Prato is located in the heart of sunny Tuscany, not far from Florence, and is not very popular with tourists, even though its history dates back to the 10th century. What can you find in Prato? The magic of Tuscan towns and a space free from tourist hustle and bustle. The city is ideal for an afternoon trip, seeing most of the monuments will take us no more than a few hours. If you like to stroll along untouched paths and discover new gems – Prato will be a perfect city for you.
What can you see in Prato? Duomo and churches
There is probably no city in Italy, regardless of its size, where there would not be a single church in the center. Within the old town of Prato there are several of them. The most famous is St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Its construction began in the 10th century and was completed in the 12th century. The cathedral stores a very valuable relic for Christians, which is available for public view only four times a year – a strip of the Virgin Mary. According to legend, the belt went to Prato together with a merchant who married the priest’s daughter in Jerusalem. The daughter received a belt as a wedding gift from her father. In Prato you will also find Romanesque-Gothic church of St. Francis from 1331 (probably one of the oldest in the city), medieval church of St. Dominic and Santa Maria Delle Carcei (one of the first churches built on the plan of the Greek cross).
What can you see in Prato? Imperial castle
The construction of the castle began in 1237 at the request of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, grandson of Frederick Barbarossa. Unfortunately, the construction was never finished, it was suspended after the death of Frederick II. The castle can be visited for free from dawn to dusk, and during the summer there are organized cinema shows. The castle walls offer a beautiful panorama of the houses over the Bisenzio River. Typical for Tuscan architecture, colorful with wooden shutters, create a magical atmosphere.
Heart of Prato – Palazzo Pretorio
This is one of the most impressive palaces in Prato, which used to be a town hall. It was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. On the square in front of Palazzo Pretorio stands a monument of the merchant Francesco Datini, who made money by trading in works of art and luxury goods. After his death, he ordered to donate a large part of his money for the development of the town. Today there is a museum in Palazzo Pretorio, which is a great introduction to Tuscan art.
China Town in Prato – a city with almost 10,000 Asian population
Prato is the second city in Italy in terms of the number of Asians living there. Officially, you can meet there more than 10 thousand of Chinese, unofficially even up to 45 thousand. What does China Town look like in Prato? Don’t expect anything spectacular. Just the same views as in other cities, only shop windows give the impression that we miraculously moved from Italy to Asia. But what was an incredible experience for us? Ordering dinner in a Chinese restaurant. Yes, we know we are in Italy and we should enjoy the local specialties, but somehow we couldn’t resist the temptation to order Chinese food from the Chinese. Especially since it was a real challenge – the waiter couldn’t understand us in English, he barely spoke Italian, and the whole menu was only in the Chinese language. What do we have left? Ordering in blinds, trying to communicate by the signs. We succeeded, we ordered, not being fully aware of what it was, but in the end, the food was great and cheap.
FURRY nutria and a walk along the Bisenzio river shore
Prato is situated at the river Bisenzio, just a walk along the banks of the river is very pleasant and relaxing. Nearly zero tourists and beautiful Tuscan landscapes are only for our exclusive use. However, the biggest attraction was definitely charming nutria. They, to put it mildly, don’t give a damn about people and they look pretty cool. You can see that they are well-fed, although keeping a distance. Who brought them to Prato and when? Nobody knows that.
A bunch of useful information and links at the end
- Practically information about Italy, what to look for and prepare for, you will find in our guide Italy practically.
- Our route, which we chose when going to Italy, is described here. You will find there a map and useful information.
- We wrote about the traffic regulations and parking rules in Italy in this article.
- Do you go further on the Italian highways? Check in our article what costs you have to prepare for.