Stories of Prato:
People of Prato

Francesco Datini

The symbol of Prato initiative

His intelligence and vision made Francesco di Marco Datini the symbol of Prato entrepreneurship: he was an extraordinary example of an early Renaissance merchant, as he combined in himself great business ability with extraordinary work as a benefactor.
He was born to a modest family in Prato around 1335. His parents died in the plague of 1348 and Francesco, after training in Florentine workshops, moved to Avignon, where he ran his businesses. In 1382 he returned to Prato and founded a kind of holding company made up of limited companies in Avignon, Florence, Pisa, Genoa, Barcelona, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca.
He lived in Prato and Florence, ever wealthier and more respected, trading in all kinds of merchandise. He died on 16 August 1410, after providing for the establishment of the charitable institution "Ceppo dei poveri di Francesco di Marco", today's Casa Pia dei Ceppi, to which the merchant left his entire fortune, valued at over 100,000 gold florins.

Datini Palace, whose external walls were decorated after the merchant's death, is still the headquarters of the charitable institution, and represents a rare example of a late-Gothic secular building; the ground floor premises house the Casa Francesco Datini Museum, where visitors can admire the magnificent paintings commissioned by the merchant.
Part of the palace is occupied by the State Archive, which holds the inestimable Datini collection of documents and letters: 1193 pieces, dating from 1361 to 1411, including a massive correspondence of about 150,000 letters. This treasure trove of documents provides unique evidence about the commercial, industrial and banking activities of a merchant of the second half of the 14th century.