The Prato area lies between the ridges of the Calvana mountains and the forests on the nearby Apennines. This territory is home to ancient culture and traditions, dotted with villages that were founded as rural Roman settlements. There were once numerous castles throughout the area, even if today only a few traces remain, including in Fossato, Luicciana and Codilupo, the most important of which is the fortress in Vernio and the Rocca di Cerbaia. One imposing building that’s still at the height of its beauty is the evocative villa in Poggio a Caiano, a Medici residence and example of Renaissance architecture that boasts the status of UNESCO World Heritage site and every year hosts the famous Assedio alla Villa.
The most important town in the area is Prato, crossed by the Bisenzio River and located halfway across the plain – once a large lake – where Florence and Pistoia can also be found. On one side, we see the first meadows on the Calvana mountains, rising above the city, while on the other, the hills of Monteferrato. In just a few minutes, you can pass from house-packed streets and industrial factories to vast woods and, around the lower altitudes, stretches of farmland.
There are tons of excursions to do in the area: easy walks through the hills (Monteferrato), more arduous hikes in the mountains, walks through the dense greenery, home to karstic phenomena (Calvana), and trails through wind-swept meadows (high up on the Calvana). The perfect place for tireless hikers is definitely the Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve an oasis made up of beech and chestnut woods including several centuries-old trees. For those who want to spend a few days immersed in nature, there is the Via della Lana e della Seta, a 130 km itinerary that connects Prato and Bologna, two cities that over the centuries have established themselves as capitals of the textile industry.
There is also plenty of art and interesting museums: around Prato, you can wander amidst all the artworks dotting the various parks, like the one dedicated to Quinto Marini, or you can visit the Luigi Pecci Contemporary Art Center, Textile Museum or Museum of Planetary Sciences.
The Prato area is also the ideal destination for foodies: everyone knows about Prato’s famous cantuccini, but other specialties include the Slow Food-designated mortadella and esteemed wines, like the Carmignano DOCG.