“[…] I quali [Pratesi] son lavoratori, traffichini, inventamestieri, e hanno il cuore più largo della mano: spendono tutto quel che guadagnano, e tanto son brava gente finché rimangono poveri operai […] Ho detto che sono inventamestieri: e infatti i mestieri che fanno i pratesi se li sono inventati loro, a cominciar da quello d’esser pratesi, perché anche l’esser pratese è un mestiere, e non è tra i più facili: pratese vuol dire uomo libero, e il mestiere dell’uomo libero, come tutti sanno, non è certo tra i più facili, specie in Italia.”
Curzio Malaparte – Maledetti Toscani
Prato is my city, a special place. It is still undiscovered by the majority of travelers and free of mass tourism. Visiting Prato is visiting a jewel hidden under the shadow of Florence. In the center you can find the authentic Tuscany lifestyle. We are known for our big hearts and tireless work in the agricultural and textile production. Roberto Benigni, Oscar actor, grew up in Prato and his family still live here.
Prato was born in the XX century out of an agglomeration of rural villages and grew up under Pistoia and Firenze power. Nowadays, Prato still has a local rivalry with Florence and Pistoia.
The middle age castle, the historical churches and their hidden patios and gardens, the middle age towers and palaces are example of the pre-renaissance period art. The Cathedral of the city has the Donatello Pulpit and has just been restored. Inside, it displays beautiful frescoes of Filippino and Filippo Lippi, Renascence painters lived in Prato that are known for their works exposed at the Uffizi Museum in Florence.
Prato was also a pilgrimage destination thanks to the Virgin Belt brought from Palestine by Michele da Prato, a merchant. The legend tells that he married a girl in Palestine and his wife family gave him the Virgin Belt as dowry of the marriage. When Michele was dying, in 1140, he gave the Virgin Belt to the town and since then it has been guarded in the Cathedral. The belt is shown to the community during religious celebrations of the Medieval Festival of September the 8th.
But you cannot understand Prato if you don’t understand the tradition of the textile products that starts from the middle age. The inventor of the promissory and the double entry accountancy -used today all over the world- was the merchant Francesco Datini (c. 1335 – 16 August 1410), from Prato. Datini was a textile producer and merchant who worked all around Europe and gave his inheritance to the poorest and the orphans of his town.
After the second world war Prato developed a special industrial district based on the recycling of old clothes. It started to import old cloths “stracci” from all around the world and regenerated them in a new material. From a peasantry town, Prato became an industrial and fashion town known all around Europe for its wool, cotton and polyester products. Since then, it has always received a strong immigration flow from other Italian regions and, in the latest time from China. Its entrepreneurial and worker aptitude created a reach district based on little and medium companies working together in a cooperation and competition system were everybody could create its own enterprise and could be a free person.