Province of Prato, Tuscany, Italy

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About Prato

Prato (/ ˈprɑːtoʊ / PRAH-toh, Italian: (listen)) is a city and comune in Tuscany, Italy, the capital of the province of Prato. The city is located 17 kilometers north-west of Florence, at the foot of Monte Retaia, at 768 meters (2,520 feet), the last peak of the Calvana chain. With over 195,000 inhabitants, Prato is the second largest city in Tuscany (after Florence) and the third largest in central Italy (after Rome and Florence).

Historically, Prato's economy has been based on the textile industry. The renowned Datini archives are a significant collection of late medieval documents concerning economic and commercial history, produced between 1363 and 1410.

The city boasts important historical and artistic attractions, with a cultural arc that began with the Etruscans and then expanded in the Middle Ages and reached its peak with the Renaissance, when artists such as Donatello, Filippo Lippi and Botticelli left their testimonies in the city.

The famous cantucci, a type of biscuit invented in Prato during the Middle Ages, are still produced by traditional local bakers.


Ancient times

Archaeological finds have shown that the surrounding hills of Prato had been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. The plain was later colonized by the Etruscans. In 1998 remains of a previously unknown city of that civilization were discovered in the Gonfienti neighborhood near Campi Bisenzio. It was medium in size and was already a center for the wool and textile industry. According to some scholars, it could be the mythical Camar. The Etruscan city was inhabited until the fifth century BC, when, for unknown reasons, it decayed; control of the area passed later to the Romans, who passed their Via Cassia here, but did not build any settlements.

Middle Ages

In the early Middle Ages, the Byzantine and Lombard dominations prevailed in the region.

The history of Prato starts from the tenth century, when two distinct villages are known, Borgo al Cornio and Castrum Prati (Prato Castle). In the following century the two settlements were united under the lords of the castle, the Alberti family, who received the imperial title of Conti di Prato. In the same period the plain was drained and a hydraulic system was created that regulates and exploits the waters of the Bisenzio river to feed the gualchierae (pre-industrial textile machines).

After a siege in 1107 by the troops of Matilde di Canossa, the Alberti retreated to the family fortresses in the Bisenzio Valley: Prato could therefore develop as a free municipality. Within two centuries it reached 15,000 inhabitants, stimulated by the flourishing textile industry and by the presence of the relic of the Holy Belt. Two new lines of walls were built in the mid 12th century and early 14th century.

In 1326, to counter the expansionism of the Republic of Florence, Prato voluntarily submitted itself under the rule of Roberto d'Angiò, king of Naples. However, on February 23, 1351 Giovanna I of Naples sold the city to the Republic of Florence in exchange for 17,500 gold florins.

The history of Prato then followed that of Florence in the following centuries.

Modern age

In 1512, during the war of the Holy League, the city was sacked by the Spanish troops brought together by Pope Julius II and the king of Aragon, Ferdinand II, to recover the nearby city of Florence for the Medici family. The severity of the Prato sack led to the surrender of the Florentine Republic and the restoration of the Medici domain. Historians argue about the actual number of people killed during the sack, but contemporary chroniclers established between 2000 and 6000 were massacred on the streets.

In 1653 Prato obtained the status of a city and became the seat of a Catholic diocese. The city was embellished in particular during the 18th century.

In the eighteenth century, with the rise of Lorraine at the head of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the city was embellished and also experienced a significant cultural development, which was promoted by the Grand Dukes themselves.

The intellectual foresight of Prato and its land in this century finds its maximum expression in the words of Filippo Mazzei, a friend of Thomas Jefferson, which today are reported in the second paragraph of the Constitution of the United States of America: All men are created same .

After the unification of Italy in the 19th century, Prato became a primary industrial center, especially in the textile sector (the Italian historian Emanuele Repetti described it as "Italian Manchester"), and its population grew to 50,000 in 1901 and 180,000 in 2001. The city experienced an important internal immigration. Formerly part of the province of Florence, in 1992 Prato became the capital of the homonymous province.

Main attractions

Source: Wikipedia
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