Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 25, 2021

A special visit to Pistoia

My lovely friend Michele Ricciarelli, who is a tour leader in Pistoia, invited me to join a group visit to the magnificent Duomo di Pistoia, also called the Cattedrale di San Zeno. The photo below was taken on a different visit when the sun was shining.

The guided visit was part of year long celebrations for Santo Iacobeo.

After the bishop of Pistoia obtained some relics of Saint James from Spain in 1144 a chapel was built in the cathedral and it became an important stop on the pilgrim route to Santiago di Compostella in Spain.

The cathedral is thought to have been built in the 10th century. It has a facade in Romanesque style and is similar to San Bartolomeo and San Jacopo in Pistoia. The interior has a nave and two side aisles, with a presbytery and a crypt.

The cathedral has been damaged by fire and earthquake and had several reconstructions. Between 1379 and 1440 the facade was reconstructed with the addition of three tiers of loggias and a portico.

In 1504 Andrea della Robbia was commissioned to decorate the portico.

The interior is solemn and peaceful with some interesting details.

The stunning pulpit was designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1560.

The Crucifix Chapel contains the altar of Saint James, a masterpiece in embossed silver sheet.

It was begun in 1287 when Andrea di Jacopo d’Ognabene was commissioned for the work. It was completed in 1316. Two side antependia were added between 1361 and 1371. Filippo Brunelleschi decorated the front part with two busts of prophets in 1401.

After our visit in the cathedral we climbed to the top of the campanile beside the church.

I wound my way slowly to the top on the ancient steps.

There were some excellent views on the way up and from the top.

I enjoy wandering with no particular purpose when in beautiful towns and cities in Italy but sometimes it is a great idea to go with a knowledgeable guide to make the most of a visit. Thank you Michele for inviting me!

The hotel I chose to stay in, Battistero Residenza d’Epoca, is directly behind the Baptistery in the photo above. You could not pick a better location in Pistoia. The hotel has a history almost as old as the cathedral. The 13th century building where the Residenza is located was originally three adjoining tower-houses.

In the Middle Ages the ground floor was dedicated to craft shops, some still exist in the street in their original form.

The first floor was a dwelling and the upper and underground floors were used for storage.

Around 1850, Jacopo Nicolai, an apprentice in a spice shop, took over the business from the owner’s widow and later bought the shop in 1878. His shop grew from a simple grocery store to a specialist coffee roaster, giving rise to today’s roasting company, Mokajenne. The success of this allowed Jacopo to purchase the rooms on the ground floor and later the upper floors.

In 2012 Jacopo’s descendent and current owner Roberto Cappellini, carefully restored the building and in 2015 started BonodiNulla, a bar, cafeteria, bakery and restaurant. In 2017 he opened Battistero Residenza d’Epoca.

My room was delightful.

It had a view over the Piazza della Sala. Each day a fruit and vegetable market is set up and there are wonderful food shops, bars and restaurants around the edges. The square is usually buzzing but covid has put paid to that for the moment. I was up early in the morning to watch the market being set up.


As a guest in the hotel I was invited to dine in the restaurant. I was the only one there and the charming young chef, Lorenzo, chatted to me, wanting to practise his English. There have been few tourists over the last year.

The fried artichokes I had were the best I have tasted and I had to try the dessert because Lorenzo made it. Yes, it was excellent. My main course was also delicious but guanciale is not really photogenic.

I asked about the terrace on the roof, thinking it might be where breakfast is served, but he told me it was part of the room on the top floor and asked if I would like to see it…of course!

The room extends along the whole top floor and has views over the Baptistery and the Piazza.

The Piazza was closed for the night.

The baptistery is directly in front of the bed.

I could see the door to the cathedral where I had been earlier in the day.

The tiny terrace is reached via narrow stairs to the roof where there is a table and chairs and a 360 degree view of Pistoia. I will be back as soon as we have some fine weather to stay in this room! It is stunning. I may just have to move in permanently.

The next morning I bought a few things at the market before heading home.

Looking up I could see the hotel with its splendid backdrop.

It is obvious to see why Pistoia is one of my favourite places to visit and it is only a bit more than an hour from Bagni di Lucca. It is an easy day trip but staying overnight is much more fun, especially when the hotel is as lovely as this one. Lorenzo and his helpful team mates made my stay wonderful.


Battistero Residenza d’Epoca…


  1. I never did get to Pistoia- my loss obviously! I’m so glad you were able to get out and about, even if only for a short time. And what a lovely place!

    • Pistoia is a place I like to go to regularly. It is a delightful city with lots to see. It has excellent restaurants and cafes, wonderful architecture and good shopping. I love it. We are a yellow zone for the moment so I can move around a bit.

  2. Great post Deb of a beautiful town which never disappoints –

    • Pistoia is great. I will be back soon, when we get some better weather.

  3. Oh but I really do miss my visits to Italy

    • I hope you can travel again soon.

  4. Deb Loved your photos & walk around Pistoia & all views of interior of Cathedral. The walk to top of campanile must have been good exercise for legs but views on way up worth it. Craft shops also look enticing!
    Hotel looks superb & bar etc a must visit.Although market square not bustling probably easier to walk around.
    Chef Lorenzo hit the jackpot with you as guest & English teacher.
    Envy you being able to return to Pistoia & look forward to more delightful photos from Hotel terrace.

    • Pistoia is a wonderful city. It doesn’t attract as many tourists as it possibly should and even in normal times (without covid) it is always a pleasure to wander the streets. It really is a city I could live in.

  5. Debra, what a gorgeous view from your splendid hotel room. It seems to me that Pistoia has the architecture kind of like Sienna. I believe you when you say you want to be there maybe permanently. Thank you for sharing your little Pistoia trip.

    • There are similarities and difference with Pistoia and Siena and I love the both. Pistoia is on a flat plain, so there is no climbing up and down the streets. The city is surrounded by plant nurseries, so the drive in is lovely too.

  6. I have been a few times in Pistoia on day trips. It has many hidden treasures.

    • Pistoia is a great place to visit. Every time I go I tell myself I should go more often.

  7. How beautiful ! Thankyou Deb for taking me to Pistoia through your photos , it’s always been on my list . The Cathedral has an amazing history .What a treat , you really are helping with these long days of no Italy for us !

    • Pistoia is wonderful. I hope you visit one day. I know you won’t be disappointed. For some reason I find the layout of the city centre confusing to navigate and often wonder how I arrived at a street. It doesn’t matter because everywhere is great.

  8. Oh, what a fabulous visit! I love that cathedral. When i worked in Fleet Street in London i frequently walked to St Paul’s for the pleasure of the solemnity under it’s vast dome. I used to sit and watch the dust motes moving through shafts of light and sometimes there would be the organ playing or choir singing. And that hotel is completely lovely – especially the food. It must have been very nice to have a respite from your isolation.

    • Thank goodness we have a little freedom to move about at the moment. Tuscany is a yellow zone and the virus numbers in our area are quite low. I hope it stays that way…and that we get some better weather.

  9. I miss travel and Italy a lot! Thank you for bringing this little slice of heaven to us. What is travel like within Italy now? Is it very restricted?

    • I am in Tuscany which is a yellow zone now. I can travel within yellow zones. Cafes, bars and restaurants are open for sit down eating until 6.00pm. Shops and some museums are open. We wear masks everywhere. The restrictions in orange and red zone are much more strict. I look forward to the vaccine rollout and with it an improvement in the situation.

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