inside and outside the walls
Photo © www.visittuscany.com
Known today as the focal point for the textiles industry, Prato is actually a small treasure chest of artistic treasures and wonders, for visitors to discover one by one.
The main religious monument of the city, within easy walking distance, is obviously the Duomo, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, whose facade, which dominates the wide and regular square in front, is built in bands of white marble and green serpentine, according to the typical Tuscan late-Gothic tradition. On the right corner, it houses a pulpit with the seven tiles depicting Donatello’s Danza dei Putti, the originals of which are kept, together with other masterpieces, in the nearby Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Inside the basilica is the relic of the Sacra Cintola della Madonna and you can admire the frescoes by Filippo Lippi, among the most significant pictorial cycles of the early Renaissance.
Piazza del Comune, the ideal and geometric centre of the city, hosts the severe, massive, medieval Palazzo Pretorio, home to the museum of the same name, and the Town Hall; the Gothic churches of San Domenico, with its incomplete facade, and San Francesco, date back to the Middle Ages, while the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri, built on the remains of the ancient prison from which it takes its name, represents a precious example of Renaissance architecture.
However, the true symbol of the city is the impressive Castello dell’Imperatore, an example of Swabian architecture, with its four main, square-shaped towers whose corners indicate the points of the compass, and a large internal courtyard that is used as a venue for concerts and events in the summer.
In fact, in Prato an illustrious artistic tradition lives side by side with the expressions of contemporary life: while contemporary works of art by world-renowned artists from Henry Moore to Sol LeWitt can be found in its streets, the city is also home to the Teatro Metastasio and the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art.
The Medici family also left numerous traces of their presence in the area, extending beyond the Florentine area. Among the vineyards of the hills of Montalbano, not far from Villa La Magia in Quarrata, stands Villa La Ferdinanda, at Artimino, built in a dominant position to the design of Buontalenti at the behest of Grand Duke Ferdinando I.
La Magia, La Ferdinanda and the nearby Villa di Poggio a Caiano are part of the constellation of Medici residences that clearly express the power of the Florentine family in Tuscany.