The UNH 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’. UNH 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!