lies at the far end of the uninterrupted strip of urban settlement that
stretches all the way from Firenze. Closed off to the north by the Appennine
range (the mountains of the Pistoiese where Abetone is situated) and to
the west by Monte Albano, the city has maintained a good balance
between recent development and its historic roots.
The extensive walls of the old city, which are still basically intact,
were built in the first half of the 1300s and subsequently fortified by
the Medici. The high point of the city's history was the period of the
comune in the 13th century, when the bankers of Pistoia lent money as
far afield as France, and the city was in a phase of rapid expansion.
Some of the large Romanesque constructions had already been begun
the century before, and at the end of the 1300s work started on the Palazzo
del Comune. However, this expansion was hampered in one direction by Lucca
and in the other by Firenze, who joined forces to conquer the city at
the beginning of the 14th century.
The city went into a protracted period of economic and political decline
that continued in the following centuries, effectively relegating the
city to an extremely marginal role.
It's only relatively recently, with considerable industrial
and artisan development, that the city has expanded, becoming internationally
important for its production of plants and flowers, with nurseries springing
up in various parts of the province.
If on the one hand the absence of development has inhibited urban
vitality, on the other hand it does mean that today we can see many historically-interesting
sights in Pistoia.
The long period of Florentine dominance over Pistoia has probably
played a part in stifling culinary differentiation, because it
is in fact very similar to Florentine cooking. There are,
however, some distinctive dishes. Biroldo is a kind of blood pudding
which can either be sweet (made from pig's blood, pine nuts, and
sultanas) or savoury (calf's blood mixed with salami and cheese.
If the sights of the city itself are not enough for you, you could try
visiting towards the end of July, when the Giostra dell'Orso, the
'Joust of the Bear', is held. This involves a procession in costume and
a horse-riding competition.
Picture by Sandro Santioli