Stories by the “Creative Curious Travellers 2017” about the city of Pistoia. Thanks to: Giorgio Tesi Group | Discover Pistoia | NATURART | La Sala | FAI Giovani – Pistoia | BrickScape.it | Brandini – Pistoia | Comune di Pistoia | Pistoia Italian Capital of Culture 2017.
* photo gallery after the article
PISTOIA, summer. The streets – with its yellow, pink and orange buildings, interrupted by “zebra-striped churches“, arches and other architectural details of white and black stripes – sleep tight in the hottest hours of the day but there is a small and ancient square – Piazza della Sala or just “la Sala“, like locals here say (from the Longobards’ time) – which is almost always awake: in the morning it’s the market square, fruits and vegetables; in the evening it’s the movida square, locals and travellers meet to have a beer or a glass of wine in the company of friends and good food; a meeting point after work commitments or a visit to the museums and mountains.
Streets become narrow and then turn into alleys until they arrive here, in the heart of the city; in the last few years, Piazza della Sala and its smaller sister, Piazzetta dell’Ortaggio, have become, involving more and more the surrounding arteries, a sort of wine and food district with bars and restaurants for every taste and palate, different in style and menù but with a common denominator: the quality of locals products. Products that mainly come from the nearby mountains, where “pistoiesi” (locals) and vacationers have been always found fresh and clean air in summer, and snow (natural or artificial) in winter (Abetone, the highest location, is a ski resort).
The gentle mountains of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines can be easily reached from the city, either by car or by bus or train; in the latter case, you travel on the historic “Porrettana” line that connects Pistoia to Bologna from 1864: this engineering work, with 47 galleries and 35 bridges and viaducts, was at the time really important and the first railway connection in Italy to entirely cross the Apennine ridge.
And about ingenuity, among the most curious destinations, more or less an hour far from Pistoia, there is in particular a place that continues to entertain the local families and to attract travellers from everywhere: the (Ironworks) Suspension Bridge of San Marcello, a pedestrian walkway that connects the two sides of the Lima torrent between the two small villages, hidden by woods, Mammiano Basso and Popiglio; a bridge that in 1990 – for its length of 212.4 metres – has been included in the Guinness World Records as “the longest pedestrian bridge over the world” (passed then by others, it remains among the first ones). Its construction was by engineer Vincenzo Douglas Scotti, director for many years of the metallurgical plant (now closed) of Mammiamo Basso. Built in 1922, it served to shorten the tiring itinerary that the numerous workers from Popiglio had to do daily to go to work. Today, after various maintenance works, it continues to be crossed by curious people from all over the world who, despite the risk of vertigo, want to experience that strange and unique feeling of walking suspended among the mountains, lulled by the slight movement of the structure swaying with the people’s passage. So light, yet so safe.
So, after having crossed one of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in the world, you just want to find out what else the Pistoiese Mountain is hiding, and then you can follow the various themed itineraries suggested by the Ecomuseum. After a day spent between curves and panoramas, big trees and tiny inhabited towns full of stories, in just over an hour, we are again on the plain, amidst plant nurseries surrounding the City. We have thus the feeling that humans here, despite having built a beautiful urban centre, rich in art and culture, have never wanted to detach too much from Nature.
[text: CCTeam + photos: Austin Blair]