Casa Datini represents the most famous example of a medieval mercantile palazzo; it is located near Prato Town Hall and for this reason was destined by its owner to perform a specific public role, which it undertook with great ostentation and expense in 1409 and 1410, when it twice hosted the king of Naples, Luigi II d’Angiò.
Besides immense financial resources, Francesco Datini invested in his family palazzo great symbolic and emotional projections, transforming an entire block – bounded by the present-day Via Rinaldesca, Via Ser Lapo Mazzei, Vicolo del Ceppo and Vicolo del Porcellatico - into a public mark of his own personality which, as he himself wrote in a letter, he hoped would last “mille anni”.
In 2009 the rooms on the ground floor of the Palazzo were converted into a museum, dedicated to the history of the owner, his house and his charitable institute, the “Ceppo dei poveri di Prato”, to which the merchant left all his possessions.
In the frescoed ground floor rooms, one can admire not only the splendid living area, and the decorative works of art, but also trace the personality of Datini, his relationship with his wife Margherita, his business activities, the history of the building of the palazzo and that of the Ceppi where, since 1410, they have had their headquarters.
Through the rich iconography in the rooms, in both Italian and English, the selection of original letters, paintings and frescoes on the walls, visitors have a closer insight into the life and business activities of the merchant who set out from Prato for Florence and Pisa, arriving in Genoa and later Avignon, ending up in Spain.
Two important cultural institutes have their headquarters in Palazzo Datini: Prato State Archive where the Merchant’s valuable collection of documents can be consulted, also on-line: 1193 items, from 1361 to 1411, with an important collection of around 150,000 letters among which some, particularly moving, exchanged with his wife Margherita and friend Ser Lapo Mazzei; and the Istituto Internazionale di Storia economica Francesco Datini, which every year organizes “Study weeks” in which specialists from all over the world participate and which, in 2017, has arrived at its 49th edition.