Prato, a walk around the historic centre
Discovering the cathedral, the Emperor’s castle and Palazzo Pretorio
By using the city’s 14th-century medieval walls and towers as a guide, visitors can easily explore the remarkable artworks and monuments in Prato’s city centre. Apart from the 16th-century entranceways and bastions, at the centre of this city is the main square, Piazza del Comune, where the 14th-century public building, Palazzo del Comune, is located.
The building’s facade was renovated in 1700, and inside the edifice visitors can admire the main council room (the Salone del Consiglio), and the municipal gallery, which boasts portraits from the 15th- and 16th centuries, as well as the Textile Museum, which displays important fabrics that date back to the middle ages until today.
On the other side of the square is the impressive Palazzo Pretorio, which was once the main seat of the government of the republic and the courthouse. It was restructured in 1300, and its battlement and small bell tower were added in the 16th-century. This building houses the Civic Museum, which boasts an important collection of paintings, among which are works made by Filippo and Filippino Lippi.
From the piazza, continue along Corso Mazzoni until you reach Piazza Duomo. The cathedral basilica of Santo Stefano is a noteworthy example of the Gothic-Romanic architectural style in Prato. The cathedral is characterized by light-colored albarese stone and green marble from Prato. Inside the church, the pulpit was made by Donatello and Michelozzo (circa 1433 to 1438) for the Ostensione della Sacra Cintola della Madonna, which is today conserved in the Sacra Cintola della Basilica chapel. In the Cappella Maggiore there are beautiful frescoes by Filippo Lippi that depict the stories of Saint Stefano and John the Baptist.
From Piazza Duomo, continue along Largo Carducci until reaching Piazza San Domenico, where you will find the Church of San Domenico. It has an elegant Gothic structure in albarese stone and bricks. From the church’s cloister, visitors can reach the Museum of Mural Painting, which displays frescoes, graffiti and sinopites from 14th to the 17th centuries. From here, you can walk to Palazzo degli Alberti, which is where the Gallery of the Alberti is located. The gallery showcases an important collection of Tuscan baroque artworks and some works by Caravaggio and Bellini.
Palazzo Datini, which houses the state archives and Datini and Ceppo archives today, is a rare example of a 13th-century residence that also features frescoes on its exterior. Continue along Via Rinaldesca to enter Piazza San Francesco and the San Francesco church. Continue along the road on the side of the church until you reach Piazza Santa Maria delle Arceri, where you can admire the only extant example of Swedish art in central and northern Italy: the Emperor’s Castle. This beautiful piazza is framed by the Santa Maria delle Carceri Basilica, built in 1400 following the wishes of Lorenzo Il Magnifico.
From there you can easily reach Piazza San Marco, where you will find the “Forma” artwork by Henry Moore. Continue along San Silvestro and you’ll find one of the five sanctuaries dedicated to the Madonna del Giglio. Continue to reach Piazza Mercatale. Take Via Garibaldi until the Madonna del Buonconsiglio Oratory, where there is a beautiful ceramic altarpiece by Andrea della Robbia.
Here you can reach Piazza Duomo, where the itinerary ends.