March 24, 2016 – Pistoia

We are visiting many smaller towns in Italy on this trip. It seems like you can pull off the road almost anywhere and walk into the cathedral or main church and find something amazing. Today we are going to Pistoia which is halfway between Florence and Lucca.

 Pistoia was a centre of Gallic, Ligurian and Etruscan settlements before becoming a Roman colony in the 6th century BC. Pistoia’s golden age began in 1177 when it became a free commune. During these years it was an important political center, erecting city walls and several public and religious buildings.

After being carefully watched by an elderly gentleman while we park the car, we are informed that it is not necessary to pay any parking fees (or at least that is what we hoped we understood.) We decide that he must be the unofficial car watcher for his block and wonder if upon our return we should pay him instead.

Our first stop is at the Basilica of the Madonna dell’Umilita so named because its most prized possession is a Madonna with the Christ child sitting on the floor. All artwork in this format are known as the Madonna of humility pictures because she has humbled herself by sitting on the floor (or a pillow on the floor.)

Basilica of the Madonna dell'Umilita has an odd looking facade. We wonder if its black and white marble striping has been taken off at some point and used for something else. Churches here are often built with bits and pieces of other older churches.
Basilica of the Madonna dell’Umilita has an odd looking facade. We wonder if its black and white marble striping has been taken off at some point and used for something else. Churches here are often built with bits and pieces of other older churches.
Madonna and Christ child sitting on the floor
Madonna and Christ child sitting on the floor
Unusual more modern ceiling with a shell motif usually an attribute of St. James
Unusual more modern ceiling with a shell motif usually an attribute of St. James

After stopping for some delicious coffees along the street (we drink coffee whenever we need to use a restroom somewhere), we head to the duomo dedicated to Saint Zeno with its Baptistry across the piazza. All the church workers are scurrying about getting the church cleaned up and decorated for Easter. There are not many tourists which is a blessing.

Cathedral of Saint Zeno (we could not find much evidence of St. Zeno)
Cathedral of Saint Zeno (we could not find much evidence of St. Zeno)
Interior of St.Zeno
Interior of St. Zeno (no doubt all the blank masonry used to be covered with frescoes)
13th century crucifix
13th century crucifix
13th century side chapel
13th century side chapel

After wandering through the produce market we settle on a place for lunch called La Botte Gaia. It turns out to be an excellent find because although our three dishes look like brown glop they are all excellent.

After lunch we pay a visit to the Museo Civico where there are few “watchers” and we can really get up close to the various paintings and sculptures.

13th century lunette
13th century lunette
Close-up of the grief-stricken Mary with Jesus
Close-up of the grief-stricken Mary with Jesus
I love it when the artists sign their work. This one is says "This work made by Gerinus of Pistoia, 1408"
I love it when the artists sign their work. This one is says “This work made by Gerinus of Pistoia, 1509”
A picture of St. Julian who killed his mother and father after he thought his mother was sleeping with another man (who turned out to be his father) and STILL became a saint.
A picture of St. Julian who killed his mother and father after he thought his mother was sleeping with another man (who turned out to be his father) and STILL became a saint.
Strange looking little angel with hands and feet sticking out of its wings
Strange looking little angel with hands and feet sticking out of its wings

Dinner tonight is back to the Donchisciotte for full price pizza this time. John and I get the pizza “verace” style which is still thin crust but with puffy edges. Sarah opts for thin crust all the way. I don’t know if this style has a name or not. In any case it is delicious and reminds me of the pizza of my youth on the Jersey shore.

Foreground - pizza margherita verace, thin crust white pizza with proscuitto behind
Foreground – pizza margherita verace, thin crust white pizza with proscuitto behind

 

 

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