If you’re visiting Tuscany, you may not have ‘visiting a zoo’ at the top of your list. But, the Zoo di Pistoia (Pistoia Zoo – you’ll hear it called by both names) is a small, intimate zoo worthy of a visit. It makes a nice break from visit Florence’s famous museums and stomping around the city’s pavement. You’ll enjoy it as a couple, a family, or even on your own.
Looking for more things to do in Tuscany with your kids?
Check out my post on 70+ Things to Do With Kids in Tuscany!
The zoo was founded in 1970 by an Italian, Raffaello Galardini. His goal was to educate Italians about incredible animals from around the globe. At that time, you couldn’t just turn on Netflix and watch Planet Earth whenever you wanted to – the Zoo di Pistoia gave children and adults an up-close look at some of Earth’s fascinating animals.
There are over 400 animals on more than 7 hectares at the Zoo di Pistoia today.
The management at the Zoo di Pistoia has been working hard to improve the zoo each year – enlarging and improving the animals’ habitats and even moving animals if another zoo has a better habitat or situation.
You can easily visit the entire Pistoia Zoo in a morning or afternoon. We recommend visiting in the morning when the animals seem to be most active. It’s mostly shaded, so you’ll enjoy it even on a hot Tuscan summer day.
Most of the exhibits allow you to feel very close to the animals. The animal habitats are large enough for the animals to have space to roam, but not so large that you (or your little kids) won’t be able to find the animals.
Our Recommended Visit at the Zoo di Pistoia / Pistoia Zoo
Buy your tickets at the front entrance. If you think you’ll visit multiple times (you live in the area or visit Tuscany frequently), buy the annual pass. You can pay with cash or with credit card. Pick up a paper map at the entrance or click on the map above to access Pistoia Zoo’s digital map (you can even zoom in and out on the map).
Leaving the ticket booth, walk straight ahead toward the bear. Starting this way puts the largest hill first, which is helpful if you have kids. They’ll have plenty of excitement and energy at the beginning of the day, and the hill won’t phase them. You’ll eventually run into the playground.
Stop at the playground for playtime and a picnic lunch. There are small bathrooms at the playground, but if you need to change diapers, you’ll need to go to the bathrooms by the snack bar, close to the entrance. After lunch, continue visiting the animals. Don’t forget to go inside the tropical building, (which is our favorite!), with its snakes, insects, amphibians, alligators, and crocodiles.
Finally, are you even in Italy if you don’t stop for gelato (packaged) at the snack bar on the way out?
Some of Our Favorite Animals to Visit at the Zoodi Pistoia / Pistoia Zoo
- The petting zoo with its farm animals. This is a popular stop for kids of all ages. You can feed the goats if you have small change (there is a machine with their pellets next to the fence).
- The guinea pigs
- The pygmy hippo
- The giraffes, who are always happy for a snack. You can feed them if you have small change to put in the small machine that holds their food pellets.
- The reptiles and the insects in the tropical building.
- The penguins – how can anyone not enjoy watching penguins?
- The lions and tigers
- The meerkats. Your kids will enjoy seeing the meerkats from the little plastic bubble inside the habitat – they’ll need to walk into a small tunnel to get to it.
- The red-cheeked gibbon
- The dinosaur replicas
Where to Eat at the Zoodi Pistoia / Pistoia Zoo
There is a snack bar located at the entrance that has simple food (like panini) and plenty of drinks, ice cream and popsicles to choose from.
A small restaurant sits next to the snack bar. We haven’t eaten at it yet, but it has been recommended by others we know.
We usually pack a lunch and eat at the picnic tables in the play area. There are also picnic tables throughout the zoo, almost all of them in the shade.
How to Get to the Zoo di Pistoia / Pistoia Zoo
The zoo is about 45km (and 45 minutes) from Florence. It can be reached by car, bus, or train/bus. The zoo is also easily reached from the Tuscan Mediterranean Coast. No matter which direction you’re coming from, the most convenient way to reach the Pistoia Zoo is with your own vehicle.
From Florence by Car
The journey usually 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic and where you leave from in Florence.
TAKE the A-11/E76 toward Pisa. EXIT Pistoia, pay the toll, and stay to the left toward Pistoia Ovest. Exit the road at Pistoia Ovest. Turn LEFT at the stop sign onto SP17. Turn RIGHT into the large free parking lot.
Important: Don’t follow Google Maps if it takes you off the SP17. You may be routed over some bridges that are not passable with a vehicle.
From Florence by Bus
The trip by bus takes 1.5 to 2 hours.
Not the best option because you’ll need to change buses a couple of times. The buses leave from Florence’s SITA station, located next to the Santa Maria Novella train station.
From Florence by Train
Arriving to the zoo by train (and bus or taxi) usually takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Take the train from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station to the Pistoia station. Then take a taxi or bus (see below) from Pistoia’s train station to the zoo.
From Pistoia by Car or Bus
The zoo is only about 10 minutes from Pistoia and can be easily reached with your own car or a taxi. If you’d like to take the bus, catch the 59 from the Pistoia train station. The bus takes you to the bus stop right in front of the zoo.
Parking at the Zoo di Pistoia / Pistoia Zoo
The zoo has a huge free parking lot. There isn’t much shade, but there is plenty of space for parking cars and larger vehicles. There is not an electric car charging station.
When to Visit Zoo di Pistoia / Pistoia Zoo
Don’t visit on an Italian holiday like pasquetta, the day after Easter. The zoo is small, and it will be too crowded to enjoy your visit.
Try to visit on a weekday if possible, and during while schools are in session. The weekends can be crowded and although there are school visits during the week, it’s never overrun.
What to Bring to the Zoo di Pistoia / Pistoia Zoo
- Lunch – Pack a lunch if you want to picnic.
- Hat and Sunscreen – It’s mostly shaded, but some of the areas (especially near the elephants, hippos, and giraffes) are exposed. If it’s a hot day, you’ll want to be protected.
- Small change – Bring 20 centesimi pieces if you’d like to feed some of the animals (like the giraffe or goats).
- Walking shoes – There are some hills at the zoo and you’ll be walking your entire visit.
- Baby stroller or carrier – Your kids may want a rest!
- Hand sanitizer – There are three bathrooms at the zoo, but you may want to sanitize while you’re walking around, especially after feeding any animals.
Other Things to See Near the Zoo di Pistoia / Pistoia Zoo (by Car)
- Pistoia City Center – 10 minutes
- Pinocchio Park – 35 minutes
- Garzoni Garden and Collodi Butterfly House – 35 minutes
- Villa Torrigiani – 45 minutes
- Leonardo da Vinci Museum – 35 minutes
- Florence City Center – 45 minutes
- Lucca City Center – 40 minutes
- Pisa (Leaning Tower) – 50 minutes
Q: How much does it cost?
A: Visit the Pistoia Zoo’s website for up-to-date price information.
Q: Do all children need to pay for admission?
A: Visit the Pistoia Zoo’s website for the most up-to-date information. Currently, children 2 years old and under don’t need to pay.
Q: How does the Zoo di Pistoia get its animals?
A: Each of the zoo’s animals was born in captivity. The zoo does not take any animals from the wild.
Q: Does the zoo do any conservation work?
A: The Pistoia Zoo works to protect endangered species and a portion of your admission fee goes toward these programs.
Q: Are there any activities or animal encounters?
A: Yes, there are, but in all the times we’ve been to the zoo, we’ve never seen one. Check the zoo’s website and confirm with someone at the zoo before going if you’d like to see one.
Q: How long does it take to visit the zoo?
A: You could spend all day, but you could also have a great visit in 2-3 hours.
Q: Can the park be visited in a wheelchair?
A: Yes, it is possible to visit the entire park in a wheelchair. There are some hills, both up and down. There are a few places with stairs, but there is always an alternate route. The playground area’s ground is covered in small rocks and would probably be difficult for a wheelchair.
Q: Can campers park in the zoo’s parking lot?
A: Yes, campers can park in the large parking lot, but not overnight.