You realise that you really like somewhere when you think, "I'd like to live here." Pistoia is one of those cities that enjoys the peace and quietude of a small town. It is located at the foot of the Tuscan Apennines mountains, about 30 kilometres north-west of Florence.
Walking in the city centre you come across happy, smiling people and enticing markets surrounded by unique historical monuments that you can touch, experience and walk through without the crowds of bigger cities.Pistoia’s countryside offers a vast green landscape like the Montalbano hills, birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci and now famous for its Chianti, “brigidini” biscuits and Tuscan salami. Up in the Apennines you can find charming villages, safe paths for hikers and slopes for ski lovers. The area is home to some historic thermal spas, one of the most important zoos in Tuscany and the magical park of Pinocchio in Collodi.
I've visited Pistoia and its surroundings many times (the city centre is just half an hour by train from Florence) and one of the most impressive things I have noted is the wonderful attention paid to the food. There are no rip offs, no matter who you are you will be served the freshest products. Definitely a great place for living, isn't it?
Here are five foodie ideas for your trip to Pistoia:
1. Coffee break ...and lesson
Do you know how to make a perfect espresso, cappuccino or how many types of coffee you can taste in Italy? Italian coffee is normally a mix of robusta and arabica varieties. However, coffee in northern Italy and France is roasted for longer and is therefore more bitter than its North American counterpart. If you want to learn about the whole coffee process, from the field to your cup book your coffee lesson in Pistoia. Read more, here
2. Bakery cooking class
According to the etymology, Pistoia might comes from the Latin “Pistoria”, which means bakery, perhaps because Pistoia in Roman times was used for supplying the Roman army and housed large ovens. If you come to Pistoia you can learn how to make pizza, schiacciata, chestnut cakes, necci and pappa al pomodoro soup at “Forno Giuntini” bakery, in Quarrata, guided by the best masters of the “Baker for a day” cooking classes.
It's a lesson of about 5 hours, approximately, where you can learn how to knead and cook some of the best local specialties. At the end of the lesson there is a collective dinner with all the food cooked during the course.
3. Herb tour (with dinner) in "agriturismo"
Traditional Tuscan dishes are made with simple ingredients and easy methods but herbs are a must. Pistoia is a great setting for an herb tour. Here you can stay in an "agriturismo" at the top of the hill surrounded by hundreds of olive and learn the art of recognising, collecting and cooking with herbs. Read more about the herb tour with dinner.
4. Traditional Tuscan food cooking classes
Learn how to cook the best dishes of the Tuscan tradition using freshly picked foods from the local farms. At Toscana fair, for example, you can even book a cooking lesson for kids: in addition to the pleasure of tasting healthy food, children can learn through funny games all about food smells, tastes, quantity and colors.
5. Dinner in Piazza della Sala
La Sala (the hall) is the name of one of the main squares of Pistoia (also my favourite square in town). In the eighth century, during the Longobard era, it was the curtis domini regis, the square that housed the palace of the authority called the Gastaldo.
The first churches were built around this square and Pistoia’s commercial life began right here. Today, a daily fruit and vegetable market is held here and it is home to some of the best deli shops, butcher's shops, pubs and restaurants.
What to eat in Pistoia
Pistoia is the perfect city to taste authentic Tuscan cuisine: schiacciata, Tuscan bread, ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, fried mixed meats, peposo meat stew, Tuscan crostini, but also specialties linked to the story of the area as the Carcerato and the Maccheroni pasta with duck sauce. But if you come to Pistoia, you’ll remain enchanted not only with traditional flavors but also with its creative cuisine.
Up in the mountains, the air is fresher and the taste of the food is stronger and sweeter. Traveling through the towns of Abetone, Cutigliano, Piteglio, Pistoia, San Marcello Pistoiese, Sambuca Pistoiese, Marliana, Pescia and Montale, you can find three iconic food products that you can’t miss: the Sorana beans, Pecorino cheese and all the foods made with the local chestnuts.
If you are looking for restaurants, trattorie or café that serve local, traditional specialities and that offer local products straight from the countryside, look for the “Vetrina Toscana” trademark proposals.Photos taken by Flavia Cori during #acenasulweb #viraccontopistoia and #unaltroparcoincitta blog tours organized by Consorzio Turistico Città di Pistoia.