The city of Prato appeared, as most of the Tuscan large settlements, at the time of the Etruscans, but the first record of it dates back to the X century.
The economic growth of the city, which was foregrounded by the skill of local weavers, took place at the same time, in the Middle Ages. However, there were other means for enrichment. It is interesting that Prato was the exact place where the Italian merchant, Franchesco di Marco Datini (1330-1410), one of the richest men of his time, invented the “double bookkeeping” method.
And yet, it was the hard work that turned the city and its outskirts into a real “wool empire”. Until now, Prato has kept its title as the most developed business city in Tuscany. You can get acquainted with the history of weaving industry, examine weaving machines of different periods, and admire various fabric patterns at the Fabric Museum (Museo del Tessuto).
Prato's wealth consists not only in the textile industry, but also in objects of worship and masterpieces of outstanding masters. The main heritage of the city is the Belt of the Virgin Mary (Sacro Cingolo). According to the legend, the Virgin Mary threw it to the Apostle Thomas while ascending to heaven. The sacred object is kept in the Chapel and is exhibited to the church members for contemplation five times a year: on Easter Sunday, on the 1st of May, the 15th of August, the 8th of September, and on Christmas.
At the Cathedral, where you can contemplate the belt on designated days, it is also worth having a look at the cycle of frescoes, known as “The life episodes of St. Stephen and St. John the Baptist,” created in the XV century by Philippo Lippi.
In general, the historical center of the city has been preserved pretty well so you can visit numerous churches and museums here. Santa Maria delle Carceri Church, remarkable for its green marble facade, is an attraction of the city. Stripes of white and green marble also decorate San Francesco Church, which impresses visitors with its ascetic simplicity and grand proportion.
There is a collection of modern art known all over Italy at the Luigi Pecci Museum.
The ancient fortress of the emperor Frederick II (Castello dell` Imperatore) has been retained since the XIII century. Its irregular hexagon shape is unique in northern and middle Italy.