Dwight Peck's personal website

Two weeks in Piemonte and Tuscany

in northwest Italy's worst weather in yonks

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

We wanted to visit Lucca and environs, so here we are in the environs . . .

A day's outing in Prato (part 2)

We've just come down the street from the interesting Duomo di Prato, and here we are at the Palazzo Pretorio, a building created out of three existing buildings from the 13th century (the red-brick tower house on the right of the façade) and 14th century (on the left of the façade), the residence of the podestà and the courts and prison. The restorations into a single administrative building were done in the 16th century, but over time it fell into disuse and was nearly demolished, until in 1909 modern restorations began and it was turned into the municipal museum that opened in 1912. After more recent redesigns and restoration, the Museum reopened to the public in September 2013.

The museum is first rate, both architecturally inside and in its holdings: as this stormy Madonna and Kids by Jacopo dal Ponte (called Bassano) from around 1560 . . .

. . . and this Mystical Marriage of St Catherine by Bassano's son Leandro 20 or 30 years later.

The layout of the museum, and incorporation of the old building, is spare and beautiful.

Ouch! (The Crowning with Thorns, attributed to Caravaggio, ca. 1604)

Madonna showing off her kid whilst standing on the other kids' heads (Luca Signorelli, ca. 1515)

Madonna with Saint Stephen and John the Baptist (Filippino Lippi, ca. 1502)

Madonna and baby, terra cotta by Donatello, ca. 1418

St Anthony the Abbot (Andrea della Robbia, majolica, ca. 1494)

By Filippo Lippi and Fra Diamante (ca.1466), this is the Madonna bestowing her Holy Girdle or Holy Belt (the Sacro Cíngolo), which is even now residing under guard in a chapel in the Cathedral down the street.

In the Museum's multi-media celebration of the Sacro Cíngolo, we see the presentation of the Holy Belt to the people from Donatello's pulpit outside the Duomo . . .

There it is, the very Sacred Girdle itself . . .

Have a good look. Take your time; use your opera glasses and iPad cameras. This is it! Goat's wool, evidently.

Sacred art: The Hall of Polyptychs

The Crazy Cult of Circumcision again, by the local artist Paolo degli Organi

The Hall of Enormous Paintings, in which . . .

. . . it would be easy to get lost.

Christ dressed as Russell Brand, with an interesting Mary Magdalene (the 'Noli me tangere' scenario), by the Caravaggesque Neapolitan Battistello Caracciolo, ca. 1618.

Jesus with a wedding ring (and a tennis ball); another Mystical Marriage of St Catherine (ca. 1530)

The cathedral belltower from the museum window

Kristin with her hand in the lion's mouth again

The Room of the Heads

The evolution of hair styles over time

Vanity, an attractive member of Pietro della Vecchia's series of allegories (ca. 1650)

A kitchen scene worthy of the great Joachim Beuckelaer of Antwerp (Lazarus and the Rich Man's banquet, Jacopo and Leandro dal Ponte, ca. 1580)

The rain's let up a bit. What's next?

Kristin checking out the Piazza del Comune. The statue in the background represents Francesco Datini, the Pratese arms dealer who followed the popes to Avignon for the business and became the preferred luxury goods dealer to the college of cardinals.

The Palazzo Pretorio, the fountain of Bacchino (1665), and a guy selling roasted chestnuts.

A hopefully benign police presence

The Chiesa di San Francesco, and the street market in the Piazza di San Francesco

That's the last we'll see of Kristin for a while; assessing the relative value of every article on sale is not the work of a moment.

An obelisk for Garibaldi in the piazza

Not much to detain us, so far

The Fontana di Piazza San Francesco

You never know when you'll stumble upon a real treasure.

The Church of San Francesco, begun in 1281, completed in 1331, with a façade in the regionally characteristic alternating green and white stripes.

The interior, however, was restored in the early 20th century in a "neo-medieval" style -- merchant to the cardinals Datini provided the altar trappings and is buried next to it. Not much to detain us.

Nothing more to detain us here either.

We proceed.

The Castello dell'Imperatore and . . .

. . . just next door, the Church of Santa Maria delle Carceri

The castle was started in 1237 by Frederick II, "Stupor Mundi", the Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperor, the northernmost of his fortifications trying to bring the northern cities into his Sicilian, southern Italian, and German holdings. It was unfinished when he died in 1250 and never completed. The front door's still open!

It was but it's not. Worse luck, it's just closing for the day.

Silver-tongued Kristin has got the kindly wardress to open the door for very brief glance around. At least we won't have to speculate about it forever.

Thanks for that (as for much else)

The Emperor's Castle

The Church of Santa Maria delle Carceri. When a little kid noticed an image of the Madonna and Baby Jesus on a wall of the city prison in 1484, Lorenzo de Medici sent one of his architect buddies over to build this Greek Cross basilica inspired by a Brunelleschi chapel in Florence, as the conical cupola suggests.

-- Errm, nothing much to detain us here.

We're wandering back past the Duomo reflecting upon dinner back in Lucca.

We're hurrying to the Prato rail station, with speculative dinner options in Lucca marching in ranks before the receptive mind.

The city walls of Lucca and . . .

. . . the secret passage up amongst them.

A headlong dream-filled rush along the Via Fillungo . . .

. . . to dinner at the Tre Merli, a recently-opened operation of the B+B Anfiteatro that was very satisfactory.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 12 January 2015.

Piemonte and
Nov. 2014