The countless times I’ve heard locals and tour guides say not too bother visiting Prato is beyond me…
I’ve visited a number of times, and each time I’ve mentioned it, people seem baffled as “nothing’s there”. Well I disagree, and with it being a short train ride from Florence, for me it’s the perfect way to spend a few hours break from fighting the crowds of Florence.
For under €10 and around 30 minutes – here’s a few reasons why you should visit.
First things first, food.
Prato is famous for producing the best Biscotti di Prato, the very tasty Tuscan biscuit, which are often paired with Vin Santo (sweet local wine). The best are from Antonio Mattei, with the original shop being right here in Prato on via Ricasoli, since 1858! Pay a visit for a sample, and to stock up on the beautiful bring string tied blue bags full of these delicious treats. Also make sure you visit one of the butchers in Prato to try some of the famous Mortadella di Prato – a locally made salami cured with a number of spices and Alchermes liquor.
Staying on the topic of food, if I’m normally sticking around for lunch I stop at Le Barrique, a cute little wine bar just down from the Duomo (on via Giuseppe Mazzoni). It has a great varied menu, including lots of interesting variations of bruschetta, salads, and some hot options too.
For some interesting things to do, I definitely recommend a look round Palazzo Pretorio; the old town hall now turned museum. It’s home to a great collection of local art from an extended timescale, and make sure to visit the top floor for an impressive view over Prato!
Of course the Duomo needs a mention too – this stunning Romanesque style church serves as the hub of Prato and has a few things to look out for. The unusual external pulpit on the corner with reliefs by Donatello (the original is now in the museum, underneath the church) is worth a photo or two, it’s also where the Sacra Cintola (the scared belt) of the Virgin Mary is shown to the public on various religious days of the year. Inside, look for the beautiful fresco cycle by Filippo Lippi which decorate the high chapel (probably some of the my favourite work by the artist).
Another church to take a look at is Santa Maria delle Carceri, a Renaissance church designed by Antonio Sangello. Its’ rather unusual interior is considered one of the earliest and most notable examples of the use of a Greek cross plan in Renaissance architecture.
Prato is also fairly important for its contemporary art scene, the Pecci Center was in fact the first museum in Tuscany to dedicate itself purely on contemporary art. Located a short bus ride from the centre, it’s a welcome break for those who need a break from a Renaissance overload!
Other bits and pieces to see include the Textile Museum. Prato found its’ riches in the textile trade during the early Renaissance, and even today plays an important part of the city. Wool and silk from the area was considered to be the best in Europe, and this interesting museum gives an inside into the importance of production.
Hope you found some inspiration on visiting Prato!