Week 1: Ciao from Siena!

I landed in Florence last Sunday, and it was quite an interesting trip getting from Florence to Siena. From the airport, I had to take a bus to the train station at the city centre, and then take a local bus that takes me to the bus station in Siena. The train station in Florence was a huge hub of transportation, with very limited signs and staff. It turned out to be my first opportunity to speak Italian, as I tried to find my way to the bus to Siena. I was rather rusty, after not speaking in Italian for about a month, but I managed to find my way to the bus. On the bus, I sat with a very nice lady who lives in Florence. She doesn’t speak English, but we managed to converse with my limited Italian. She told me that she was visiting her son who is studying in Siena. She also gave me a lot of recommendations for places to go in Florence–museums and churches to visit, food I should try, and many other things. We talked for almost the entire trip, and I was so happy when she told me that “tu parli italiano bene!” (you speak Italian well!).

After about one and a half hour of travel, I finally arrived in Siena! I’m living in an apartment with five other students who come from different backgrounds and different parts of the world to learn Italian. Even though I don’t get to speak as much Italian as some of my friends who live with a host family, I love listening to my house-mates’ stories on why they chose to learn Italian, and how they fell in love with the language and the culture. It helps to remind me of my own motivations: my love of Italian art and history, and (of course) Italian food.

Anyway, today is my second day here at Società Dante Alighieri. I’m in a class which consists of 9 students, and my teacher is a proud and lively Senese who is really approachable and patient, and the past two days of classes have been very fun. The first day was a little bit draining, as it started early with an oral placement test, and I felt like I learnt a week’s worth of Italian language in just 4 hours. However, the lesson was really engaging, and I learnt a little bit of Grammar, listening, and speaking at the same time. The class is fully and completely in Italian, which means that every difficult or new words that we did not know is explained in Italian, by either giving a synonym, a phrase, an example, or a drawing on the whiteboard. This is something that I didn’t do in my Italian class at Notre Dame, and it definitely helps to improve my vocabulary. We also did fun activities which required a lot of speaking and working together as a group. I felt like I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone, and encouraged to learn as much as possible.

After class yesterday, we went on a quick tour around the city. We were also given a schedule of activities organized by the school for us: a visit to the Duomo, Museo dell’Opera, Pinacoteca art museum, and some other places around the city. What I’m really looking forward to, however, is the events leading to the Palio! The Palio is a horse race that takes place twice a year in Siena, and has been around since the 14th century. The first Palio of the year is happening on July 2, which is just a week away. The whole city is buzzing, and I’m really excited that I would be able to watch the race and the days of preparation up to the race! There will be dinners, selection of horses, blessing of the horses (in the church!) and some other events.
I will talk more about the Palio on my next post.

A dopo!

Piazza del Campo: where the Palio takes place!

Piazza del Campo: where the Palio takes place, and also my favorite spot (so far) in the city for people watching!

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