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Pista ciclabile a Prato

Along the cycle path into the history of Prato

An unusual route by the Bisenzio River to discover the textile city

Step 1
Along the Bisenzio River

We leave from the meander near Gonfienti, with its Etruscan village that was unearthed during building work on the Interporto and ride as far as the large square where the Fiera di Prato fair is held every September, which is part of the Festività della Madonna celebrations focused on fire and games. 

Continuing along the strip of red asphalt, we come to Ponte Petrino, one of the oldest bridges over the Bisenzio, which was probably built around the 1st century BCE and is connected to the old foothill pass between Vaiano and Vernio. A little further on, along the via Firenze you can catch a glimpse of the football stadium, designed in 1939 and completed in 1943, according to the tenets of the rationalist architecture of the era. 

Further on, we reach the tree-lined gardens that lead to Prato Centrale station, which was opened in 1934 with the Direttissima railway. It’s a striking three-storey building, whose notable windows stand out in the core block. The complex refers to nineteenth-century architecture dictates with strong classical references, as seen in the vast mosaic floor adorned with the symbol of the railways.

Step 2
City walls

Our ride along the cycle path continues between the Ponte alla Vittoria and Porta Mercatale, two essential hubs for the city’s transportation. This is the area next to the walls, a place where the old and the new blend together: on one hand, the residential complexes and office blocks along Viale Vittorio Veneto – the San Paolo di Torino bank was built based on plans by Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, in collaboration with Fabrizio Natalini, of Florence’s Superstudio; on the other hand, the impressive fourteenth-century curtain wall and the sixteenth-century bastions, which protect the entrance to Piazza Mercatale. These walls were constructed to encompass the areas that ended up outside the first ring of walls and were challenged during the siege of August 1512.

Step 3
History of the textile city
Calamai woolen mill in Prato
Calamai woolen mill in Prato - Credit: Massimilianogalardi

Cross the railway bridge and the cycle path leads to the Viale Galilei gardens along a stretch in which the Bisenzio River bed broadens before arriving at the Pescaia del Cavalciotto. To your right, there’s the Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, where the weekly Monday market is held; it’s one of the largest and most interesting in Tuscany. 

One of the most beautiful examples of industrial archaeology in the Prato area, the former Calamai wool mill stands next to the Piazza del Mercato. The monumental facade leads into an area covering 16,000 square metres, part of which is still used for production purposes. The entrance, with a large, tall arch and the clock tower (reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s urban scenes), allows us a glimpse of the large tank and chimney stack on the opposite side as well as of the two large blocks that comprise the complex.

Step 4
Pescaia del Cavalciotto
Cavalciotto in Santa Lucia, Prato
Cavalciotto in Santa Lucia, Prato - Credit: Jacopo Marcovaldi

Cross the iron bridge and there’s a park that flanks the Bisenzio River as far as Santa Lucia. We’re at the Cavalciotto, a system of river levees dating to the Middle Ages, which allowed water to be deviated into the large network of dams beyond the Prato municipality. The 53 kilometre-long barrier system ensured the functioning of mills, which were essential for the farming and textile industry that made Prato famous all over the world.

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