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Prato 9-17-17a Just one short week ago, we arrived in Prato to begin Beacon’s first semester-long study abroad adventure.

The photos accompanying this message show the view from my window of the Piazza del Duomo. To the left is the Cathedral di San Stefan (Saint Steven’s Cathedral) which is the main church of Prato and an important sacred historical site since it houses a holy relic: La Cintura di Vergini (the girdle or belt of the Virgin Mary). Prato celebrates this relic five times annually by holding festivals and public viewings.

The piazza is a lively place day and night, where people meet and linger to talk or just stroll through on their way to the Cathedral, to shop, to dine or to enjoy a gelato.

Students have completed their first week of classes and have begun to explore the maze-like old city. Some have even ventured on their own into Florence by train. They are gradually eating their way through the various restaurants on our meal plan and are getting to know their favorites.

Russ Bellamy has taken his class on a walking trip to identity likely places for the plein air drawing and painting class. Gretchen Dreimiller has helped students launch their blogs for the travel narrative class in the computer lab at the University of Florence Prato campus.

The weather has been quite good — only some sporadic light rain and moderate temperatures. It is a relief from Florida’s humidity!

We are all relieved that Hurricane Irma is now a memory for our Beacon family and that things are returning to normal. We send you greetings from Italy and promise to keep in touch as the Prato experience unfolds. We will soon be taking some field trips so will have much to share. Everyone here is safe and healthy! Ciao for now.

Andrea Brode