Prato Tourist Attractions

Prato, ItalyPrato, Italy

Situation

Prato lies in a basin in the Bisenzio Valley, on both banks of the river, roughly half-way between Florence and Pistoia.

History

The site of present-day Prato was probably occupied by an Etruscan settlement. Prato itself first appears in the records in the 10th century; it received its municipal charter in 1653. In medieval times Prato was famous for its wool, and it is still a major textile center. The older part of the town has preserved a number of handsome and historic old buildings.

Castello dell'Imperatore

This formidable battlemented stronghold, built by the Emperor Frederick II between 1237 and 1248 on the road to the south of Italy from the north, can be compared with his Castel del Monte in Apulia. It incorporates two older (10th century) towers.
Address: Piazza Santa Maria delle Carceri, I-50047 Prato, Italy

Santa Maria delle Cárceri

The Church of Santa Maria delle Cárceri, opposite the north corner of the castello, owes its name to a miraculous image of the Virgin painted on the wall of a prison (cárcere) which once stood here. To house the painting Giuliano da Sangallo built this handsome Renaissance church, on a Greek cross plan, between 1484 and 1495. The exterior is faced with colored marble, and there is a dome over the crossing. The church contains terracotta medallions of the Evangelists by Andrea della Robbia.
Address: Piazza Santa Maria delle Carceri, I-59100 Prato, Italy

Palazzo Pretorio

In the center of the old town is the Palazzo Pretorio (formerly the Palazzo Comunale), built in the mid 14th century and incorporating a number of 13th century houses and towers. The complex was acquired by the Capitano del Pópolo in 1284 to provide accommodation for the civic administration. The palazzo is of severe aspect, with an old and irregular facade, a balcony and a staircase leading up to the entrance. The battlements and the small belfry were added in the 16th century.

Municipal Gallery

The Museo Civico (Municipal Gallery), founded in 1850, which is housed in the Palazzo Pretorio, has an interesting collection, particularly of the 14th and 15th century Florentine schools. Items of special interest on the first and second floors are the Tabernacle of St Margaret, by Filippo Lippi (1458; restored from fragments after destruction in an air raid in 1944); the Bacchus Fountain, by Ferdinando Tacca (1665); scenes from the legend of the Virgin's Girdle, attributed to Bernardo Daddi (14th century); a polyptych by Bernardo Daddi, "Virgin and Child with Saints" (c. 1328); a polyptych by Giovanni da Milano, "Madonna Enthroned with Saints" (c. 1354); Filippo Lippi's "Madonna del Ceppo" (1453); Francesco Botticini's "Madonna with Saints" (15th century); Filippino Lippi's "Virgin and Child" (1503); and a fresco of the Virgin and Child by Fra Bartolommeo (15th-16th centuries). On the third floor are works of the 16th to 18th centuries. Opposite the Palazzo Pretorio is the present Palazzo Comunale, which has lost its original appearance as a result of 19th century restoration work.
Address: Palazzo Pretorio, Piazza del Comune, I-50047 Prato, Italy

Palazzo Comunale

Opposite the Palazzo Pretorio in Prato is the Palazzo Comunale which was restored in the 19th century.

Palazzo Datini

The Palazzo Datini, to the south of the Piazza del Comune, was the residence of the merchant and banker Francesco di Marco Datini (1330-1410), one of the wealthiest men of his day. (See Iris Origo's book, "The Merchant of Prato".) After Datini's death the outside of the house was covered with frescoes depicting scenes from his life, now represented only by scanty remains of the sinópie (the artist's preliminary sketches).
Address: Via Ser Lapo Mazzei 43, I-50047 Prato, Italy

San Doménico

The Church of San Doménico was built between 1283 and 1322; the facade was left unfinished. Note the richly decorated doorway on the north side. The church contains a large painted Crucifix of about 1400.

Cathedral

The Cathedral in Prato was begun 13th C and grew in size and stature over the years. It was eventually given the status of cathedral in the mid 17th C. The frescoes by Filippo Lippi are considered significant by art historians.

Museum of Contemporary Art

In 1988 the Centro per l'Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci (Museum of Contemporary Art) was opened in Prato. The museum, on the plan of a rectangular "U", is in the south of the old town, in Via della Repubblica (corner of Via delle Fonti di Mezzana). The building was financed by the Associazione Luigi Pecci which was founded by the industrialist Enrico Pecci who died in 1988. The house, with an adjoining research center, is to be a forum for painting, sculpture, design, video and other forms of creative expression. At the opening of the "U" is an arena with steps for seating. The arena, in the form of a Greek amphitheater, accommodates 600 to 800 persons.
Address: Via della Repubblica 277, I-50047 Prato, Italy

Wall Painting Museum

In the 15th century cloister is the entrance to the Museo di Pittura Murale (Museum of Wall-Painting), which contains frescoes and sinópie (preliminary sketches for frescoes) of the 13th to 17th century. Together with displays illustrating the technique of fresco-painting and the various methods of restoration.
Address: Piazza San Domenico 8, I-59100 Prato, Italy

San Francesco

From the Piazza del Comune, Via Ricasoli runs south to the Piazza San Francesco on the left side of which is the 13th century church of San Francesco. In the beautiful cloister to the right of the church we find the entrance to the chapter-house, which has fine wall paintings of the school of Giotto (Gerini, 14th century).

Textile Museum

With Prato being one of the Italy's main textile centers, the Textile Museum is worth a visit. The collection features velvet, figure textiles, Perugia tablecloths, damasks, and lampas from the 15th to 19th century.
Address: Via Santa Chiara 24, I-40100 Prato, Italy
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