Again “surprising” is the feature word for the post, because you know what Prato has that I was not expecting?? A CASTLE. An actual castle with crenellations (the square-ish things on top) and battlements and stone spiral staircases and sculpted lions and all! I had no idea.
It wasn’t very big, and it really only had its exterior walls; it was just an open space on the inside, but it was awesome because it was set up with a stage and seating– they do plays and concerts and show movies there. But it was FREE to walk around in and on, and visitors got to go up the spiral staircases:
and walk around the walls of a CASTLE! There is something about castles which makes me feel so much more strongly that I’m in Europe and someplace foreign. Perhaps it’s princess associations from my girlhood. Castles seemed so far away and so magical that they tend to blow my mind now a little more than soaring cathedrals and churches do. How often in your life can you say, “I’m walking around a castle right now!” Not so often, for me at least.
We pretended to shoot arrows out from behind the stones, which are in surprisingly good condition since this thing was built by the Hohenstaufens before 1250. Though there were a few odd plants growing out of the walls, which I always appreciate:
And there were also these awesome things set at regular intervals between the crenellations. They’re almost certainly lanterns (though clearly not used very recently), but they look like bombs:
We meandered around the top of the walls for awhile, admiring the view. You could definitely see the industrial sprawl of Prato from up there, but in some ways the contrast between the modern industry and the historical center was compelling. I would like to go back to Prato– not least of all because we couldn’t go in to Santa Maria delle Carceri because there was a marathon mass going on. I can appreciate a good centrally-planned/greek cross church, and that’s certainly one of the best of them.
But beyond castle surprises and reminders of past Renaissance architecture classes, there was one more big surprise from Prato. We spent a not insignificant amount of time browsing the market while we were there and perhaps most unexpected of all was what we ended up bringing home with us:
It’s quite heavy and a bit dirty, but it is also AWESOME. Expect future posts to be written on that!