After your peachy pick-me-up, venture ahead toward Piazza Duomo, site of the Cathedral of Santo Stefano: it’s the city’s key monument for what it stores inside, but its exterior is also striking. From the green and white marble façade, a prominent pulpit juts out. Designed by Donatello and Michelozzo, the pulpit has hosted such special orators as Pope Francis, who addressed crowds assembled in the square during a special visit. Inside are some remarkable frescoes from Filippo Lippi depicting stories from the lives of Saints Stephen (the cathedral’s namesake) and John the Baptist. For pure Pratese splendor, step into the cathedral’s Chapel of the Holy Girdle, home to a relic associated with the Virgin Mary that is known locally as the Cintola. The story goes that she gave this girdle to Saint Thomas as she ascended into heaven; now, every year in September, it is displayed and publicly venerated in one of the cornerstone events of the local festival Settembre Pratese.
After adequate time in the Cathedral, wind your way to Piazza del Comune, home to the Pinacoteca, also known as Palazzo Pretorio, formerly the town hall and now Prato’s Civic Museum. Inside you can continue your Filippo Lippi education post-Cathedral visit and take in the work of his son, Filippino Lippi, too. (If you love historical scandals, take note: Filippino was born out of wedlock when his father, then a Carmelite friar, carried out an affair with a young novice sister named Lucrezia Buti under the guise of having her sit for his paintings).
Next circle round to Via Ricasoli to reach the historic Antonio Mattei biscottificio, where the famous biscotti di Prato, a cookie that’s not to be confused with cantuccini, are produced. The scent of the baking biscotti will knock your socks off, and once you catch your first glimpse of the iconic blue bags they’re sold in, you’ll start noticing them in Italian gift shops across cities and regions—but they’re born here in Prato.
In the immediate vicinity is aTipico, downtown Prato’s only fully-stocked shop piled high with all of the territory’s traditional products. Make sure items like mortadella di Prato, Carmignano DOCG wines, Vin Santo dessert wine, dried figs and Pratese vermouth make it onto your shopping list.