A few miles away from the major Tuscan tourist resorts, between Florence, Lucca and Pisa and off the most famous routes, the beautiful landscape, the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the Province of Pistoia reveals itself to explorers via its harmonious natural beauty and artistic masterpieces.
The traveler of a thousand interests is welcomed by the rich variety of attractions the region has to offer: art tours, mountain excursions, spas, conference tourism, green tourism and culinary holidays - all of them any time of the year.
Man's history weaves together with his architecture exciting, inviting vacationers on a journey into the past. The Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque ages speak of their grandeur in the palaces, loggias,and churches of Pistoia and Pescia, from which an eventual excursion to nearby villages offers the discovery of castles and churches equally-rich in historical and artistic detail. Whoever appreciates nature will admire the extraordinary variety of the landscape and natural environments: the rolling hills of the Colline Montalbano and the Svizzera Pesciatina, lush green summers and snow-covered winters, the Padule wetlands in Fucecchio and the Querciola woods in Quarrata.
Sports enthusiasts can ski at the renowned hub in Abetone, cycle or simply enjoy an active vacation in a pleasant and relaxing environment. Those seeking out regeneration body and spirit will find their preferred relaxation and rejuvenation treatments in the famous spas of Montecatini Terme and Monsummano Terme.
Families will delight in the array of options for their children. Perhaps in order is a visit to Collodi, the birthplace of the most famous puppet in the world: Pinocchio.
Gourmands can dedicate themselves to the rediscovery of genuine and authentic flavors, savoring typical local products, dishes and local delicacies, whether in welcoming, small restaurants or during the many local fairs and festivals. Those who prefer to find out more about cultural heritage, religion and folklore will come into close contact with the territory and its millenary history, by way of the many folkloristic traditions, celebrations, events and fairs.
The territory offers numerous opportunities for cultural tourism - from museums, with interesting and rich exhibitions, and cultural events,to musical and theatrical performances, guided tours and much more - in every season. Be sure not to pass up seeing the Ecomuseum of the Pistoia Mountains. Its open-air thematic routes, rich in museums and learning centers, offer a unique look into mountain history, traditions and culture.
The tourist accommodation on offer is varied and complete, spanning from small and quaint hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, and vacation homes to the typical agritourism structures, and mountain refuges and camping sites.
Visiting Pistoia’s old town is like taking a journey back in time. In fact, Pistoia is a city with multiple amazing facets, thanks to its elegance and refined beauty. The evidence of the city's Roman origins appears immediately upon entry: an unexpected series of churches, cloisters, palaces and art treasures not only dating back to the ancient past, but to more recent times, as well. Amidst the narrow, Medieval streets and irregularly-shaped piazzas, prestigious palaces and small tower-houses, a surprising city emerges, bearing an innate an discrete charm, perfect for travelers who appreciate quality and slow-paced tourism.
Not far from Pistoia, one reaches Pescia, a town that has a lot to offer to those who passionate for art and nature.
The city's origins are Medieval and belong to both banks of the river from which Pescia takes its name: on the right bank, the center's foundation is its characteristic, elongated Piazza, while on the left lies Pescia's religious hub. Among the sights to see, beginning with Porta Fiorentina, one arrives at the Cathedral, re-built at the end of the 17th Century. Just opposite is the Church of San Giuliano, and next to the Cathedral is the Seminary Cloister and the nearby Church of the Oratory of Sant'Antonio Abate, conserving the wooden sculpture The Ugly Saints that dates back to the 13th Century. Also here is the Gipsoteca Libero Andreotti Civic Museum with its plaster cast collection.
Waterways, and chestnut forests, mills and paper mills, remains of ancient walls and picturesque views open onto the valley, making for lovely visits and walks among history and nature: this is Svizzera Pesciatina, located to Pescia's north. It is also known as Valleriana; the former name honors Giovan Carlo Sismondi, historian and economist from Geneva that here found the valley landscapes and colors of the valleys so similar to those of his own Switzerland.
Among the hills and mountains, ten small Medieval villages spring up in pietra serena (a type of sandstone), still extracted and worked in this area. These villages, referred to as castella are: Pietrabuona, Medicina, Fibbialla, Aramo, Sorana, San Quirico, Castelvecchio, Stiappa, Pontito and Vellano. All the castles are connected by a smooth asphalt road, in addition to the Valleriana Trekking trails that allow one to visit the Svizzera Pesciatina via five four-to-six-hour treks. Those planning on tackling one tract each day can stay overnight in the refuge called Uso di Sotto.
The Padule di Fucecchio is also a must-see: a marshland basin located in the Valdinievole area south of the Pistoia Apennines, it sits between Montalbano and the Colline della Cerbaia. It is a marsh in which plants adapted to different climates flourish; thus it is a crucial stopover on the bird migration routes between the Tyrrhenian coast and the inland terrain. Here one can observe over 190 species of birds throughout the year, including at least 70 nesting birds. Particularly important are the herons that, during the reproductive period, produce the most important garzaia (nesting colony) in south-central Italy - both in terms of number of nesting couples (up to 800) and for the contemporary presence of four different heron species: the night heron, the little egret, the squacco heron and the cattle egret.
The area of Montalbano, a land rich in history, art and traditions - and among the most beautiful in Tuscany - embraces a wide area between the Provinces of Florence, Pistoia and Prato. Its hills are rich in secular chestnut woods, vineyards and olive groves, and offer tourists a rural landscape that is still intact. It is a destination for excursions and walks in the fresh air. Along ancient roads winds the Strada dell’olio e del vino del Montalbano -Le colline di Leonardo, an olive oil and wine itinerary that familiarizes travelers with the typical local products and the characteristic villages (beloved by Leonardo Da Vinci, who inhabited these parts).
Then, Pistoia Mountain is a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts, boasting some of the most beautiful and best-equipped ski resorts of the Tuscan Apennines, e.g. Abetone and Doganaccia.
The entire area provides equipped mountain shelters, located at ski-lift departure points and even on the mountaintop, offering refreshment, relaxation and breathtaking views. The accommodation facilities, diversified according to type and level, are distinguished by hospitality and comfort. Exhibitions and events, organized throughout the winter period, make the stay more pleasant, even for non-skiers and families with children.
During the warmer seasons the communities within the ski district are still a destination for tourists who choose to stay in close contact with nature. The great number of hiking trails, the variety of sports activities on offer, the wonderful natural surroundings, clean air and good cuisine are a regenerating experience fit for a royal.
Stop in Montecatini or Monsummano (with its Giusti Grotto) for their restorative thermal waters.
The thermal baths in Montecatini Terme offer over 50,000 sq m of thermal structures and 9 beautiful spas immersed in 430,000 sq m of beautiful parks. The spas Tettuccio, Regina, Leopoldine, La Salute, Torretta, Redi, Excelsior, Tamerici, and the Grocco Thermal Institute provide a complete system of treatment therapies and services by qualified medical doctors. The purest salty-sulphate-alkaline water, rich in precious minerals, is unique in the world. Its curing and healing properties vary depending on the sources from which they spring.
Monsummano Terme, rather, is a spa famous for its natural steam from warm and natural caves, used for therapeutic purposes in the spa establishments constructed next to them. The millenary Grotta Giusti is a natural paradise emitting therapeutic vapors from a mirror of thermal waters from its bottom to activate beneficial sauna and detoxifying properties.
Collodi, in the Province of Pistoia, is renowned for giving Carlo Lorenzini - the author of The Adventures of Pinocchio - his nom de plume (Carlo Collodi). When in the land of Pinocchio, experience Pinocchio Park, a masterpiece of environmental art where it is possible to relive the tale of the famous wooden puppet through creations, realized by famous artists from the 20th Century: such as Giovanni Michelucci, Emilio Greco, Venturino Venturi, and Pietro Porcinai. Indeed, Collodi is a characteristic hamlet perched on the hill in the Comune of Pescia. Also an important sight in Collodi is Villa Garzoni, with its monumental Italian garden and Butterfly House, a lush tropical garden with thousands of butterflies from all over the world. Collodi, together with Cutigliano, holds the Orange Flag, a mark of quality that the Italian Touring Club assigns to small inland towns that distinguish themselves for their excellent touristic-environmental offer.
Travelers can choose from a number of diverse itineraries in the Province of Pistoia. The Tuscany found on these paths is still a land not particularly trodden, as it is far from the most crowded tourist routes. Pistoia and its Province await to be discovered on a preferably slow-pace journey.
Take on tours that revolve around sports activities, art, gastronomy, music, and much more.
The territory of Pistoia is rich in traditions. Throughout the year, historical and religious commemorations, folk events, festivals, fairs and feasts take place in the cities and in the small villages, rooted in the culture of the Tuscan people and offering endless opportunities to those who want to plunge into the millenary history of this Province.
During these events, it is almost always possible to taste products and typical local dishes.
Neither should one discount Pistoia's important music festivals: the Pistoia Festival (July) offers many interesting musical, cinematic, literary and traditional eventsduring the entire month of July. Operas and films run in open-air venues every year, just as celebrations for the city's Patron Saint, San Jacopo are coming to their close. The most important event, however, is the Pistoia Blues Festival, one of the most significant and well-known blues music events in the world. In July and August, Musical Itineraries - Festival of Acoustic Paths, an initiative promoted by the Provincial Department of Culture for 20 years now, offers free concerts held in piazzas and evocative ancient villages, involving both emerging and well-known artists.
The Giostra dell'Orso takes place in Pistoia on July 25th, on the Feast Day San Jacopo. The Joust is an equestrian tournament in which four districts of the city battle it out in the beautiful Piazza del Duomo, covered with clay for the occasion.
The traditional Feast of St. Bartholomew takes place in Pistoia on the 24th of August. It dates back to the 15th Century, when the custom of anointing children on their forehead to protect them from the threats of spirits was introduced.
In Pescia, in the suggestive Piazza Grande, a grand celebration falls on the first Sunday of September: the Palio dei Rioni, an archery competition between the town's four districts, dating back to 1339. The festivities begin on the Sunday before the competition, with a Medieval market. Throughout the week, dinners and historical re-enactments take place in the main piazza and in the various districts.
The Province of Pistoia boasts numerous quality agro-alimentary products that testify to both the authenticity and fertility of the territory in which they are produced. Fruit of man’s labor and of his profound bond with the environment, many typical products of this land have reached the highest standards. Imagination, creativity and passion are the elements credited for these products' fame outside regional and even national borders.
Even in this part of Tuscany, slow food tutelage organizations have been created for biodiversity, in support of the small, but sophisticated, producers at risk of disappearing, in revaluation of the territory and recuperation of artisan trades and traditions. Among the products are the Bean of Sorana, or the Pecorino cheese from Pistoia Mountain, as well as the most typical products: fruits of the underbrush of the Pistoia Mountain, chestnuts, bread, salame, charcuterie, oil, wine, chocolate in the famous Chocolate Valley, the Montecatini Terme wafer, Lamporecchio brigidini and the Pistoia confetti.
Tuscans' love for good food is universally-understood. The Pistoia cuisine is, first of all, a rustic one - simple, made of genuine flavors and ingredients that, incredibly, have remained unaltered. The typical elements of the local tradition dominate: pane insipido - fresh, roasted or stale bread is the basis of so many dishes, such as cabbage soup, Ribollita, pappa al pomodoro (tomato soup), black crostini, the panzanella (a bread soup) - vegetables that give life to delicious soups fried foods; legumes - all’uccelletto and al fiasco are also an excellent basis for soups and minestrones. All is accompanied by an excellent, dense and perfumed olive oil.
What can be said of the meat dishes, from finer cuts (Florentine Steak and grilled pork loin) to entrails (tripe, lampredotto, carcerato, cioncia) and Poultry and game dishes.
Queste deliziose pietanze vengono servite in abbinamento ad ottimi rossi, bianchi e rosati, vini locali noti anche al di fuori dei confini regionali. Such succulent platters are paired with fine reds, whites and rosés - local wines highly-noted far beyond their Regional confines.
Proprio questa loro caratteristica li rende perfetti in accompagnamento ai pregiati vini da fine pasto della zona come il vin santo.
The typical pastry products of Pistoia, as in all of Tuscany, have the peculiarity of being quite dry. From the various specialties based on chestnut flour (castagnaccio, necci, fritters) and fritti (bomboloni, cenci) to more dainty treats (brigidini, cantucci, berlingozzi, etc.). It is these sweets' dry characteristic that befits vin santo as perfect accompaniment.