Traveling is something that many study abroad students chose to partake in. While country hopping every other weekend sounds enticing, the cost can add up quickly. From friends and acquaintances that have studied abroad in the past, I have found that many wished that they had spent more time in their host county rather than traveling to a new country at every possibility. Thankfully SAI offers many excursions, at no extra cost, to other towns and sights that many students don’t think to visit on their own.
I decided to take advantage of the excursions that they offer and recently went on a day trip to Prato. Since arriving in Florence three weeks ago, this was the first time I would be leaving the city and I was very excited to see more of the country I now call home. Prato is the second largest city, after Florence, in the region of Tuscany and is known for its textile industry.
The day started early compared to the relaxed mindset of Italy but the SAI staff and the FUA professors who joined as tour guides made departing incredibly warm and welcoming. A short bus ride accompanied by some heartwarming Italian music and we were in Prato before we knew it. We got off the bus and walked into Piazza Santa Maria delle Carceri that houses the Castello dell’Imperatore and a small but beautiful chapel. We continued onto Biscottificio Antonio Mattei, which has been open since 1858. Here we toured the factory where they make and package the cookies. We even sampled freshly baked biscotti and the finished hardened version of the almond, almond and pistachio and chocolate cookies.
The day was far from over. We visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which holds the ancient relic of the Virgin Mary’s wool belt and breathtaking frescos done by Filippo Lippi. Even for the non-religious people, hearing the stories about Lippi’s works will be moving as he was truly a talented artist. We didn’t just stick to religious artwork while in Prato. After a very delicious lunch at La Vecchia Cucina di Soldano, we made our way to Centro Pecci, the contemporary art museum located on the edge of the city. This was a nice change of pace from the Renaissance artwork that Florence is known for.
Taking a trip through SAI is something that I highly recommend to anyone participating in one of their programs. You get to see small but memorable places, get fed amazing food and don’t have to worry about any of the planning. I am definitely looking forward to my next SAI excursion.
Gabriella is a SAI Florence spring 2018 student from Saint Mary’s College of California.