Prato’s historic centre is elegant and well preserved, and is at the very least equal in beauty to the medieval centres of many other Tuscan cities.
One of the first things that will attract your attention within the city walls is the Emperor's Castle, which is the last remaining trace of Suevian architecture in central-northern Italy.
Let your gaze peruse the stunning Piazza Duomo, which houses the Santo Stefano Cathedral, and is only a short distance away. On the right hand side of the exterior façade is the extraordinary pulpit by Donatello and Michelozzo, while inside you’ll have free range to admire the splendid frescoes by Filippo Lippi.
The pulpit is still used 5 times a year, most notably on September 8th while displaying the Holy Girdle of the Madonna, a relic to which Prato is particularly attached.
While wandering around the centre it’s definitely worth visiting Palazzo Datini, the Palazzo Pretorio, the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri by Giuliano da Sangallo, and the churches of San Francesco, San Domenico, Sant'Agostino and Spirito Santo.
Finish your stroll in the centre with a visit to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, where works by renowned artists such as Filippo Lippi, Donatello, Michelozzo and many others are displayed.
Stopping at the Fountain of Young Bacchus, the symbol of the city, is well worth your time. The original is kept inside the Town Hall’s courtyard, whilst the one you can see in Piazza del Comune is a twentieth century copy.
Piazza Mercatale is also in the heart of the city and is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe; late nineteenth century and early twentieth century buildings overlook the square.
Prato has successfully combined history and contemporary culture; indeed, the "Luigi Pecci" Centre for Contemporary Art - designed by the rationalist architect Italo Gamberini and founded in 1988 - has been completely renovated by the Chinese-Dutch architect Maurice Nio, now taking a futuristic form.
The centre holds a heavy international presence, with a wide variety of exhibitions in addition to the central permanent collection, which includes major contemporary artists of the last 30 years.
We recommend finishing your trip in the centre with the Textile Museum, a unique and didactic expression of the city's textile history. The Museum holds samples ranging from the fifth century to the present day, while the building that houses it is a monument of industrial archaeology, being the sole large nineteenth-century production complex that remains within the medieval walls.