Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 11, 2016

A visit to Prato

I visited Prato many years ago and I remember thinking it was an interesting city that deserved more exploration. In October I dropped in for a few hours. It is on the train line between Lucca and Florence, making it very easy to get to.

I left the train at Porta Serraglia, on the edge of the old section of Prato, a very good place to begin a walk through the city.

Just a short walk from the station is the magnificent cathedral of Santo  Stefano, built on the site of an earlier church. The current structure dates from the Romanesque period of the 12th century.

Santo Stefano Prato

Santo Stefano Prato

The external pulpit was added between 1428 – 1438, built by Michelozzo and decorated by Donatello.

Santo Stefano Prato

Santo Stefano Prato

The church houses frescoes by Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Agnolo Gaddi.

Santo Stefano Prato

The Piazza del Duomo is enormous. A lovely fountain forms the centrepiece.

Piazza del Duomo

Mazzoni keeps a weary watch over the piazza often with the help of pigeons sitting on his head.

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Comune is the heart of Prato. The square is home to the medieval Palazzo Pretoria, which is now a museum. It was built in the 13th century from red brick. An external staircase, clock tower and white stone gothic style additions happened from the 16th century.

Palazzo Pretorio

The imposing white marble statue of Prato’s famous merchant, Francesco di Marco Datini (1335-1420), dominates the square.

Piazza Comune Prato

The lovely Fontana del Bacchino is tucked in a corner. It is a copy of the original by Ferdinand Tacca, which is now kept in the Palazzo Comunale.

Fountain Prato

The streets of Prato are easy to navigate and there are many interesting buildings to keep your attention. There is good shopping and inviting cafes and restaurants.



A short walk from the Piazza del Comunale is the Castello dell’Imperatore, the only example of Swabian archicture in northern Italy.

Castello dell'Imperatore Prato

It was built on the site of a small fortress. The castle is attributed to architect Riccardo da Latina, who also designed castles in Augusta, Syracuse and Catania. It was never finished because Fredierick died and the workmen left. It has served as a home , a war veteran’s shelter and a prison.

Castello Prato

On my way back to the station I came  upon a part of the old wall. Some of it had been put to use as an external wall of a house.



Prato has a long tradition of textile manufacture. There is an excellent textile museum, which I intend to visit on my next trip to Prato.

The city is still involved in textiles. It has the second largest Chinese community (after Milan) in Italy. Chinese immigrants first arrived in the 1980s and 1990s to work in the textile factories. There are around 3,500 workshops where approximately 45,000 Chinese workers are employed, legally and otherwise.

This community is outside the historical centre and has a thriving market area with lots of good Chinese restaurants. I realise that people don’t usually visit Italy to eat Chinese food, but when you stay for months at a time it can be a treat to eat something other than Italian food. I’ll show you one of these in another post.



  1. Loved this post Deb and maybe one trip I will come to Prato and also visit the textile museum with you- and explore this lovely town.

    • Prato is an interesting place to visit. I went to the textile museum many years ago, but it is time to return.

  2. Thanks so much for taking us to Prato; great photos, as usual. I loved reading Iris Origo’s book The Merchant of Prato about the life of Francesco di Mardatini. It made 14th century Tuscany come alive for me.

    • A book to read – I’ve read War in Val d’Orcia which was fascinating

      • I must look out for the Merchant of Prato too.

  3. As you rightly say, Prato is a very interesting place to visit. It’s links with the textile industry are very old and it used to be called the Italian Manchester. Things have changed quite a bit since then and it is amazing to see how the Chinese gave recreated a hub for the textile industry, although for those of us who have read or watched Gomorrah, the current situation is quite frightening. This article also tells us about the appalling conditions in which those Chinese workers survive

    • People really need to start asking themselves how much workers get paid when they buy a $2 shirt. As someone who has made a living sewing clothes, I know just how much effort goes into making a garment. I would hate to work in a sweatshop and would dearly love to see people paid a decent amount of money.

    • That article was sobering reading.

  4. Beautiful town…we passed Prato many times but unfortunately didn’t take the time to visit. Perhaps one day!!

    • Prato has much to offer. I will return.

  5. Looks gorgeous – on the list for next year

    • It is an easy trip to Prato. I drive to Lucca and take the train.

  6. These ancient buildings are endlessly fascinating. The merchant, Francesco, was a handsome man and, for those times, he lived well into old age didn’t he. I have to confess, I gave your pastry equal scrutiny, well almost equal.

    • I can report that the pastry was excellent.

  7. Thanks for this post, Debra. I’m staying in Prato next March, and will obviously have lots to discover.

    • I’m sure you will have a great time.

  8. Prato looks like a really beautiful city. Thank you for sharing.

    • Prato has lots to offer.

  9. The city of Prato has been sponsoring some wonderful free excursions from Florence over the past few years in spring and fall. I happened to be in Florence and joined one and was pleasantly delighted with Prato as well…

    • What a good idea to lure some of Florence’s visitors over to Prato.

  10. Very interesting Debra! I didn’t realise that there were so many Chinese people in Milan (I haven’t visited). Do they have any Italian and Chinese fusion food?

    • I have eaten in a couple of Chinese restaurants in Prato in the Chinese area. It was not fusion food, strictly Chinese. Italians like to eat Italian food and rarely experiment as far as I can see.

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