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Medieval Prato: the tower-houses

A vertical city with a bold and grim attitude

In XII century Prato was the city of sixty towers; the historic center was dominated almost entirely by buildings with vertical perspectives with austere facades. Small windows, narrow porches, slits and pontoia holes characterized the urban aesthetic. The tower houses dominated and defended Prato; they functioned as homes and watchtowers in the event of war events. The structure was covered with plaster or with exposed walls; the prospect was easily distinguished by a bold look. The tower houses belonged to the ancient magnate consortiums and proliferated in a Prato more and more with a vertical perspective. However, many of the towers were subject to "loopholes" or demolitions. The reality, in fact, was that inserted in the vicissitudes of the struggles between the Prato consortiums, Guelphs or Ghibellines, white or black.
Thus, the tower houses of the vanquished were subjected to partial ruin; the Municipality, in the hands of the winners, sold the properties of the exiles, but after these had the sign of defeat. In the periods of popular government, these private fortresses lost importance and, in more peaceful times, the towers were transformed into placid altanas open on the panorama, or in dovecotes.

In the 16th century, in fact, the surviving tower houses were already considered noble historical evidence and a reason for civic pride. Even if reduced to half and even a third of the original elevation, some towers are still visible; an example is the current Palazzo Pretorio and others are concentrated in Corso Mazzoni, Via Garibaldi and in the Buonconti alley.

Turning in the historical center, it is easy to look up and come across one of the tower houses still visible. The setting and atmosphere of the 1300s echo from the austere profiles of the old structures present; immediate will be a journey through time in a city immersed in full medieval history.