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Signs of the past: Pistoia Underground

Pistoia Underground is not simply a place to visit, but it’s the area that reveals origins and history of this small Tuscan town. And therefore it’s an essential visit to get to know the city. The Museum of Pistoia Underground revives the Vecchio Ospedale del Ceppo, the hospital in which the Pistoian population was treated during the outbreak of the Black Death in 1348.

The Museum of Pistoia Underground: a visit not to be missed

The Museum is a necessary course for local inhabitants but also for tourists. A visit that explains the story of this Hospital along 650 metres of path. The first part of the path brings visitors into contact with some historical records, such as a Roman bridge, two twin mills dating back to the 12th century and medieval washings. The visit continues with the smallest Anatomical Amphitheater of the world, a gem that represents the Pistoian medical tradition. The Amphitheater was used by doctors to dissect bodies and allow students to attend anatomy lessons.The place is very narrow, in fact it could accommodate only 10 people at a time, but it’s extremely impressive.

Still on the subject of medicine, visitors can admire the “Sala dell’Accademia Medica“, named after Filippo Pacini, Pistoian anatomist and pathologist, with an extensive collection of medical devices dating back to the 18th and 19th century. This is a direct testimony of what was medical progress over the past few centuries and how Pistoia was at the forefront in this sector. Just think, for example, of the scalpel, named in this period “pistorienses gladii” precisely because it was invented within these walls.

Pistoia and Ospedale del Ceppo: “Fregio della Robbia”

Considered one of the most innovative hospitals at the time, Ospedale del Ceppo has also an artistic value, because its lodge is decorated with the famous “Fregio della Robbia“, created by the artist Santi Buglioni, that represents with realism the Sette Opere di Misericordia (Seven Works of Mercy) carried out within this structure. The first block represents Vestire gli ignudi (Clothe the naked), while the second one is Ospitare i pellegrini (Shelter the homeless) and the third one is Curare gli infermi (Visit the sick).

fregio della robbia

Going further to the fourth block, entitled Visitare i carcerati (Visit the imprisoned), we can observe a scene where food is given to those who are in the slammer, then the visitors see the scene Seppellire i morti (Bury the dead), showing a funerale and a burial. The sixth part is  Dar da mangiare agli affamati (Feed the hungry) and represents the distribution of bread among poor people. Finally the last scene, Dar da bere agli assetati (Refresh the thirsty). This block stands out for stylistic diversity in comparison to the others, because it was made by another artist, Filippo Paladini. And it’s possible to note the differences at first glance, even though the whole work remains wonderful.

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