Very often even the Tuscans themselves call Prato ‘Little Shanghai’ due to its Chinese community that is the largest in Italy and the third largest in Europe. There are officially 12,000 of Chinese but it is believed that in total the number could be several times higher. Due to such reputation, the town of Prato is often forgotten by tourists and travel agencies. But this ignorance is absolutely wanton, as Prato is worth being included in your holiday program.
What to see
Castello dell’Imperatore (English: the Emperor’s Castle) – one of castles owned by Frederick II from Swabia. The restored castle of regular quadrangular shape stands proudly in the city centre. Only for a few euros you can get inside and climb up onto its thick walls, where the guardians marched long time ago. In summer, concerts and medieval festivals take place in the courtyard of the castle.
Duomo di Prato. The cathedral of Prato, documented as early as the 10th century, is a true pearl for art lovers. Inside you can find the frescoes by Filippo Lippi and the terracotta by Andrea della Robbia, as well as an extraordinary relic – the belt/strip of the Holy Virgin (Italian: Sacra Cintola). And outside of the cathedral there is an amazing external pulpit that looks like being ‘pasted’, created by Donatello and Michelozzo. On October 8 the city usually organises huge celebration of the day of the Virgin Mary.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The museum, dedicated to the Prato Cathedral, houses the masterpieces by Paolo Uccello, Agnolo Gaddi, Filippo Lippi, Donatello, Michelozzo.
Museo del Tessuto (English: the Textile Museum) – one of the ‘must visit’ places in Prato. The history of Prato has been always closely related to textile, so the museum was established here purposefully. The museum tells the story of fabrics from the 15th century and it owns the oldest fabric examples and ancient documents.
Museo di Scienze Planetarie (English: the Museum of Planetary Science) is located near the centre of Prato. It boasts perhaps the most interestingly restored history of the universe from the Big Bang to the formation of the solar system, while the audio system, mirrors and video projections create an extraordinary atmosphere.
Outside the city
In the south of Prato, travellers can find the town of Poggio a Caiano and the Ambra villa of the Medici family. You should follow the signs between Poggio a Caiano and Carmignano – here you can find two most important Etruscan tombs – Tomba dei Boschetti and Tumulo di Montefortini.
If you reach an extremely beautiful village of Artimino, be sure to visit another villa of the Medici family ‘La Ferdinanda’, also known as the ‘Villa of the One Hundred Chimneys’. In the southern part of Artimino there is a Romanesque church (Pieve Romanica di S. Leonardo), dating back to the 10th century, and some old abbeys.
It is also worth visiting Carmignano – a small town where you can stop by the small wine and archaeological museums.
What to taste
Mortadella di Prato – the origin of this sausage is associated with deprivation, when a second-rate or any other unusable meat was used in its production. Now, of course, everything has changed and it is really worth trying mortadella. Prato is also famous for its sweets: Cantuccini – dried biscuits with almonds, dried Carmignano figs, Vernon sugar candy, Prato bread called ‘Bozza’. Wines: Pinot Nero is Bagnolo, Rosé Rusper, Barco Reale and Vinsanto.