Living in Prato
The city of Prato is situated in the region of Tuscany in Central Italy. Prato’s central location within Tuscany makes it an ideal base for exploring all the important sights in the region: Pisa, Siena, Florence, Lucca, and the seaside are all a short train ride away.
Prato has become well-known globally as Italy’s main center of textile production. But while it has the advantages of a major city (of about 200,000 people) Prato still retains the feel of a close-knit town.
“Going to Study in Prato was my first time leaving the country. When I arrived, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The streets are cobblestone, the roads are very narrow, and there is a slower pace of life. But that was the beauty of it - all the difference. ” University of New Haven Student
Develop your Skills
While studying in Prato students will learn, visit, explore, taste and experience new and exciting things everyday. While learning both inside and outside the classroom students will develop skills that can only be enriched through the study abroad experience.
Collaborate, communicate and problem-solve in a new environment.
Gain appreciation for new and different cultures.
Becoming independent by acclimating to life in another country.
Bond with students from across the globe.
Spread your Wings
Studying abroad allows students to challenge themselves and step outside their comfort zones. In Prato, the knowledgeable faculty and staff will help students get the most out of their semester in Italy.
While Prato is off the beaten path for most tourists, the city is anything but isolated. When our students want to spend a day in a larger, more bustling city, they’re just 20 minutes away from Florence and less than 2 hours from Rome. And when the sun is shining, Tuscany’s beautiful beaches are just an hour away too.
Learn Italian- all students take an Italian language course.
Travel to new places with fellow students.
Take on an internship or volunteer in a local school.
Interact locally through family dinners and conversation exchanges.
Housing for University of New Haven students in Prato is provided by both the University of New Haven and several different institutions located in the city center, all of which are no more than 15 minutes’ walk from the school and from each other.
All the housing is managed by housing staff who can be contacted at any time for maintenance issues or emergencies. The housing owned by the University of New Haven, Residence Hall San Francesco, has a resident assistant and a resident director.
Upon arrival in Prato, you will receive a special Housing orientation and a copy of our housing handbook and policies. While you are in Prato you are subject to the same policies of behavior and respect as in the University of New Haven housing in the US.
One of the best things about Italy is the food! To make eating out simple and convenient for students, the University of New Haven in Tuscany runs a prepaid meal voucher system that operates in both Prato and Florence. At Orientation in Prato you will be provided with a set of meal vouchers which can be exchanged for meals at several city center cafés and restaurants for the duration of the semester.
A major part of your experience here in Prato will be exploring its many shops and eateries. Our Meal Plan has been designed to let you sample a variety of dishes in restaurants and cafes located throughout the city center. We encourage you to try them all! See our Meal Plan section for more information on eating in Prato and Florence.
Most but not all restaurants close one day a week; hours should be listed in a visible spot, either in the window or on the menu posted outside. Many restaurants also have Facebook pages listing their hours and daily menus. Not all restaurants serve both lunch and dinner every day, so always check before making plans. Hot breakfasts in restaurants are hard to come by in Italy; generally, any restaurant offering them is one that caters to tourists!
Practical tips for eating in restaurants: in Italy, tipping at restaurants is not necessarily customary, in part because wait staff and kitchen staff generally earn a living wage. Diners may choose to leave a Euro or two for good service, but are not required to tip. However, always check the menu for the standard service charge, or servizio. This charge should be around €1-2 per person. The service charge will be added to your check no matter what you’ve ordered.
Like much of central Tuscany, Prato enjoys a mild climate.
In the spring, temperatures usually range between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and the fall is often slightly warmer at 50-70 degrees. Winters are generally cool and rainy, with temperatures ranging between 35 and 50. Summers are usually sunny and hot with most days in the 80s.
Fall, spring and winter tend to get the most rain – and Italy does get a fair amount, which helps keep the country so green! For much of the year, Prato can be quite humid. Snow is not nearly as heavy in Prato as in New England; however, in the winter the temperature will occasionally dip below zero and the city may get a dusting. Likewise, it’s not at all unusual for summer highs to reach 100 degrees.
One thing that can surprise students is that Tuscany has mosquitoes for a good part of the year – from the spring through the fall, and not just in the countryside but in the city as well. Luckily, there are a number of products available to keep the mosquitoes at bay, and they can be bought at housewares shops, herbal shops or larger supermarkets: sprays and plug-in repellents work particularly well.
The bottom line: during your semester, you’re likely to experience warm and cold days, sunny and rainy days, and everything in between. While the climate here is mild, remember that you will often be outside, traveling on foot around town.
When students first arrive, they soon notice that shopping choices in Prato are very different than those they’re accustomed to at home.
Unlike many large supermarkets and department stores in the US, shops in Prato tend to be smaller and family-run. Like many shops in Italy, their hours are generally dictated by city law and are listed in the shop window. Such small shops often open around 9 or 10, close for a mid-day break between 1 and 4 pm, and then stay open later, usually until 7 or 8 pm.
Remember, this is not a “siesta”! The break gives shopkeepers a chance to run their own errands, pick kids up from school and coordinate family meals. During your stay in Prato, you’ll learn to plan your shopping and eating activities around these opening times until it comes naturally.
As with restaurants, most shops will be closed one or two days a week, with Sunday being the most common “day of rest.” Certain shops and services tend to stay closed on Mondays, such as hairdressers.
Shops in Prato are also more specialized than many of their U.S. counterparts: here you’ll find plenty of bakeries, stationery shops, shoe shops and perfumeries, just to name a few. One of the many benefits of Italy’s smaller-sized shops is that the salespeople usually know their merchandise very well, and can make suggestions for you. And if you visit often enough, you just might get to know the shopkeepers.
While these shops look small, it’s interesting to note that nearly everything that can be found in a shopping mall can also be found in the city center, if you know where to look. Keep in mind that in any given shop, not all merchandise for sale is necessarily put on display – which means that you have to be brave and ask! And shops can often order special merchandise for you if they don’t ordinarily stock it. As a result, you’ll generally have more of a relationship with local shopkeepers than you might in the U.S.
Prato's historical city center, with its medieval and Renaissance monuments, is especially remarkable for its compact scale and easy-going atmosphere. You’ll quickly discover that almost everything in Prato can be reached on foot through the old streets.
To help you get to know the city, part of your Orientation in Prato will be a special walking tour of the city to explore key points of interest and services including major stores, the post office, banks, ATMs, markets, libraries, medical centers, churches and museums.
You’ll also find that the people in Prato will be curious and enthusiastic about the presence of US students in their city. People in Prato live closely together in the city center, and they are not especially accustomed to the student lifestyle or to young Americans.
For these reasons, our students serve as “ambassadors” of the University of New Haven, and of the United States of America. As members of the University of New Haven community, we strive to repay the trust showed by our hosts with the highest standards of conduct and consideration for the traditions and civilized atmosphere of this city.