Category Archives: Italy

Visiting Viareggio

What a treat this turned out to be! Viareggio is just over an hour away from Prato by train. (Except yesterday, when we were delayed by 30 minutes.) That was fine, there were interesting towns to be seen as we made our leisurely way.

Somewhere between Prato and Viareggio

The city, which is part of the Versilia Riviera, is tucked in between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apuan Alps which gives it a most appealing setting.

The day was warm and sunny, the people I met were friendly and helpful. In a pedestrian only street, a market with tempting fresh produce was in my path toward the beach. 

The well trodden sand was quite fine, lovely to walk on

The water was so blue, but a bit cool on this spring day.

The sky and the mountains reflected the blue of the sea.

This fellow is the symbol of the Viareggio Carnevale.

Two local policewomen directed me to the Villa Argentina, which is a lovely example of the Arte Nouveau (or Liberty) architecture. On the way, I passed a large public park. This peppy dog had scented something very interesting in the grass.

For those who are Irish, there’s a craik coming soon.

The villa is a beauty and there is free access to the first 2 floors and the terrace. 

This slide presentation shows just some of the lovely architectural features to be seen. (I like Arte Nouveau, do you?)

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On the ground floor, there is a glittering ball room. 

This is comprehensively described in Francis’s excellent post: tiger-hunting-in-viareggios-most-exquisite-art-nouveau-villa



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The new and the old in Prato

In the wide Piazza San Marco stands an eye catching marble sculpture which was donated to the city by the English artist, Henry Moore. The massive work is made from 30 blocks of marble, chosen by Moore from the Apuane quarries.

Moore titled it most romantically “Square shape with cut”. 

Contrasting with this modern work is a painted crucifix from the 14th century, found in the 13th century church of San Domenico. This crucifix was the work of Lorenzo di Niccolò.

This church is rather huge, as shown by a view from the side.

The bas reliefs that adorned this side of the church have become softly eroded by time and the elements.

And, I might finish with a stemma, also found in Prato.



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This particular stemma (coat of arms) in Pistoia both  fascinated and frustrated me. The latter emotion was because even my super detective on the ground in Pistoia, Miky of couldn’t seem to locate it again in her city. She recruited a friend and they went out determined to find the darn thing. 

As I saw it last year

One day, they had a breakthrough. A boutique which was undergoing renovations, and whose facade was covered with scaffolding and protective material, was finally revealed. And, there was the mystery stemma!

On Wednesday, I finally met Miky and she took me for one of her excellent walks around the city she loves so dearly. Our last stop was at the boutique where she was able to ask the owner if he knew anything about this coat of arms. He did, indeed, much to our delight. He was not averse to a photo with the delightful Miky, whom he has known for many years.


Miky and the owner of the boutique, Signor Fagni

The coat of arms belonged to a Florentine family, by the name of Gargelli. 

Thank you, Miky, for your persistence.  

The Gargelli family coat of arms


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A river flows through it

The Bisenzio River, a tributary of the Arno River,  flows through Prato. Yesterday, I noticed quite a few anglers out trying their luck. (Or just passing time, perhaps.) 

This fellow caught a nice sized fish just a moment after he cast the lure into the water. He’ll be having lovely fresh fish for dinner, I’d say.

I also saw many nutria on the river bank and in the water, but they proved difficult to capture on the camera. Nutria are described as ‘a cross between a beaver and a New York sewer rat’! Happily, I found a video on YouTube that shows the river, these semi-aquatic rodents AND fish. I really didn’t even have to leave the apartment today.

PS This is blog post 1000, according to the WordPress counter. Happy whatever to the blog.


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While I was sleeping

Apparently things were happening that were out of my control. I opened my eyes and saw this. I have no idea what it says. Is this what they mean when they say “A parallel universe”?

When next I became aware of my surroundings, this is what I saw outside the window. “Blessings to you, TV antennae”.

Aha! Now I remember, I booked a trip to Italy, and there I was in Rome.

On my way back from the train station, where I booked my place on train number 8344 to Prato, I  stumbled across several young ladies wearing laurel wreaths on their head. Is this yet another fashion trend that has passed me by? It seems to be a celebration involving prosecco, flowers and confetti, as well as that fetching cranial adornment.

After a cunning bribe later (“Would you like to appear on a world famous blog?”), I am pleased to present Jennifer, a newly graduated Bachelor of Education, whose students will be very lucky to have this vivacious young lady as their guide to all things scholastic. May she enjoy her chosen path in life and always be as happy as  she was today. Grazie, Dottore Jennifer. 

I loved that the fellow grabbed the flowers for the photo op.



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In which I’m given some answers

Thanks to Miky (*)  who writes a most interesting blog, we now know what this stemma I saw in Pistoia represents. 


The pig/swine is the attribute of the Cancellieri family, who once figured in the political life of Tuscany. This particular depiction can be found on the facade of the palace that bears their name.

If heraldry is of interest to you, follow this link and run the Italian through a translator.  Cancellieri

(*) Miky blogs at  She is trying to find some information about the other image shown on my post  frustration That’s over and above the call of duty, I reckon!


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I saw these in Pistoia, and now, of course, I’m kicking myself for not finding out more about them. What are the odds I shan’t be able to find them if I go back to this interesting city in Tuscany?




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