La città sotterranea riportata finalmente alla luce.
If you aren’t familiar with this Tuscan area to hopelessly love Pistoia forever, it would suffice to go to the nearest point of access to underground Pistoia. As you turn down one of the streets that lead to Piazza Giovanni XXIII, the façade of the Ospedale del Ceppo will appear before you. The difficult thing is to turn your gaze away from the decoration by della Robbia representing the seven Works of Misericordia placed there at the beginning of the 16th century, and that adorn the frontispiece of the building in a way that is universally recognized; the Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow, in fact, has a faithful reproduction of it. To observe the glazed polychrome terracotta – merit of the genius of artists that worked during the 15th and 16th centuries and inventors of conservative techniques that have been handed down to us in tact – is a powerful and unforgettable experience.
The descent into the recently revealed underground city begins on the left under the portico, accessible from the first door. We are talking about the longest subterranean area reclaimed by the region – about 1,200 meters, of which 650 meters are visitable, accessible and enjoyable also by those who require accommodating, secure structures as well as certain kinds of technology.
It is also a tactile journey that involves non-visual knowledge and emotions.
A complex work of restoration and salvaging of the vast underground area unwinds in the subsoil that leads from Piazza del Carmine to Via San Marco, Via del Ceppo, Piazza San Lorenzo, Via del Fiore and brushes past Via dei Giardini and Via dei Baroni. To be able to penetrate the depths of the city allows one to take hold of its history.
From Roman times previous works have been reclaimed with a deviation of another stream of water, the Diecine. The Brana was induced first following the second city wall, functioning as a moat and – after the construction of the third city wall – transformed into a channel serving as a water supply. It is clear, however, that urbanization throughout the centuries, and the layers from the 13th century, blend with testimony of successive constructions from different centuries in heights that vary from two to six meters. Vaults, bases, residue of hydraulic equipment for factories and olive presses, Roman and medieval bridges, walls, towers of the city wall, and the fantastic visual effects of seeing above and below the city near Piazza San Lorenzo: all lead to new and interesting knowledge. What is also not to be missed is the Teatro Anatomico (Anatomical Theater) in the Ospedale del Ceppo, built in the second half of the 18th century.
It is small and functional as well as a true architectural jewel; while still in this area, the Museo dei Ferri chirurgici (Museum of Surgical Instruments) can furthermore satisfy many curiosities.