Prato is a city in Tuscany, Italy, the capital of the Province of Prato.
Historically, Prato's economy has been based on the textile industry. The renowned Datini archives are a significant collection of late medieval documents produced between 1363 and 1410. The Textile Museum also reflects this history.
Prato is also a centre of the slow food movement, with many local specialities, including cantucci, a type of biscotti, sold by local speciality bakers
Since the late 1950s, the city has experienced significant immigration, firstly from southern Italy, then from other nationalities, the most notable being a large Chinese community which first arrived in the late 1980s. With more than 180,000 inhabitants, Prato is Tuscany's second largest city and the third largest in Central Italy, after Rome and Florence.
Archaeological findings have proved that Prato's surrounding hills were inhabited since Paleolithic
times. The plain was later colonized by the Etruscans
. In 1998 remains of a previously unknown city from that civilization was discovered in the neighbourhood, near Campi Bisenzio
: it was of medium size and it was already a centre for wool
and textile industry
. According to some scholars, it could be the mythical Camars
. The Etruscan city was inhabited until the 5th century BC, when, for undisclosed reasons, it decayed; control of the area was later shifted to the Romans
, who had their Via Cassia
pass from here, but did not build any settlement.
In the early Middle Ages
dominations followed. The history of Prato itself begins from the 10th century, when two distinct villages, Borgo al Cornio and Castrum Prati
(Prato's Castle), are known. In the following century the two settlements were united under the lords of the castle, the Alberti
family, who received the imperial title
of Counts of Prato. In the same period the plain was dried and a hydraulic system regulating and exploiting the waters of the Bisenzio River
was created to feed the gualchierae
(pre-industrial textile machines).
After a siege in 1107 by the troops of Matilde of Canossa, the Alberti retreated to their family fortresses in the Bisenzio Valley: Prato could therefore develop as a free commune. Within two centuries it reached the number of 15,000 inhabitants, spurred in by the flourishing textile industry and by the presence of the Holy Belt relic. Two new lines of walls had to be built in the mid-12th century and, respectively, from the early 14th century. In 1326, in order to counter the expansionism of Florence, Prato submitted voluntarily under the seigniory of Robert of Anjou, King of Naples. However, on February 23 1351 Joanna I of Naples sold the city to Florence in exchange of 17,500 golden florins. Prato's history therefore followed that of the former in the following centuries.
In 1512, during the War of the League of Cambrai
, the city was sacked by Spanish
troops assembled by Pope Julius II
and emperor Charles V
to recover the nearby city of Florence
for the Medici family
. The severity of the sack of Prato led to the surrender of the Florentine Republic
, and to the restoration of the Medici rule. The army slaughtered some 50,000 Pratesi in the streets.
In 1653 Prato obtained the status of city and became seat of a Catholic diocese. The city was embellished in particular during the 18th century.
After the unification of Italy in the 19th century, Prato became a primary industrial centre, especially in the textile sector (Italian historian Emanuele Repetti described it as the "Italian Manchester"), and population grew up to 50,000 in 1901 and to 180,000 in 2001. The town experienced a substantial immigration; currently it has a Chinese community of 10,000/20,000 people, from Wenzhou city.
Previously part of the province of Florence, in 1992 Prato became the capital of the eponymous province.
Prato is home to many museums and other cultural monuments, including the Filippo Lippi
frescoes in the Cathedral of Santo Stefano
, recently restored
The Cathedral has an external pulpit by Donatello
Palazzo Pretorio was built from the 13th century in red bricks. The part in white stone is from late-Gothic era. In the 16th century an external staircase and a watch were added. Also notable is the Palazzo Datini, built from 1383 for the merchant Francesco Datini. It has decorations by Florentine artists like Agnolo Gaddi and Niccolò Gerini. In 1409 it housed Pope Alexander V and Louis of Anjou. The Palazzo degli Alberti (12th century) is home to an art gallery with works by Filippo Lippi (Prato Madonna), Giovanni Bellini (Crucifix with Jew Cemetery) and Caravaggio (The Crowning with Thorns).
The Castello dell'Imperatore is the northernmost castle built by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen in Italy. A further major attraction of the city is the Centro per l'arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci a museum and education centre concerned with contemporary arts.
Other churches include:
- Santa Maria delle Carceri, commissioned by Lorenzo de' Medici to Giuliano da Sangallo in 1484. It is one Greek cross plan, inspired to Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel. Works lasted for some twenty years. The interior is run by a bichromatic maiolica frieze by Luca della Robbia, also author of four tondos depicting the four Evangelists in the cupola. The external façade is unfinished, only the western part being completed in the 19th century according to Sangallo's design.
- Sant'Agostino, built from 1440 over an existing edifice from 1271.
- San Domenico (begun in 1281), with a portal from 1310.
- San Francesco (1281-1331). It houses a notable funerary monument of Gemriniano Inghirami (died 1460), and the frescoes by Niccolò Gerini in the Migliorati Chapel.
- San Fabiano, already existing in 1082. It houses precious traces of a pavement mosaic dating from the 9th-11th centuries. Also notable is the 15th century bell tower.
- the late-Baroque Monastery of San Vincenzo.
Prato is also the home of the Monash University Centre directed by Dr Annamaria Pagliaro. The Centreis now the largest Australian academic institution of its kind in Europe, providing a strong link between Australian scholars, students, and their European counterparts, as well as providing English-language training. The centre hosts many international conferences in its heritage-listed building.
Prato has a number of frazionis, namely:
Borgonuovo, Cafaggio, Canneto, Capezzana, Casale, Castelnuovo, Chiesanuova, Coiano, Figline di Prato, Filettole, Fontanelle, Galcetello, Galceti, Galciana, Gonfienti, Grignano, I Ciliani, I Lecci, Il Cantiere, Il Guado, Il Soccorso, Iolo, La Castellina, La Conca, La Dogaia, La Macine, La Pietà, La Querce, Le Badie, Le Caserane, Le Fonti, Le Fornaci, Maliseti, Mazzone, Mezzana, Narnali, Paperino, Pizzidimonte, Reggiana, San Giorgio a Colonica, San Giusto, San Paolo, Santa Cristina a Pimonte, Santa Lucia, Santa Maria a Colonica, Sant'Andrea, Sant'Ippolito, Tavola, Satriani, Tobbiana, Viaccia, Vergaio.
- Nicolo Albertini, cardinal, in the 1200s
- Francesco Datini, merchant in the 1300s, "the merchant of Prato"
- Ignazio Fresu, sculptor, 1957-
- Filippino Lippi, painter in the 1500s
- Lorenzo Bartolini, sculptor, 1777-1850
- Curzio Malaparte, writer, 1898-1957
- Fiorenzo Magni, cyclist, 1920-
- Roberto Benigni, actor and director (actually born near Arezzo but he used to live in Prato with the family.)
- Jury Chechi, gymnast, olympic gold medalist
- Domenico Zipoli, composer, 1688-1726
- Paolo Rossi, soccer player, World Champion, European Footballer of the Year and World Player of the Year in 1982
- Christian Vieri, soccer player
- Nam Dinh, Vietnam, from 1975
- Albemarle County, USA, from 1977
- Roubaix, France, from 1981
- Changzhou, People's Republic of China, from 1987
- Ebensee, Austria, from 1987
- Wangen im Allgäu, Germany, from 1988
- Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, from 1997
- Bir Lehlu, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, from 1999
- Pabianice, Poland, from 2001
- Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, from 1999
- Harare, Zimbabwe