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Report 1176: September Song: High Notes of a Few Precious Days in Italy

By Roz from Massachusetts, Fall 2006

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Page 12 of 16: Pistoia: I Like Your Style

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Duomo and bell tower in Pistoia

The next day, we decided to take the advice of another Slow Traveler, Alice Twain, and check out the town of Pistoia, which was about an hour's drive inland on the autostrada. As Alice had said, it is mostly off the tourist radar, but has a lot worth seeing, plus some very good food. We ate at Osteria La BotteGaia, via del Lastrone, 17. DH said his cinghiale stew with polenta was a highlight of the trip. My favorite taste treat of the day was gelato at 53 Via Cavour, beside the church of San Giovanni Forcivitas. Really good dark chocolate gelato (my favorite) is hard to find, and this was almost as good as the best of my life, last year in Bologna.

Pistoia's medieval center has some nice spaces and interesting buildings, although not as much self-conscious charm as more touristed towns. It also has lots and lots of stripes on just about every one of its buildings. Check out my Liguria photo album to see a sampling, along with the beautiful Ospedale del Ceppo and its colorful terracotta friezes of the Seven Acts of Mercy.

After a very enjoyable afternoon exploring Pistoia, we should have headed straight on back to our villa. But I foolishly lobbied for returning via Vinci, which wasn't too far off our route. What a tourist trap that place is -- I guess from trying to cash in on the Da Vinci Code craze. It was full of giant buses unloading masses of people to filter through the museum, which we found a huge disappointment. Italy does much worse by Leonardo's birthplace than France does to commemorate the place where he died.

The museum in Vinci had insufficient explanations of the models on display and was very unsuccessful in communicating a sense of the man and his personality. The woman at the desk was bored and unhelpful, and even the bathrooms didn't work. By contrast, the Clos du LucÚ in Amboise (where Leonardo spent the last years of his life) is a beautiful place that leaves you with a much deeper appreciation for and understanding of Leonardo's amazing intellect and accomplishments. (See my Slow Trav trip report #653 for more about Amboise. Link in Resources section.)

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