Prato is the second largest city in Tuscany and the third in central Italy (after Rome and Florence). It is situated at the heart of the region, not far from the world's most famous cities of art: Florence, Lucca, Pisa and Siena. Its origins date back to the Paleolithic times and the was later colonized by the Etruscans. The Etruscan city was inhabited until the 5th century BC, but the control of the area was later shifted to the Romans.
In the early Middle Ages, the Byzantine and Lombard dominations prevailed in the region.
Prato is the principal town of a Province that consists in seven municipalities: Cantagallo, Carmignano, Montemurlo, Poggio a Caiano, Vaiano e Vernio.
It is known for its wool weaving tradition that had, since the Middle Ages, a major role for the economic and social development of the entire district and that now, with its modern factories, has been transferred to the industrial zones. Noteworthy is also the food industry with its specialties such as cantucci, a type of biscuit which are part of the "Slow Food" movement.
In the historical town centre are to be found noteworthy historical sites such as the Castle Dell'Imperatore, the Cathedral, the Municipal Palazzo, the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri, the churches of St. Francis and St. Dominic, rich in works by grand masters, such as Agnolo Gaddi, Paolo Uccello, Filippo and Filippino Lippi, Donatello and other famous artists of the 14th century and the Renaissance.
The museums of Mural Paintings, of the Cathedral, the communal Galleries and degli Alberti, all hold important collections of history up to the artistic season of the first part of the 20th century. The "Luigi Pecci"Centre for Contemporary Art organises exhibitions and demonstrations of the most well-known artists of the avant-garde movement.
The Museum of Cloth is also an expression of the textile history of the town, which gives its visitors an interesting view of the art of weaving throughout the centuries.
The Datini archives are a significant collection of late medieval documents concerning economic and trade history, produced between 1363 and 1410.
The territory of the province of Prato offers the possibility of stays and itineraries in the countryside. Here, the signs of history and art left by the Etruscans, the Romans and the Longobards is visible.
The provincial territory is rich in interesting tourist places: necropolises and Etruscan findings in Comeana and Artiminio, Romanesque churches scattered throughout the Carmignanese area, the ancient abbeys in Val di Bisenzio, the medieval villages, the splendid Medici villas in Poggio a Caiano and Artiminio, the Park Museum Quinto Martini in Seano and the environmental park of Mercatale di Vernio; as well as the hilly landscape of Montalbano, rich in vineyards and olive groves, and the striking scenery of the Karstic Massif in Calvana that faces the woody spur on the right bank of the Bisenzio.
The city of Prato has the second largest Chinese immigrant population in Italy (after Milan with Italy's largest Chinatown). Legal Chinese residents in Prato on 31 December 2008 were 9,927.
Local authorities estimate the number of Chinese citizens living in Prato to be around 45,000, illegal immigrants included.