photos by Giulia Scarpaleggia
More of a one-stop shop than a square, Pistoia’s singular piazza della Sala is one of the most multifaceted in the region, and its marketplace is the pulse of the city. Though it’s arguably the commercial core of the centro storico, its character is more one of a community hub than a haggling center. Just a few steps from Pistoia Cathedral and the former Jewish ghetto, it possesses its own distinct sense of small-city sanctity, lovingly referred to as La Sala by the locals.
Punch-packing seasonal produce lines the colorful stalls, which open early in the morning for the eager shoppers. Wednesdays and Saturdays are when the crowd really picks up, as area farmers come bearing fruit. Beyond the bustle of the bancarelle, piazza della Sala’s identity would be lost without the local mesticheria and thelively shops, bakeries, restaurants, wine bars and cafes framing the square.
Open daily and well after dark, the produce market has momentum all month long, but the square also hosts a special monthly series called the Zucca Barucca,’ showcasing folk art and artisan goods and offering a selection of organic products.
What will pull you back to this Pistoiese gem, however, is how its face changes as the hours pass. Throw back an espresso if you want to face elbowing through the early birds; dine solo at a neighborhood restaurant if you like your lunch with a side of people-watching; or stop in for a glass of wine to witness Tuscan nightlife at its easiest and most natural. No matter what time of day you stop by, however, you can always expect to see the standard groups of nonni shooting the breeze.