Pescia, stretched along the Pescia River 12km (7 1/2 miles) west of Montecatini along the SS435, is Tuscany's capital of cut flowers. Its huge market still ships out carnations, gladioli, lilies, and chrysanthemums, in commercial quantities daily before 8am. Pescia's horticulture industry also produces excellent asparagus, olive oil, and sorano beans (a prized local pulse). Art aficionados will enjoy 13th-century San Francesco, frescoed by Bonaventura Berlinghieri (1235) with a cycle of the Life of St. Francis -- Berlinghieri was a close friend of Francis, who had died a mere 9 years earlier, and many believe that these may be some of the most accurate portraits of Assisi's famous mystic.
Another 5km (3 miles) along the road from Pescia takes you to Collodi, family home village of 19th-century Florentine novelist Carlo Lorenzini, who visited often as a child and took the pen name Collodi when he wrote The Adventures of Pinocchio (1881). Although it's one of the world's most beloved children's stories (translated into more than 60 languages), Italians of all ages have an especially fierce love of and devotion to the tale. The Parco di Pinocchio (tel. 0572-429-342; www.pinocchio.it) was built here in 1956 to celebrate it, with a bronze Pinocchio by Emilio Greco, mosaic scenes from the story by Futurist Venturino Venturini, a restaurant designed by Giovanni Michelucci, and a hedge maze and some diversions for the kids. The park is open daily from 8:30am to sunset; admission is 11€ adults, 8€ children ages 3 to 14 and seniors 65 and over. Negotiate some tricky first impressions (overpriced, needs a lick of paint), and imaginative little ones will enjoy the old-fashioned style. Note: It gets very busy on holiday weekends.
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