Places in Prato:
Architecture and monuments

The Bisenzio River

The contact point between the urban and natural environment

The origin of the Bisenzio River - which begins in Val di Bisenzio, crosses Prato and ends in the Arno River - is a mystery that has not yet been completely solved: we don't know yet for sure where its source is located. The Bisenzio (from the Latin Bis Entius, "waters that flow together") starts from the confluence and union of two streams. Emilio Bertini, a late-19th century excursionist and geographer from Prato, placed the source of the river at Mulin della Sega, where the waters of the Trogola and Baccuccio streams merge together; a more recent investigation places the origin of the river further upstream, at the confluence of the Trogola and Fosso della Barbe streams, at the base of Poggio Vespaio. Even Galileo Galilei interested himself in the Bisenzio River. He wrote to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando II de' Medici, asking his opinion concerning possible engineering works to contain the continual floods from the river: "I will just say in conclusion about the decision to be taken regarding the restoration of the Bisenzio River, that I am inclined not to remove its ancient bed but just clear it, widen it and, to put it succinctly, raise its banks where it floods and reinforce them where it breaks through." The river has represented great wealth for the valley it crosses, and to which it lends its name, and for the city.

Through the centuries, water mills have been built along its banks which, exploiting the hydraulic power of the river, are still grinding today quality grains and chestnuts. The major factories and industrial areas, such as Briglia, that were built here encompass almost three centuries of manufacturing history. In the 18th century the largest paper mill in Italy was erected here by the Genoese papermaker Clemente Ricci, and 100 years later it was turned into a copper foundry.

In 1882 the entrepreneur Beniamino Forti, in his turn, turned it into a textile factory, starting the transformation of this entire area, which soon became the "factory city" of the textile industry in all its phases. The Bisenzio River represents not only the city’s manufacturing history, but also its environmental vocation and its love and respect for nature, as shown by the many parks and green areas created along the river: the Albareta River Park at Mercatale di Vernio, the Carigiola Park and the cycling paths running along the river from Val di Bisenzio to Campi Bisenzio.