Postcards from Prato

Anelia Marston

Pheewww! Considering we had last weekend off, we sure kept ourselves busy. After we saw the Prato soccer game last Saturday, we spent the entire day on Sunday at Carnivale in Viareggio, which is only about an hour away by train. It was Valentine’s Day, so what better way to spend the day than going to what is, essentially, one giant block party?

Deanna, Anelia, and Iyana in Viareggio (photo provided by Anelia)
Deanna, Anelia, and Iyana in Viareggio (photo provided by Anelia)

It was really overwhelming once we got there but at the same time exhilarating. Everyone, from little kids to old couples, was dressed up as basically anything. I saw people as cats, Uncle Sam, the Addams Family. It was totally awesome! We got there just as the parades started and this wasn’t your ordinary Fourth of July parade. These floats looked like they must have taken over a year to construct and every one of them was filled with people who knew a choreographed dance number to every song that played.  Extravagant is the only word I can use to describe it. Iyana, Deanna, and I had to get into the Carnivale spirit, so we bought some masks and confetti to throw at people. We took a ride on a ferris wheel just as the sun was setting and we could see the entire festival. Everyone at Carnivale was so friendly and we ended up dancing the whole day away. To top it off, the night ended with fireworks that happened over the beach. I am dying to go back and go as hardcore as some of the people there did.

It had taken me a little bit to recover after Carnivale, but I was in full swing by the time our conversation exchange came around on Tuesday evening. UNH Prato has a program called Conversation Exchange with the local schools in the area. The point is that we get to practice our Italian, and the students from these high schools get to practice their English. I went into the Conversation Exchange with zero expectations. After taking a semester and a half of Italian, I have come to find out I know very, very, very little. These Italian students were blowing us away with how well they speak English. The girls I was partnered with were 16 and 17 years old and had been learning English for more than 12 years. They ended up helping me a lot with my Italian, as I would say a phrase in English and then they would help me repeat it in Italian and vice versa. I’m hoping by the end of the semester my conversation skills with the Italian students will have improved!

One of the many surprises of last week was a surprise field trip my professor had taken us on. On Thursday, Dr. Schmidt took us to a Prato Town Council meeting for our Democracy and its Discontents class. In the class, we discuss the American government and compare it with European governments, and there’s no better way to understand it then actually experiencing it. Kevin Murphy, Dean of the Prato Campus, tagged along with us so we could have someone to explain to us what was going on.  It was really interesting to sit and learn about the issues that are occurring in Prato and to see another government system (whether local or not) in action.

It’s been about a month and half here in Prato and I am in love with everything Italy has had to offer me so far on this adventure.