooked or even missed completely. Pistoia is one such town, this hidden jewel, located in the north of Tuscany.

Pistoia is everything Italian and is truly Tuscan; it can be busy, bustling and sometimes even has traffic congestion and yet at other times it is sleepy, peaceful and reverts to a previous era of Italian life.

Well what has Pistoia got that makes it such a jewel? In the Basilica Madonna Dell’Umiltà, Pistoia boasts the 3rd largest cupola in Italy after Rome and Florence. The historical town centre with its concentration of buildings and monuments has a lovely medieval Piazza del Duomo Square surrounded by ancient streets most of which are traffic free. It has a twice weekly market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, a haven for genuine bargains and it is a market truly geared for the locals. Pistoia also boasts some very chic clothes and shoe shops with all the latest designs and colours and not at the lavish prices found in most other Italian cities. But be warned, this town shuts completely between 1pm and 3pm every day; a good excuse to search out and sample some of the great cafes, bars and restaurants.

Most evenings from 7pm the locals visit their favourite bar or cafe to take an aperitif, sadly this is now being referred to more and more as a ”happy hour”, snacks and canapés are served free and people relax and catch up with friends and all the latest news and gossip over a cocktail or glass of “prosecco”.

The best bars in town are the centrally located “Caffe Cavour” and the ultra trendy “Santopalato” (the holy one). The restaurant of Santa Maria del Giglio is housed in a converted chapel and is truly stunning, while traditional Tuscan dishes are served daily in Pistoia’s oldest eatery “Lo Storno”. Further a field, but well worth the extra effort, is “Il Frantoio” in Via Valdibrana where they serve the best food in the entire area.

The “passeggiata” is still a highlight of this town’s week and on Saturday evenings from 5pm the youngest “Pistoiese” parade their fashion around the town centre. At 6pm they are joined by the older inhabitants who are certainly the most stylish and sophisticated. Afterwards everyone heads back home or on to a bar or restaurant. An informal “passeggiata” also takes place each Sunday in the late afternoon.

If you want to explore Pistoia’s culture then the silver alter of San Jacopo housed in the main cathedral of San Zeno (what a great name for a saint) is located in Piazza del Duomo along with the Bell Tower and the octagonal baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte and Pistoia’s main museum (Museo Civico). The church facade of San Giovanni Fuorcivitas in Via Cavour and the Basilica Madonna Dell’Umiltà with its magnificent dome, planned by Vasari, is located in Via Della Madonna. The Ospedale del Ceppo with its frieze by Della Robbia is magnificent and the many churches in the town have great examples of ornate pulpits and splendid musical organs, the best of which are to be found in the churches of ; San Francesco, Sant’ Andrea, Spirito Santo and San Bartolomeo in Pantano Pistoia hosts the world famous “Pistoia Blues” festival each July and past headliners include; Bob Dylan and Santana. This mammoth 3 day festival takes place in Piazza del Duomo as does “Giostra dell’Orso (the tournament of the bear) where the four ancient districts of Pistoia compete in a grand and colourful equestrian tournament on the 25th July to celebrate the feast of San Jacopo (St James), Pistoia’s patron saint.

Amongst Pistoia’s many famous sons are; Giorgio Rospilgoisi who became Pope Clemente 1X (1660-69), the artist and sculptor, Marino Marini (1901-1980) whose works are displayed in the Palazzo del Tau, and the architect Giovanni Mechullucci (1891- 1990) whose documents and plans are housed in the mezzanine of the town hall.

For children, Pistoia boasts a small but well maintained zoo and Collodi, 20 minutes away, is the birthplace of Carlo Lorenzini the author of the world famous story of Pinocchio, a wooden puppet who dreams of being a real boy. The author’s restored house and gardens are set in a themed park based on the puppet’s adventures. While, Vinci, Siena and the lovely national park area of Garfagnana are all within easy reach of Pistoia by car.

The train and bus links from Pistoia make it a fantastic base from which to explore other parts of northern Tuscany. The train-line runs west to the coast with stops at the chic’ spa town of Montecatini, (10 minutes away), and on to; Lucca, Pisa and Viareggio. Florence to the east is only 30 minutes away.

If you take the time to search out this hidden jewel in Tuscany’s crown you will not be disappointed. And if you truly want to sample Italian life the Tuscan way then a visit to Pistoia is a must!

You can reach Pistoia:

BY CAR:

From Florence - A11 Motorway to Pisa, 29 km From Lucca - A11 Motorway to Florence, 37 km From Pisa - A11 Motorway to Florence, 57 km From Bologna - A1 Motorway to Florence and A11 Motorway to Pisa, 91 km From Rome - A1 Motorway to Bologna and A11 Motorway to Pisa, 290 km

BY TRAIN: Daily connections from and to Florence, Bologna and Pisa (www.trenitalia.com)

BY BUS: direct from Lucca or Florence BY PLANE: From Pisa (Galileo Galilei) airport on Ryanair.

Written by Titti Godi – Owner of Property 407278 in Pistoia, Italy

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    • 6 BR
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                                                                                                  • Separate Toilet
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                                                                                                    Recent Reviews

                                                                                                    Fantastic Location – A Slice of Tuscan Fried Gold!

                                                                                                    5 of 5
                                                                                                    Sitting in the hills above Pistoia, Villa Martinelli is an excellent base for exploring the local area and beyond. Split across two floors, the Villa has an open plan kitchen, dining and sitting area with double doors providing access to the outside terrace dining area. The kitchen is well equipped and met all our needs for the 2 weeks of our stay. The only access to the upper floor is via a narrow metal spiral staircase that may prove a challenge for anyone with mobility issues. The main bedroom is spacious and there is plenty of storage space in the smaller second bedroom. The pool is fabulous and a real asset to the property even if it does fall into the category of “lovely once you are in” as it can feel a bit chilly after you have baked in the Tuscan sunshine for a while. Stefano, Beatrice and their family are truly lovely people, on hand to help out if necessary but conscious of the privacy of their guests. Generous to a fault, you could not ask for nicer neighbours. A car is a must (make sure the horn works!) but be aware some local roads are steep, very narrow and some with blind turns, including the road leading to the Villa. For peace of mind, it is worth considering taking out additional damage insurance for your hire car but arrange this before you travel rather than taking the unnecessarily expensive ‘excess reduction’ insurances offered by the car hire companies. Pistoia is a lovely old town, well worth a sightseeing trip or two in itself. It has plenty of shops, cafes, gelateria etc. Of the local supermarkets we think that the Co-Op and the Conad Superstore are the best. Pistoia is on the main rail line between Pisa and Florence which makes it ideal for exploring near and far. You can get to Florence in 30 – 50 minutes and Pisa in about the same amount of time. Should you wish, you can get to Venice or Rome in 2 – 3 hours. There is ample parking in Pistoia and the car park nearest to the station (Parcheggio Cavallotti) only costs 2 euro all day. Other than to get some shopping in you wouldn’t really need to leave the Villa if you didn’t want to, spending days by the pool, watching the birds of prey as they ride the thermals off the hills, distant church bells cascading around the valley marking time that has slowed to a snail’s pace, evenings spent sitting on the terrace listening to the local stag population bellowing in the forest as the lights of Pistoia twinkle in the distance. Did we have a great holiday? You bet.
                                                                                                    • Review Submitted: 28-Sep-2016
                                                                                                    • Date of Stay: Sep 2016

                                                                                                    Well maintained and closer to railway station and city centre. Security is excellent and adequate

                                                                                                    4 of 5
                                                                                                    Thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Service is excellent and the host is available at the premises all the time which is reassuring. We were given warm welcome and provided with initial basic needs ie something to eat and drink. Would recommend to my friends and we will be back again . Close to several interesting places in Tuscany and we did all that using our car. Shantha
                                                                                                    • Review Submitted: 12-Aug-2016
                                                                                                    • Date of Stay: Aug 2016

                                                                                                    Spacious, historic villa with wonderful views

                                                                                                    4 of 5
                                                                                                    The villa owner Raffaello greeted us very warmly even though our flight to Pisa had been delayed and we arrived after midnight. Some provisions had been left in the kitchen to tide us over until we could get to a supermarket. Raffaello took one of us down the hill to show us a local bread shop on the first morning to buy croissants and rolls. One day he generously bought us some speciality breads. Raffaello and his wife are around much of the time, very helpful but not intrusive. Their spaniel Oscar is charming - inquisitive but shy! The rooms are spacious and the stairs fairly steep. We stayed in July and it was exceptionally warm, frequently 37 degrees, and we valued the fans which had been placed in the bedrooms. Mosquitoes were prevalent so do take plenty of mosquito repellent at this time of year. Sitting on the terrace overlooking Pistoia whilst eating our breakfast or supper was very nice. You definitely need a car if renting this villa as it is too far out of town to walk in. However, we recommend the train for a day trip to Florence as there is so little parking there.
                                                                                                    • Review Submitted: 10-Sep-2015
                                                                                                    • Date of Stay: Jul 2015