17km (11 miles) NW of Florence; 333km (207 miles) N of Rome
Though Prato is a busy workaday place, set not amidst olive groves and vineyards but industrial suburbs, you have at least two, if not more, compelling reasons to visit. One is to see the exuberantly colorful frescoes with which the Renaissance painter Fra Filippo Lippi decorated the cathedral of Santo Stefano; another is to sample at the source the city’s almond biscotti that just about everyone in Italy agrees are better than those baked anywhere else. You can also throw in the whiff of scandal, for it was here in Prato that the monk-artist Fra Lippo Lippi first set eyes on the young nun Lucrezia Buti, who became his lover and set tongues wagging throughout Renaissance Italy. Adding another element to the scene is the presence of many Chinese residents, who comprise the second largest Asian community in Italy, after Milan, and for the most part are the workforce behind the city’s centuries-old textile industry.