The emblematic city of Prato is situated in a plain crossed by the Bisenzio River, at just 17 kilometres northwest of Florence. The city, which is well-known all over Italy for its chief textile production and its international commercial activities - a tradition which started around 900 years ago - as well as by its main chemical and mechanical industries, is also a high interesting cultural and artistic site in Northern Tuscany. Its historical centre is overlooked by numerous and beautiful Medieval and Renaissance buildings and monuments.
Prato is since 1993 the capital city of the province after its name, being also one of the most populated cities in Tuscany with almost 184,000 inhabitants. The territorial area of Prato’s province extends for 365 square kilometres and comprises, subsequent to Prato, six municipalities: Cantagallo, Carmignano, Montemurlo, Poggio a Caiano, Vaiano, and Vernio.
Furthermore, the vast province of Prato is appreciated all through Italy for its outstanding production of extra virgin olive oil and its remarkable label wines, from which excel the DOCG Carmignano, Ruspo, Pinot Nero and the golden, sweet and delightful Vin Santo, which fits perfectly with the exquisite pastry of the city of Prato, like the celebrated “cantucci” and the “mandorlati di San Clemente”.
It is believed that the area of Prato was first inhabited, around the 3rd millennium BC, by a population essentially composed of Iberian-Ligurian tribes of shepherds, becoming around the 8th century BC a main Etruscan settlement. In the 2nd century BC it was conquered by the Romans who turned it into a prosperous village called Pagus Cornius. In the 6th century, during the Greek-Gothic war, the old roman village was razed to the ground and then rebuilt by the Longobards who occupied the area. At the end of the 10th century Prato was divided in two districts: one of them was the borough overlooked by the Alberti Castle, which belonged to the Counts of Alberti, while the other one was known as Borgo al Cormo, a village constructed around the former Church of St. Stephen.
In 11th century, Prato reached a considerably extent and the two old districts developed into a single one, so the Counts of Alberti, who in the meanwhile had been invested Counts of Prato, commissioned the construction of two fortified walls to defend the fief.
In the 12th century, due to its prosperous textile craftsmanship and its consequent dealing activities, Prato declared itself a free territory, administrated and ruled by consuls and mayors, elected by the citizens, whose term of office was biannually. In spite of the inner struggles and the assaults from the neighbouring towns, the flourishing business of the free territory went on perfectly.
Since the end of the 12th century until the mid of the 14th century, Prato was involved in the gory confrontations between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, so the town had necessary to keep on enlarging and strengthening its defensive walls. The work concluded at the end of the 14th century and the walls reached a perimeter of 4, 5 kilometres.
Nevertheless, the crucial geographical position of the town, follower of the Ghibelline cause, was so desperate that, in1313, Prato had to request the protection of the Kingdom of Naples, whose king, Robert D’Anjou, was nominated Lord of Prato.
In 1350 Prato was besieged by the Florentine army, but the scarce population who had survived to the terrible plague of 1348 was unable to defend the town, which was taken by Florence. In 1351 the Florentine Republic purchased the territory to Giovanna I D’Anjou, Queen of Naples, paying for it 17.5000 golden florins. Therefore, Prato followed the fate of Florence and then the one of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
In 1653 Prato received the title of City, being also declared diocese in union with the neighbouring city of Pistoia, at around 35 kilometres far.
After a long shadowy period for its economy, in the second half of the18th century the craftsmanship and the trading activities of Prato show a significant increase, which kept on growing in the followings centuries, specially after the reunification of Italy, developing into the wealthy and renowned industrial city that it currently is.
For more informations on Prato' s museums and restaurants click here
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