The Castello dell'Imperatore (The Emperor's Castle) is a small, charming ruin in the city of Prato, about 45 minutes from Florence. The structure has its origins in 1240 when the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II commissioned a royal residence to be built in the city on top of the ruins of an old fort. However, the lofty plans came to a sudden stop in 1250 after the famous emperor's death, and the castle was never completed.
For over a hundred years during the Florentine reign over Prato, the unfinished castle was connected to the city walls with a "secret" passage that allowed Florentine troops to easily enter and exit the city. Over the following centuries, the castle was used for numerous purposes, with homes even being built on the inside of its walls, all of which were demolished under fascist rule in the 1930s.
Today, the medieval castle is comprised of only its exterior walls, a large interior courtyard (originally meant to be the rooms of the castle itself), and eight towers which can be climbed to get a bird's eye view of Prato.
The Castello dell'Imperatore is located right in the center of Prato, and is easily reached by train from Florence. The local government organizes numerous cultural events at this beautiful ruin, including open air cinema during the summer.
Castello dell'Imperatore, Piazza Santa Maria delle Carceri, Prato, Tel. 0574-38207