Piazza Duomo is the artistic and historical heart of Pistoia
Piazza Duomo is the artistic and historical heart and soul of Pistoia. It is lined with Medieval buildings which add to the atmospheric architecture of the square. Pistoia's inhabitants flock here for the weekly market (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) and for leading cultural events, like the traditional Giostra dell’Orso (Joust of the Bear) which is held in piazza Duomo every summer. This joust is a modern twist on the ancient traditional palio race that has been held here since the middle of the twelfth century. Pistoia Blues, one of Italy’s most famous music festivals, is also held right here in piazza Duomo. The piazza is dominated by the bell tower which was constructed in the thirteenth century around a pre-existing Longobard tower. Three floors were added to this original structure. Anyone who climbs its 67 metres and 200 steps is rewarded with a wonderful 360 degree view of the city. Another
If you look around one of the first things that stands out isthe Cathedral of San Zeno. It dates back to the beginning of the eleventh century and it was rebuilt in Pisan Romanesque style between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. There are two marble statues of the patron saints of San Zeno and San Jacopo on each side of the church’s façade. There are also two loggias which open on to the marble portico which is decorated with early sixteenth century glazed terracotta work by Andrea della Robbia. Many changes were made to the interior of the church during the Renaissance and Baroque period during the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The church is home to a monument dedicated to cardinal Fonteguerri which was commissioned to Andrea del Verrocchio in 1473. The baptistery, designed by Andrea Pisano, is tucked away on one side of the square. It was completed in the fourteenth century and decorated with stripes of white and green marble. Inside there is a Romanesque baptismal font which dates back to the thirteenth century.
Palazzo dei Vescovi, which dates back to the year 1091, is next to the baptistery. It was originally home to the bishop of Pistoia. In the twelfth century it became a lordly residence and was decorated accordingly with windows and frescoes in the main room. Some traces remain of these frescoes, although they are difficult to interpret. During the eighteenth century, this palazzo was sold by bishop Scipione de’Ricci to a private owner. The new owner decided to undertake extensive and radical renovation work. Today, much of the original structure can still be admired. The palazzo is home to the Capitolare Museum. The interesting and unique stratigraphic museum is in the palazzo’s underground rooms.
Piazza Duomo is also home to Palazzo Comunale (the Town Hall), which dates back to the end of the thirteenth century and today houses the Civic Museum and to Palazzo Pretorio which has a loggia decorated with frescoes and tempera. It is covered in the old coats of arms of the town’s many mayors.