In Prato, learning doesn't just take place in the classroom. Every part of your day will be a new learning experience, whether you're ordering your lunch in a local restaurant, learning how to make fresh pasta or teaching middle school students new English words.
When you're not in class, you'll have a wide variety of activities to choose from, both in and outside Piazza San Francesco. Many of these activities will put you into close contact with members of the local community - you might even make a new friend or two.
Everything-from the places I visited to the people I met to the things I learned while in Prato-had, an always will have, an impact on me. I learned so much about the culture, the people and even myself. Prato is a city that allows you to experience Italy for what it truly is, giving you an education unlike that of any other American college in Italy.
-Christian Torres '15
Group excursions are offered to cities throughout the Tuscan region including Florence, Lucca and Siena. Many students also enjoy venturing out on their own to see the Learning Tower of Pisa, ride gondolas through the picturesque Venetian canals and explore the historic architecture of Florence.
The adventures don't stop there! Many students spend their weekends visiting destinations across Europe. Major cities like London, Dublin, Paris and Barcelona are only a short trip away.
Prato is a city with a lot to offer. The Tuscany Campus staff joins forces with local organizations to give you the chance to participate in a variety of activities outside the Piazza. During these activities, you can get to know locals and other students, and maybe even make a friend or two!
Below is a selection of activities that have been offered in past semesters. Activities may vary from semester to semester.
Students have the chance to attend cooking classes at the Tuscany Campus. Students have learned how to cook two different types of pasta – tagliatelle and stuffed ravioli. The food was delicious and everything was made from scratch!
Ale's Running Club
Join the running club and go on breath-taking runs around the city of Prato!
Take in gorgeous bird eye views of Prato by joining your classmates for a hike. Hikes around Prato usually occur three times a semester during warm and sunny days.
Get to know your Italian neighbors! Families in Prato host dinners for the students so that they can each practice Italian and English. The dinners are usually hosted once a week and are a great way to make friends outside of the program.
Viva L'Italia Concert
The semesterly concert is hosted by the Viva L'Italia course students and is open to all University of New Haven students. A local band performs Italian classics, while the Viva L'Italia students offer some insights to the songs in between performances.
University of New Haven Soccer and Basketball at Oratorio Sant’Anna
University of New Haven students, faculty, and staff get together on Monday nights to play soccer. Soccer, or calcio in Italian, is a very popular sport among young and older people in Italy. This activity has become quite a favorite!
Olive Oil Tasting at PIN
Cultural Understanding of Food & Cuisine students went to the PIN campus (the Prato branch of the University of Florence) to learn about olive oil preparation. During the lesson, they were given the chance to participate in an olive oil tasting and rate and analyze each sample by taste, appearance and smell. By the end of the tasting, each student was able distinguish a good quality olive oil from a poor quality olive oil.
Prato Soccer Team at Lungobisenzio Stadium
In every town in Italy, soccer is an important part of the local culture and identity. To give our students a taste of real calcio, Italian professors teaching at the Tuscany Campus brought them to a Prato game at the city’s soccer stadium.
Each semester, the Tuscany Campus staff puts together a full schedule of events held in and outside Piazza San Francesco.
Activities offered will vary from semester to semester, and are subject to change.
The University of New Haven Tuscany Campus holds regular language exchanges with local students who are keen to meet you and improve their English. This is the best chance for you to sharpen your language skills and meet local students with the same goal. Learning is more fun when you make friends while doing it! The local students come from Prato-area schools or from PIN, which is the city's branch of the University of Florence.
Join a trained yoga instructor at Piazza San Francesco for yoga nights! Yoga is an excellent way to relax after a long day of school.
Students are welcome to attend a series of themed movie nights held each semester. The films are chosen by staff and faculty, and are based on themes relevant to students, coursework and experience in Italy.
Italian Game Nights
A new favorite game among University of New Haven Prato students is Scopa! Scopa is an Italian card game involving partners and students can learn how to play at the game nights held a few times a month. There is even a Scopa tournament held at the end of each semester.
The Photography Content has been held twice so far and we hope to make this event an ongoing tradition! Students submitted their photographs in three categories: Architecture, Nature and People. All the photographs had special meaning for the students, because each one represented their experience in Prato, Tuscany and Europe. Winners in each category were awarded a package of the best almond cookies, made in Prato of course!
Special Presentation on Carnevale
Carnevale in Italy is a huge winter festival celebrated with parades, masquerade balls, entertainment, music, and parties. Masks, "maschere", are an important part of the carnevale festival. People also wear elaborate costumes for the festival where lots of pictures and videos are taken to cherish the festivity. At this event, Professor Di Pofi gave our students a rich historical context into the Italian culture and festivities with her presentation. Our students had a hands-on approach to learning the ways of Carnevale through videos, handouts and Carnevale masks.
We also held a unique reception for our students on Marted Grasso (Italian for Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday). There was a mask decorating activity where many students brought out their creativity and showed their understanding of the Italian tradition of Carnevale. Music, snacks, and beverages were also served for a fun and bonding night together as a family abroad.
Seminars and guest speakers
Throughout the semester we invite some of the city's most interesting figures to come and talk about their work and answer questions about Italian life. Their talks have sparked conversations and brought new perspectives to issues regarding Italian culture, and they often tie into the students’ coursework.
Here is a selection of themes that we've discussed in the Piazza:
Italian History through Music
Two of our Italian professors, Professor Ianniello and Professor Di Pofi, presented a fascinating two-part seminar on the history and culture of Italy as seen or perhaps heard! The first part of the seminar focused on the theme of America, while the second explored the mafia. Dr. Silvia Pieraccini, a journalist for the Italian national daily newspaper came to discuss the phenomenon of Chinese immigration in Prato. Silvia is the author of a book about Prato's Chinese community called Assedio di Prato (The Siege of Prato). She engaged our students with interactive games so that the lesson was instructive and also fun!
The Italian and American Legal Systems
Judge Jaqueline Magi, Lawyer Martina Moscardi and Lawyer Valentina Sanfelice led a comparative discussion with New Haven students about the Italian legal system and the American legal system. Students were fascinated to hear the personal experiences of Italian experts dealing with the challenges of working in a multicultural setting like Prato. This event was particularly valuable to Dr. Vesna Markovic and New Haven Criminal Justice students.
Well-known photographer Nino Ceccatelli came to show students his photographs of New York, and took the opportunity to help us judge a student photography competition. Nino gave us a great opportunity to compare and contrast an Italian's view of the US with our students' views of Italy.
Crime, Immigration and Public Safety in Italy
Police Officer Luca Gorrone, who is in charge of the Immigration department in Prato, took time out to come and speak with University of New Haven students on several occasions. Our Criminal Justice majors were especially interested to hear what officer Gorrone had to say about public safety issues in Italy.
Fashion in Prato
We had a great presentation from Luigi Salvioli, local author and one of the curators of the "Coveri Story" Exhibition in Prato.
Local councilor for public security Aldo Milone came to speak about Italy's struggle with organized crime and the various Mafias that have come to dominate certain areas of the country.
The Local Government in Prato
University of New Haven students paid a visit to the town hall where they met with Mayor Roberto Cenni and learned about the structure of local government. The mayor expressed his delight to see the University of New Haven settled in Prato, and wished us all well in our studies. Students also visited the headquarters of the Province of Prato where they were greeted by Lamberto Gestri, President of the Province. President Gestri spoke about the enthusiasm and commitment of the local authorities towards the University of New Haven Tuscany Campus.
Each semester, students have the chance to take part in the volunteer program we’ve established at the Scuola Media Mazzoni, a middle school here in Prato. Volunteers spend a part of their week as teachers’ assistants, leading activities that help the local students refine their English speaking skills while giving them new insights into American culture. Volunteers agree that they get as much out of the program as their students do – it’s a fun, engaging learning experience for everyone involved.
The University of New Haven program in Prato provides students with several accompanied excursions throughout Tuscany. The Tuscany Campus staff coordinates transport and organizes all entries and tours. Dr. Murphy accompanies the group to explain about all the monuments and sights throughout the day as well as Silvia Risaliti, who is a certified and official tour guide for the region.
Famed for its marvelous scenery, Tuscany's landscape combines colorful rolling hills, ancient villas, historic cities, monasteries and Chianti vineyards. Rich in history, encompassing the ancient and modern, an excursion anywhere in this great region is a delightful discovery. You’ll be able to explore the protected nature reserves of Maremma; journey to the famous seaside resorts of Versilia; wander through the historic hill-towns of Siena and San Gimignano to the once great seaport of Pisa; admire the view from the stunning cliffs of the Cinque Terre or bask in the stately charm of Lucca. Tuscany has something for everyone!
Here is a selection of day trips offered in past semesters. Trips vary from semester to semester; the trips offered during your stay in Prato are subject to change.
The trip to Florence brings students to all the historical highlights: Piazza Santa
Maria Novella, Medici Chapels and church of San Lorenzo, Piazza del Duomo, Piazza
della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, the bronze "Porcellino" fountain
and leather market on Piazza del Mercato Nuovo and Piazza della Repubblica.
This excursion focuses on Pisa’s legendary cathedral square (the piazza dei Miracoli) and its monuments: the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the famous Leaning Tower and the Monumental Churchyard.
The construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1174, and when builders reached the third story, work ceased for 90 years because it had already started sinking into the ground. We can reach the top of the Leaning Tower by climbing the 294 steps which rise in the form of a spiral inside the tower walls.
We stay for lunch, explore the university district of Pisa (the university was founded in 1343), and enjoy some free time before heading back to Prato.
Pistoia is Prato's neighbor and is the perfect location for a half-day trip. We explore
the church of Sant'Andrea (with the famous 13th-century pulpit), the Ceppo hospital,
town hall, Baptistery, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Sala. Students also have
free time to explore!
Lucca, just 1 hour from Prato, is an almost perfectly preserved jewel of medieval architecture and buildings, emanating charm and history from every corner of its narrow winding streets.
Completely surrounding the ancient city, Lucca's huge and entirely intact defensive walls date back to the 17th century. Now, no longer used for defense, they are crowned by 4 km of green parkland, and are a lovely place to walk, cycle or stop for a picnic.
In Lucca we explore the city’s cultural and monumental highlights, including the remains of the Roman amphitheater, the church of San Michele in Foro, Piazza Napoleone, the cathedral of San Martino and the birthplace of the composer Puccini. We also climb to the top of the medieval Guinigi tower to enjoy a breathtaking aerial view of the whole city.
During the trip there's time for lunch, a walk around the top of the walls and some free time to explore before we head back to Prato.
The historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions, famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a historic horse race held twice a year.
In Siena we tour the monuments that best represent the unique cultural and artistic heritage of this Tuscan city, including the Duomo, Palazzo Pubblico, the famous Piazza del Campo, and the Monte dei Paschi di Siena (the world’s oldest bank).
During the trip there’s also time for lunch and some free time on your own to explore before we head back to Prato.
Poggio A Caiano and Capezzana
This day trip takes us first to the Medici family’s most famous villa Poggio a Caiano, started in 1485 by Lorenzo the Magnificent. Prior to the building of this Renaissance masterpiece, large country dwellings were defensive and fortified.
Built on a quadrangular base around a large central hall, overlooking the surrounding countryside through its classically-inspired facades, the Villa at Poggio was revolutionary. At Lorenzo’s death in 1492, work on the villa was continued by Lorenzo’s second son, Giovanni (then Pope Leo X). Inside the villa we can still see much of the original Renaissance décor and frescos.
After leaving the villa behind us we head up to the ancient farm of Capezzana on the slopes of the Monte Albano. This estate of 670 hectares, in an area where wine has been produced for over 2,000 years since Etruscan times, is run by the historic Contini Bonacossi family. The estate comprises a Renaissance villa with adjacent farm, historic cellars, a modern olive mill and a huge ‘vinsantaia’ (where vin santo is made).
An expert will lead us through the various workspaces and cellars to explain the fascinating process of producing wine and olive oil. We finish the day with dinner on the estate and a chance to taste some of the best Tuscan wine and olive oil.
Figline and Galceti
One of the objectives of this Tuscany Campus excursion was to revisit the history of WWII in Italy. At the village of Figline di Prato, just a few minutes from Prato city centre, on September 6, 1944, the Nazis hanged 29 partisans from the Bogardo Buricchi brigade. Across the street from that spot, at the village's new Museum of Deportation, we went on a symbolic journey through the Nazi concentration camps, examining the objects that were used there. The layout is dark and eerie, inciting visitors to reflect on the atrocities experienced in this particular moment of history. There are placards with quotations offer the oral histories of those deported and their experiences in the concentration camps. Multimedia screens along the entire itinerary also help to inform visitors’. University of New Haven students were fortunate to have a special and very thoughtful tour led by the museum's Director herself.
Students also hiked to the wonderful Centre for Natural Science in nearby Galceti, where staff maintain a hub of study and research into best environmental practices. The park also includes a natural sciences museum and a natural park with free animals roaming around!