The city of Prato is located on a plain of alluvial origin, at the north west of Florence.
The area, already inhabited during the Palaeolithic era, saw some settlements of Liguria and Etruscans, before it sustained a more organised form established by the Romans.
In fact, while Rome was under the Reign of Silla and later on of Ottaviano Augusto, this area of Tuscany was destined to the "centuriazione", a practice according to which the lands were subdivided in areas approximately of fifty hectares given to the veterans of the army.
After the dissolution of the Roman Empire of Occident, some communities settled down on the area, first of all "longobarde" and after 880 AC of Franc origin.
Around this time starts the building, in the locality indicated as "Cornio", on a pre-existing parish church of Santo Stefano, a village and a castle.
Prato is named on some documents for the first time in 1142 AC, to indicate a fortified village that would have been approximately located on the area of the actual urban centre.
The Counts Alberti, who were initially claiming the ownership of the area, gave it to the Imperator when the desire of autonomy of the population started to become impossible to manage.
Between the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century, the city of Prato extends itself thanks to the increase of the population attracted by the flourishing commercial activities, first among these activities the one of the work of wool and the characteristic "green marble", the serpentine rock, determining the necessity to have a town-wall substituting the one dating back to 1196.
At the end of the 13th century the district, which had approximately 17000 inhabitants, became part of the expansionist visions of Florence which managed to obtain its control in 1351. A third circle of wall was completed in 1384, but because of the pestilences of half century, the demographic ongoing had not continued on its natural way, so that the new perimeter included not only houses but also come cultivated lands.
In 1512 and in 1530 the city was sacked twice by the imperial army aimed at Florence to restore the Seigniory of the Medici, this obviously underlined the necessity to restructure the medieval walls which were not sufficient to defend the city from the assaults led by the heavy artillery.
In fact, six years later, Antonio da Sangallo projected some defence bastions that were furthermore consolidated during the restorations of 1574 realised by the architect Bernardo Buontalenti. By this time definitely under the political influence of Florence, Prato will come back to an economic development, focused on the strengthening of the textile and manufacturing sectors, which will have as a consequence a new increase under the demographic point of view as well as under the one of the urban development.
(Artcile by APT di Prato)