The center streets of Perugia are vibrant with crowds of Perugini and tourists alike perusing the dozens of stands selling everything from gilded candlesticks to Slovakian sausages for the Fiera dei Morti, a five-day Italian celebration akin to the Day of the Dead.
Piazza Italia is dedicated to tents for Perugia’s sister cities, which include Aix-en-Provence, France; Bratislava, Slovakia; Potsdam, Germany; Tubingen, Germany; Seattle, Wash.; and Grand Rapids, Mich.
Selling Michigan’s finest dried cranberries and caramel popcorn to curious Italians, Umbra alumna Anna Marotti was in the middle of the commotion. Marotti was first involved with Perugia’s sister city partnerships during her semester at Umbra in spring 2009, when she participated in an internship with the Comune. When she returned home, Marotti joined the committee of Grand Rapids Sister Cities International, an organization dedicated to maintaining relationships with international sister cities. Recognizing Marotti’s background in Italian and international marketing, GRSCI flew her to Perugia as a representative.
Marotti holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and economics from Grand Valley State, where she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. GVS offers scholarships for students to study in Perugia and educational exchanges for Italian and American students; in fact, three Perugini are studying at GVS this semester, and three GVS students are studying at the University of Perugia.
Surveying one of her old classrooms at Umbra, Marotti said her time at the institute led her to where she is today.
“Umbra offered me so many opportunities,” Marotti said. “I polished my Italian – which I’ve been able to teach to kids in my town – and I took a marketing class that ended up changing my entire major. It was great.”
The Grand Rapids booth was sold out of its goods by early Friday afternoon. All the money the booth earned will be allocated to scholarships and exchanges between Grand Rapids and Perugia. Her time in Perugia suddenly freed, Marotti has the opportunity to explore her old haunts and spend time with friends until she returns to Michigan on Wednesday.
While the center is bustling, Marotti is following the crowds of Italians to Pian di Massiano, the minimetro’s last stop and the location of the majority of the Fiera dei Morti festivities. A variety of food (think: county fair), amusement rides (!), and stands (hello, holiday shopping) will take over the area through Nov. 5.