Prato is a small Tuscan city, with a beautiful historic centre and a vibrant cultural life. Historically, Prato is known for its textile industry and, more recently, the garment or 'fast fashion' sector. The city has a population of 190,000 inhabitants, a growing percentage of whom are immigrants from mainland China, the Indian sub-continent, north and west Africa and elsewhere.
Prato has a rich historical and artistic patrimony, including a mid-thirteenth century castle built by the Hohenstaufen Emperors, almost perfectly preserved medieval walls which enclose the ancient city centre, a Romanesque cum Gothic cathedral dedicated to Santo Stefano with an external pulpit by Donatello and Michelozzo, the church of Santa Maria delle Carceri by Giuliano da Sangallo, and the well-preserved Palazzo Datini, the late fourteenth century home of the famous 'Merchant of Prato', Francesco Datini.
Palazzo Pretorio located in the Town Hall square is the old city hall of Prato. It now houses a museum which reopened in September 2013 with a major exhibition on Renaissance masters 'From Donatello to Lippi'.
An authentic experience of Italy today
Yet to be transformed by mass tourism, Prato offers the perfect environment for immersion in Italian language and culture. Its major sights are predominantly located within the town's medieval walls and in easy walking distance of the Monash Centre. Like many European cities, Prato has a growing multicultural dimension (Prato has one of the largest Chinese immigrant populations in Europe) which permeates the cultural and artistic life of the city.
For places of interest and other useful information about Prato, view the Prato city map.
The Province of Prato embraces some magnificent countryside, which is well worth visiting. South of Prato lie the towns of Artimino, Poggio a Caiano (with its famous Medici Villa), and Carmignano, an area famous for the production of DOC and DOCG wines and extra virgin olive oil. To the north there are the picturesque mountain towns of Vaiano and Vernio. There are also Etruscan archaeological sites, where our very own students go on digs, as well as scenic walking and cycling paths along the Bisenzio river. The Prato Tourist Bureau has maps with more information.