Room 17, Residence Magnolfi Nuovo

It’s almost the seventh day since I arrived in Prato. It’s been a busy week, but not a rushing one. The pace has been good, there is time to look around and do things at my own pace, just not enough time to also keep on top of my photos any my reflections. And there is work to be done! Essays, making artwork, thinking about all the stuff we’ve been stuffed with already, which is plentiful.

The week started (after an orientation of the Prato Centre and town) with three days with two and a half days with our studio units and our teachers, who are Geoff Lowe and Jacqueline Riva. They’re an ex-pat. Australian couple who currently live/work in France, practising as the collaborative duo: A Constructed World. More about them and their work in a later post.

Thursday and Friday were with our ‘Renaissance to Baroque Italian Art in Context’, teacher Dr Luke Morgan, a Monash in Melbourne Associate Prof. He seems to have a  particular interest in garden design and constructed landscapes, and the grotesque, so isn’t that lucky? Right up my alley. After the morning lecture on Thursday we went out into the town of Prato to visit the Palazzo Publicco (centre of local government) and Duomo (Cathedral). Here’s a little of what we saw:

Duomo di Prato (Prato Cathedral)
Ceiling of the apse
Salome, in Filippo Lippi’s ‘Feast of Herodias’, on the right hand wall of the Apse (header image shows most of the main panel of this). The wall, in its entirety, depicts the life of John the Baptist.
Salome presenting the head of John the Baptist. Note reactions of those around her.

Lippi’s Presentation of the Virgin’s Girdle – an important story for Prato – the Festival of the Girdle is coming soon, when the girdle will be shown to the people of Prato from a special, and unusual pulpit on the exterior of the Duomo. Notice the woman with her hand on the nun’s shoulder – she is thought to be modeled on Lippi’s lover, Lucrezia Buti, who was a nun. She and Lippi (who’d also taken orders) were given a papal dispensation to renounce their vows and marry, and they (very soon afterwards) had a son, the other Lippi – Filippino. His father (and the painter of the above was Filippo Lippi). Just to be even more confusing, Filippo Lippi taught Botticelli, and Filippino was an apprentice to Botticelli. [This painting is in the Palazzo Publicco].
On Friday (yesterday) we visited Sienna, a beautiful drive through the Chianti region, and a beautiful (again hot) day there. Photos and more on Sienna will have to wait. First you probably want to know more about the Prato Centre, and Residence Magnolfi Nuovo. First, the latter. It’s a huge old sprawling building with four floors, and several wings. One wing is occupied by a big church and somewhere about there are still a handful of nuns. There is also a nursing home, it appears, down the bottom, as I can see the old things in their wheelchairs by the dining tables in a big room behind the church from my bedroom window. It also overlooks a park and playground, in which a very bossy boy is still shouting at the others, two and a half hours since he woke me from my well-earned siesta (that’s another story too). In the middle of the complex is a little courtyard garden, and at the end of the long corridor that leads away from the entry we use, is a theater which I should find out more about.

Down on the ground floor there are also a café (where breakfast is served, including chocolate croissants) and a quite nice lounge where I have to go to get wifi. Then, towards the back, are a kitchen and laundry that we can use.

I don’t really know what the next two floors up are used for. Presumably the nuns are in there somewhere. Then we are at the top, quite comfy little rooms with Ikea furniture, sunshine and (thankfully) aircon. Bathrooms across the corridor. The one directly opposite my room has a sign indicating it can be used by both males and females, which seems to put both off using it, so I seem to have it pretty much to myself, which is good as the showers are bathroom flooders and the floor squeegees don’t make much of an impact. At least in this heat it dries out fast. May be a bit more annoying when it begins to cool down.

The corridor on level three, where our rooms are (I like it).
My room


My window, overlooking the park.
Respect the siesta!
View out the other side, showing the courtyard and street beyond.
Looking left of the last image, showing the church, on a typical hot and hazy morning.

At the Prato Centre we also do a few lessons of basic Italian. A bit too basic for me but one thing I learned, that could be of great value, is that 17 is the Italian 13. In fact it might be even worse than 13, because planes don’t even have a row 17, and if people are feeling slightly unhappy about waking up on Friday the 17ths, they don’t get out of bed.

So, guess what, my room is number 17! Luckily I actually think 7 is one of my lucky numbers (with 2) so I think I’ll be right, more or less. Maybe it was the 1 that was to blame when, on the first day I took myself some salad for lunch, the balsamic vinegar leaked (despite a box and a plastic bag) all over my phone. It appears I now have a shorted out battery. Luckily it was my old phone, not the smartphone, so I think the 7 saved me on that one! Needless to say, if you try to contact me on the UK Sim number, I may be slow to realise as I’ll only put it in my still living phone occasionally. The Australian number is still good, and probably cheaper from your end anyway.

The Prato Centre – I’ll just finish on a few photos of it. It’s gone from god knows what in the medieval period (of which bits of walls and some C15th frescos have been discovered) to the 18th Century home of the Vai family, to a ‘gentlemen’s’ club in the late 1800s and 1900s (should that be ‘boys club’?), to finally being let out to Monash since I don’t know when exactly. You will see in the photos the evidence of the boy’s club is still all over the place, but it make for a pretty comfy learning institution.

Approaching the Prato Centre from the street (blue sign).
The main entry
Inside the entry.
Then you go up the grand staircase to the Reception on the first floor.


One of the rooms overlooking the street.
The antechamber of Sala Toscana, where we have theory lectures.
Sala Toscana (theory lecture room).
The courtyard from Sala Toscana. Our prac. room has big doors that open directly onto this.
Relics of former use.
The bar
The student’s lounge.
The terrace
My study space on the terrace.
View from my ‘desk’.

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