Although not as visited as other towns in Tuscany, mostly due to the industrial environs, Pistoia presents a well-preserved and charming medieval city inside the old walls.
Piazza del Duomo
The large Piazza del Duomo is lined with attractive original buildings as the Palazzo del Comune and the Palazzo del Podestà: it is the setting (in July) of the Giostra dell'Orso ("Bear Joust"), when the best horsemen of the 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 façade 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 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. It is known from 1091, initially as a fortified noble residence. In the 12th century it received a more decorated appearance, with mullioned windows and frescoes, of which traces remain. It was later modified in the mid-12th (when the St. James Chapel, narrated by Dante Alighieri in the XXIV canto of his Inferno) and in the 13th century; to the latter restoration belongs the white marble-decorated staircase, one of the most ancient examples in Italy in civil architecture. In the 14th century the Chapel of St. Nicholas was decorated with stories of the namesake saint and of martyrs
The Tower of Catilina is from the High Middle Ages, and stands 30 m high.