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Published: September 9th 2015
We have spent our last week in Italy living with the cousins in Prato. Some may not have heard of Prato. As cities in Italy go, this is not a place which is on the tourist map. And that is precisely what has made the last part of our journey here so interesting.
Apart from the fact that this place is special to me because four of the people I love live here, I am quite glad that this time around (I first came here in 2008), I am getting to know the city a little better. Yesterday, when Mark and I were strolling in the early Monday morning calm of an Italian town that has yet to fully awaken, we were approached by a couple asking us for some information about where to find a news agency. Although I was unable to help them, I directed them to the place where we had just had a morning coffee and felt very chuffed that I had blended in to the extent that someone thought I was local! This is not a place where there are hoards of tourists. What better place for me to feel like a native? Later, while Mark
attended his morning conference sessions, I did a tour of the old city centre. The Duomo di Santo Stefano has some seriously good frescoes by Filippo Lippi. There is also a really beautiful "glass" pulpit (glass shaped that is and made of marble). Later we visited the medieval home of Francesco Datini, a merchant of Prato who in the 1400s created a company that was so vast and because of which he became so rich, that he lent money to the King of France! The King also stayed at Francesco's house. It is one of two medieval houses that are still able to be visited in Tuscany. Entrance to the one in Prato is free. Apparently, about 300,000 letters of business and personal correspondence by Francesco were found in the house and these provide a unique insight into how economic and trade life was undertaken at that time. After seeing the sights, we were treated to a tasting of local specialities; biscotti di Prato ( also known as cantuccinii) and a cake known as La Mantovana together with tastings of Vin Santo. Yummy! Of course, Prato is only a shortish train trip away from Florence and we have popped into
that magical city twice already. On our first visit, conference drinks were held atop the Hotel Astoria Boscole on it's rooftop garden. It was a stunning view! On the second night, we caught up with friends from Pavia and a couple from Adelaide to share bistecca fiorentina. For lovers of meat, this is really something! We travelled to Greve in Chianti on Tuesday and enjoyed the sampling of wines and consumption of seriously deliciously local small goods and cheeses at Enoteca Falorni. If you do not have enough time to properly visit wineries in Chianti, this is the solution. The place is huge and the system for sampling is high tech. All you need is a credit card and a willingness to imbibe. Half the week has passed and only a few days are left now.
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