Prato Tour #3 - Contemporary Art & Industrial Archeology

The third tour that we made into the Prato area took us to an exhibition of art from two artists at the Medici villa we had visited previously and then three industrial sites that had a lot to do with the development of Prato - a textile factory (now a museum and a public library), a small town that grew up around an old paper mill and lastly, an old paper-mill in the hills behind Prato.

The exhibition of art was in the renovated stables of the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano, situated just outside the villa wall on the street at one end of the limonaia in the villa gardens.
The size and architecture of the stable complex gave us another insight into the wealth of the Medici family. It was built complete with columns and a 2nd storey to house the staff looking after the horses!
The building has been fully renovated as an art gallery space - it is very impressive.
The Medici villa limonaia is the white building to the left
Inside the "stables"!

The two artists being exhibited were Ardengo Soffici and Mario Sironi, both impressionist painters from the early 1900s through until after the 2nd World War.
Ardengo Soffici was the grandfather of one of Lyn's art colleagues at Il Bisonte. Both artists has supported Fascism and Mussolini and so were shunned after the fall of fascism.

The next stop was at the old textile factory in Prato that has been turned into a textile museum, exhibiting examples of woven textiles as well as lace and other fabrics. The other half of the factory has become the town public library - a beautiful big library and there were lots of people inside reading books and papers. There was also a cafe at the rear of the complex looking out onto a large open-air area.

In the courtyard was the old tower and a huge water reservoir where the water was drawn from a spring and stored for the fabric dying. The water is over 5 metres deep!
This reservoir has now been turned into a large water feature with a fountain.

There was a lot of very interesting old textile manufacturing equipment in the museum, including weaving looms and carding machines swell as lots of hand-tools.

Even the old boilers have been retained as an exhibit!

During lunch break, Lyn and I walked further into Prato and found the river Bisenzio. This is quite a nice river that runs right through the centre of the city along the edge of the old walls.

After lunch, we headed into the hills behind Prato to visit some more modern archeological sites.
The first factory is derelict, but is an important piece of history to Prato as the town of "La Briglia" developed around the factory. La Biglia means "the bridle" and the name comes from the logo of the factory which originally was a paper mill, the paper being made from recycled rags.

The factory was turned into a textile factory in the late 1800s and the Forti family who owned the mill really looked after the workers, building a hospital, a school and workers houses.
The Forti family; look at the joker in the second row, doesn't every family have one?
It was highly successful business and the whole town boomed due to the requirement for textiles in the first part of the 20th century.
The factory was expanded and they even built a large clock-tower for the town as a sign of the area's prosperity.

During the 2nd World War, because the Fortis were Jewish, they were forced to sell the business (for nothing!) and they managed to escape from Italy. The factory then lost it's direction and closed in 1954.
The town is still surviving, but I suspect that it is mere shadow of how it used to be.
The local church has a bell-tower that, apparently, is a memorial to all those taken by the Germans during the 2nd world war. At one stage, there was a strike in the factory, so Hitler decreed that 10% of the work-force be arrested and sent to concentration camps in Germany. Most never returned!

The last site was another old paper mill further up in the hills that used water power to run the equipment.
The water diversion canals are still operational and are now used to generate power back into the grid as well as run the equipment being used in the factory's current role, that of sorting clothes for recycling.
The building is huge and the exposed ceilings are something to see, but it is quite sad to see such a majestic building in such a dilapidated state and slowly crumbling away.

The valley that these buildings sits in is beautiful and very quiet. It was very nice to get out of the city bustle and appreciate the greenery of the hills.
The factory sitting in a valley behind Prato

Some of the old water-powered drive system.
Love those ceilings!

Bales of recycled clothes
The tour was very interesting, although very different to the others we have done.
We both enjoyed the slightly different take on the history that exists in this part of Italy.

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