Florence is a huge “neighbour” indeed, but the town of Prato has lot of things to offer and it is very close to the city of Brunelleschi and Ghiberti.
What to do in Prato
The Prato area originally had paleolithic settlements and then some Etruscan villages, thus it shares with Florence thousands of years of history.
The two villages of Borgo al Cornio and Castrum Prati (Castrum meaning Castle in Latin – Castello in Italian: the Castro- prefix in Italian toponyms is quite frequent and it denotes the history of the place as a fortified settlement) were unified by the noble family of the Alberti, imperial Counts of Prato.
Prato, or a bargain for the raising Florence…
In the Middle Ages Prato became for a while a free commune (just like Siena or San Gimignano), and soon had to deal with the growing Florence power: on February 23rd 1351 Prato was sold to Florence by the Queen of Naples, who was supposed to protect the town against Florence itself!
The medieval and Renaissance heritage is still much alive, making of Prato a must see in Tuscany
What to do in Prato: wait: at Helm’s Deep!?
And a great lot of that heritage is the Castello dell’Imperatore – the Imperial Castle. Built for Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, very well preserved, its walls reminds of the Helm’s Deep ones, as seen in the Lord of the Rings movies.
What to do in Prato: museum and mountains
If the Castello dell’Imperatore of Helm’s Deep, the Museo di Palazzo Pretorio is a severe tower which could stay in Minas Tirith, and a very nice museum too! It enshrines some Filippo Lippi – a painter monk – works and the view of the mountains from the highest floor of the building is stunning.
What to do in Prato: a visit to a “brand new” cathedral
Il Duomo di Prato – the Saint Stephen’s Prato Cathedral – is a beautiful Romanesque church from the XII Century. The cathedral has been recently restored and now you can experience the frescoes by Filippo Lippi at their best!