Prato! (Not Forlì)

So, I didn’t go to Forlì this weekend. An apartment that needed cleaning and laundry that needed doing prevented me from undertaking multi-hour train rides with a connection in Bologna (and the Bologna train station is my mortal enemy.  Every time I go through Bologna something goes seriously wrong). So instead of Forlì we went to Prato! And Prato turned out to be surprisingly lovely and (non-surprisingly) empty:

the charming romanesque duomo of Prato. Note the complete absence of humans in this photo.

The cathedral here had a surprising (that’s the feature word of this post!) number of Renaissance artworks by major Florentine artists. Like that exterior pulpit you see on the right of the facade and see better here:

exterior pulpits are for winners

That sucker’s a Donatello. And on the inside there was another pulpit and tombs/Madonna and Childs by other big-name Renaissance sculptors. There were also some pretty serious frescoes by Filippo Lippi and Paolo Uccello and other folks you probably haven’t heard of. And we had these things to ourselves! We could have climbed up into an Antonio Rossellino/Mino da Fiesole pulpit and started preaching about the glories and righteousness of chocolate with hazelnuts or aqua frizzante without anybody being the wiser (and can I get an amen to that!).

Prato, similarly to Pistoia, is in no way a tourist destination, which means lunch is good and cheap, churches and piazze are empty, and the book/prints/old stuff market can be explored with leisure, despite the cruel sun and humidity:

books and books and books! (and other cool stuff too!)

I had heard during my various times in Florence that Prato was not nice, that there was nothing to see there, and no reason to go. These ideas are objectively wrong. The center of Prato is charming. I can’t speak to the rest of the city, which is admittedly rather sprawl-y and industrial (and also includes the second largest immigrant Chinese population in Italy, which is apparently nearly completely segregated and certainly complicates the social/economic dynamics of the town in ways in which I am wholly unqualified to examine), but I would happily take the 25 minute train ride back to meander amongst the charming-ness. For example:

the other side of that cute! building

The center of Prato is actually quite ideal for seeing a little Italian city that functions primarily outside of the tourist industry. I can’t recall seeing a single other person there that seemed like a tourist or day-tripper. It turned out to be really pleasant and full of things I wasn’t expecting. There were a few more surprises (including one we even brought home!), which I will tell you about tomorrow, so stay tuned…


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