From the Handbook for Travelers
Railway Express in 4 1|4 hrs., 16 fr. 55 c . or 13 fr . ; ord . Trains from Bologna to Pistoja in 4 hrs. , thence to Florence in 1 1/ 2 hr . ; fares to Pistoja 11 fr. 80 , 8 fr. 65 , 6 fr. 50 c. ; to Florence 13 fr. 80 , 11 fr. 20 , 8 fr . 40 c .
This line, which intersects the Tuscan Apennines in nearly a straight direction , is one of the most imposing structures of the kind in existence. Bridges, tunnels (45 in all) , and galleries are traversed in uninterrupted succession . Beautiful views are obtained (generally to the l.) of the valleys and gorges of the Apennines , and farther on , of the luxuriant plains of Tuscany , the Garden of Italy'. Doubts , however , have frequently been entertained as to the solidity of these great structures, and much of the traffic between the Romagna and Tuscany is in consequence still carried on by means of the old roads across the Apennines from Forli and Faenza to Florence . A rival line is contemplated .
As far as Porretta the line ascends the valley of the Reno, which it crosses a short distance beyond Bologna . On an island in the Reno, not far from Bologna , the Second Triumvirate was determined on by Octavian , Antony , and Lepidus , to the proscriptions of which Cicero and others fell victims.
First stat . Borgo Panigale ; then Casalecchio , where the mountainous valley of the Reno expands into the plain of the Po . Here on June 26th , 1402, the army of Giovanni Bentivoglio was defeated by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, and on May 21st , 1511, that of Pope Julius II. under the command of the Duke of Urbino, by the French . L ., near stat. Sasso , the brook Setta falls into the Reno , from which a subterranean aqueduct , constructed by Augustus , leads to Bologna. The restoration of this channel, with a view to supply the town with better water , has recently been proposed. Next stat. Marzabotto , with modernized castle , visible from the train . Between this point and Pracchia there are 22 tunnels. At stat. Vergato the valley expands ; then stat. Riola ; 1. rise the abrupt peaks of Monte Ovolo and Monte Vigese ; a landslip from the latter destroyed the village of Vigo in 1851 . On the 1. bank of the Reno is the restored castle of Savignano, with picturesque environs; farther on , the village of Porretta (* Locanda Nuova d 'Italia ; Palazzino ), on the Reno, with mineral springs and baths, much frequented in summer. Beyond Porretta the line quits the valley of the Reno. Numerous tunnels are now passed through , and the culminating point of the line reached . Beyond stat. Pracchia the line gradually descends by means of a series of galleries ; beyond stat. Pitecchio a view is at length revealed of the lovely and populous plain of Tuscany. A number of charming villas are next passed , and the train stops at Pistoja .
The Line to Florence intersects a rich tract at the base of the Apennines. Stat. 8 . Piero. L . the picturesque castle of Monte Murlo comes into view ; near it, July 31st, 1535 , the Florentine republicans , under Baccio Valori and Filippo Strozzi, succumbed to the superior power of the Grand Duke Cosmo de' Medici. The castle , in the style of the 13th cent., is the property of the Counts della Gherardesca , descendants of the ill fated Ugolino , whose death in the Tower of Hunger ' at Pisa ( 1284) is depicted in thrilling terms by Dante (Inferno C . 33). Monte Murlo deserves a visit, which may easily be accomplished on foot from San Piero, and the walk may advantageously be prolonged to Prato (41/2 M .).
Prato ( Posta ) , a well-built town with 35 ,000 inhab. , on the Bisenzio , with beautiful environs, is an industrial place , straw plait being one of the staple commodities ; it also enjoys a high reputation for the excellence of its bread. It formerly appertained to Florence , the fortunes of which it shared throughout the whole of the middle ages. In 1512 the town was taken by storm by the Spaniards under Cardona. The cathedral with its adjuncts is the principal point of attraction ,
* Il Duomo, commenced in the 12th cent., completed by Giovanni Pisano in the 14th , is a structure in the Tuscan Gothic style, with façade of 1450 , the gallery of which was adorned by Donatello with sculptures. From this galleiy the highly revered Sacra Cintola , or 'girdle of the Virgin which is preserved in the cathedral, is periodically exhibited to the people. Over the principal entrance a Madonna with ss. Stephen and Lawrence in terracotta, by Luca della Robbia .
By the principal entrance the Virgin delivering the girdle to St. Thomas, by Rhidolfo Ghirlanda jo , the guardian angel by Carlo Dici. In the interior : *Cappella della Cintola , adorned with mural paintings by Agnolo Gaddi (1395 ) , from the life of the Virgin , and her statue on the altar, by Giovanni Pisano . In the choir , at the back of the high altar , are the histories of John the Baptist and St. Stephen by Fra Filippo ; r . the * Death of St. Bernard , by the same master. Fine round *pulpit , resting on sphinxes and snakes , by Mino da Fiesole , adorned with admirable reliefs . - The campanile , in the Lombard style , is by Giovanni Pisano.
Madonna delle Carceri, erected in 1492 by Giuliano da San Gallo , is in the form of a Greek cross, surmounted by a dome, containing a fine altar by Antonio da San Gallo , brother of the architect. — * 8 . Domenico, of the 13th cent., possesses paintings by Fra Filippo. - * 8 . Francesco contains ( in the hall of the Chapter ) mural paintings by Niccolò Petri.
The Pulazzo della Comunità and the Casa del Cancelliere contain paintings by Filippo Lippi.
About 2 M . to the N . W . of the stat. rise the hills of Monteferrato , which those who have leisure should visit. A short distance farther is Figline , with serpentine - quarries, yielding the stone known as Verde di Prato , which has been employed in architecture for centuries. About 3 M . farther are the copper -smelting works of La Briglia , successfully carried on by English proprietors .
Beyond Prato the train proceeds to stat. Calenzano, Sesto (1 . is La Doccia , a villa of the Marchese Ginori , with porcelain manufactory, at the base of Monte Morello, p. 286 ), Castello (near it is La Petraja , a royal villa , celebrated flower-gardens, p . 329 ), Rifredi, and Florence .