Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 4: Saturday, April 30: Prato

The weather this morning is a bit uncertain….cool and overcast and some rain is forecast. After breakfast–which we have standing up at the tiny bar/tabacchi just around the corner from the Residence–the weather improves so we set out on foot for our morning sightseeing. First stop is at the Biscottificio Antonio Mattei who make the most famous traditional biscotti in Tuscany…we will bring a bag to our friends in Vicchio.

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We walk around the corner to take a look inside Santa Maria in Carcere, a church with a simple Greek cross design, but there is a mass going on so we decide to come back later. It is only a few more blocks to the Museum of Textiles (it's amazing how much easier it is to navigate around Prato now compared to when we arrived three days ago.)

The museum is housed in one of the oldest textile factories in Prato–the old Campolmi mill.

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We are completely blown away by the exhibits at the museum….it starts off with a history of the textile industry in Prato and continues in the orientation section with amazingly clear explanations of the development of weaving techniques and the different materials that are used in the process. The translations of the exhibit text are a treat and the illustrations are clear and helpful–so even if you don't know the difference between a warp and a weft, you will learn something at the museum.

You can see one of the old boilers that powered the machinery

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and get a good idea of the process that allows the steam to work all the different machines.

We catch the current exhibit on its last day….Ceramics and Fabrics: Dialogue between the arts of the Tuscan Renaissance. The show compares the concurrent development of similar artistic forms in the two mediums and there are stunning displays of fabrics and clothing as well as pottery from that time. A little of this exhibition went a long way for me but Diana was quite enchanted with it.

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The upstairs gallery displays dozens of examples of different kinds of fabrics as well old machinery and tools and newer versions used in the industry.

The textile museum is obviously well funded by the industry but it is superbly done,
the exhibits were terrific and we learned a lot.
Our friends, Jane and Carlo, live in the country outside of Vicchio which is located north of Florence in a green and mountainous area called the Mugello. Carlo is a great cook and we always enjoy our visits with them. After lunch, we get a tour of their "estate" and see the newly arrived chickens that they will raise.

Back in Prato, I walk over to the big Castello in the center of town…

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it is completely empty but I climb up to the parapet and enjoy the views of the rooftops and church towers of Prato.

Tomorrow (May 1) is one of the five days of the year that the Sacra Cintola (Sacred Girdle) is taken out of its case and shown to the people. I stop by the tourist office to ask what time the ceremony is and, after searching on the internet, the lady tells me 6 pm…so it looks like we will miss the ceremony this time.

We decide to return to Il Baghino for our farewell dinner…..the lure of the steak tartare is too great to resist….and it doesn't disappoint. Before the main event, i have a hearty bean and farro soup and Diana has the house special of ravioli with spinach. For dessert, I have my first panna cotta of the trip–very good–and Diana has a "sgroppino"–a slushie made of lemon sorbetto and vodka–which is very refreshing. We say our good-byes to our "friends" at Il Baghino, take a quick walk in the Piazza Duomo and head back to the hotel. (I neglected to mention in earlier reports about Il Baghino that the bread is also terrific—three varieties each night including an addictive crisp version of the Tuscan flat bread schiacciata.)Tomorrow we leave for Genova.

Jim and Diana

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