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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Florence - Day 14

Today I head out to visit two towns - Pistoia and Prato.

First stop, Pistoia.

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Pistoia is less than 40 minutes out of Florence - an easy train ride. On this trip I had an unusual gypsy experience - this one came through the carriage and deposited her business begging card explaining how she didn't have any family and no money and could we give her some. How amazing that even when penniless you can still afford printing.

From the station to save time, I hopped on the bus to take me into town. It deposited me near the start of an outdoor market.

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Snapping a few pics as I wandered the streets I made my way towards the Duomo.

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Unfortunately the market was on in full force and the piazza covered with stalls.

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The Duomo was built between the 12th-13th centuries in the Pisan style with 3 tiers of open gelleries, the marble portico was added in the 14th century. The adjoining Campanile is 67 meters high.

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The decoration here including the Madonna and Child with angels in glazed terracotta was created by Andrea della Robbia.

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The Battistero looks good but it's closed for repairs. Started in 1337 it was finished in 1361.

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With mass on in the Duomo I didn't go inside.

There wasn't much point hanging around so I headed back to the station to catch the train that would take me to my next destination - Prato.

I had decided not to buy the return ticket in Florence but to buy it here instead. Unfortunately the ticket machine swallowed my money and decided it didn't want to give me any change but a credit note instead. Argh. I turned to the ticket office and explained what had just happened. He looked at the note and asked if I had any photo id. Argh. Without any photo id he wouldn't be able to give me my money.

ARRRRRRGH. The machine had taken the money less than 10 seconds ago in plain site of this man but I needed photo id to get it back. How totally Italian!

The main reason to visit Prato is to see its Duomo, Basilica Cattedrale di Santo Stefano, the home to the holy relic, Il Sacro Cingolo

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The orgins of the church date back to the 5th century and this version is from the 12th where it grew into a Romanesque Gothic basilica.

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Inside for a mere €3 you can get up close for a great view of the restored frescoes in the high altar by that rather mad monk Lippi as well as works by Fiesole, Pisano and Rossellino to name a few.

Now, gentle readers be warned a colourful rant is on its way and you just want to skip over to the next pretty photo.

Before entering the church, four things are clearly stated, one of which is that photography is not allowed. Not a lot to ask especially since they are kind enough to allow us entry - the least one can do is to abide by the condition.

So as I was standing admiring the works and listening to the headset in strode Mr Brown Shirt Jacket Man and butt-ugly wife - he with video camera glued to his hand. What really irked me is that he made sure that the female attendant couldn't see him before positioning himself behind a pillar to start filming, the butt-ugly wife keeping watch. From where I was standing I could see exactly what he was doing and looking straight at them both I gave them a shake of the head and my general look of disgust. They shuffled along and once again he checked on what the attendant was doing and recommenced filming behind another pillar. Well, that was it for me.

I went up to him in mid-filming and said to him first in Italian that you can't film in here and couldn't he read the sign. He just looked at me blankly so I repeated it in English. Brown Shirt Man and his Butt Ugly Wife just continued with those blank look, grunts their only response. They soon scurried back out the door, no more filming for them - not at that church at least.

His idiotic expression was just bullshit - he knew what he was doing was wrong by the way he made sure he wasn't seen and to give me that look when confronted, I don't think I've been as close to wanting to just smack the living suitcase out of someone. That was just my limit.

These two trips to Europe I've seen such utter disrespect shown by people visiting Churches it makes me want to scream because I know these head tilting pissants wouldn't even dare to behave in that manner in another place. If you have so little respect, do me and everyone else a favour and stay out of the churches.

And I'll also add in regard to bad photo taking behaviour - no flash is there for a reason and those "it doesn't turn off" lame excuses don't cut it. How come you seem to be suddenly able to turn the flash off when no photography is allowed. Yes, I'm talking to all you people with crappy blurry photos of David taken inside Accademia - is your crap photo really a good representation of that work of art? How about trying something new - just admire the work and turn the freaking camera off.

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The Outside Pulpit was designed by Donatello and Michelozzo and it is from this pulpit and the one inside on the back wall that Il Sacro Cingalo is shown to the masses 5 times a year.

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A short walk away is the Palazzo Pretoria

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The next major church is the Chiesa di San Francesco - built between 1281-1331.

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Finally Santa Maria delle Carceri - based on a Greek cross design, building started in 1485, the exterior was never finished as you can see.

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It's only when you step back that you notice the dome.

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There are other churches and buildings to see in both these towns and if you have the time they are worth visiting to spend a few hours away from the crowds of Florence.

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