Although not as popular among tourists as other towns in Tuscany like Florence and Siena, Pistoia presents a very well preserved and charming medieval city inside the old city walls.
The large Piazza del Duomo is lined with original buildings as the Palazzo del Podestà and the Palazzo del Comune: it is the setting during the month of July of the Giostra dell’Orso ( “Bear Joust” ), when the best horsemen of the several districts of the town tilt with lances at a target held up by a dummy shaped like a bear.
The original Cathedral of San Zeno (5th century) burned down in 1108, but was rebuilt during the following century, and received incremental improvements until the 17th century.
The facade has a prominent Romanesque style, while the interior received heavy Baroque additions which were removed during the 1960s.
Its outstanding feature is the Altar of St James, an exemplar of the silversmith’s craft begun in 1287 but not finished until the 15th century.
Its various sections contain 628 figures, the total weighing nearly a ton.
The Romanesque belfry, standing at some 67 m, was erected over an ancient Lombard tower.
In the square is also the 14th century San Giovanni Baptistry, in Gothic style, with white-green marble decorations.
The Palazzo dei Vescovi (“Bishops’ Palace”) is characterized by a Gothic loggiato at the first floor.
The Tower of Catilina is from the High Middle Ages, and stands 30 m high.