I can’t believe that the semester here in Siena has gone by so fast! Through my almost four months living here in this beautiful city, I feel like I have simultaneously experienced a lifetime of adventure and yet have only scratched the surface of what this city has to offer. I feel so lucky that I have one more semester here to look forward to, instead of having to think about saying a million hard goodbyes in less than two weeks.
So, in celebration of my amazing time here thus far, I have compiled a list of why Siena is the best city every to study abroad in (not that I’m biased or anything).
1. It is small.
Yes, it is weird to think that a small city is an ideal study abroad location. However, in this equation also comes the fact that not every single person speaks Italian, and is therefore a perfect place to practice! Also, it is fun to run into my fellow classmates when I’m randomly buying stamps or eating gelato. It gives Siena a great familiar-feel to it.
2. But it is accessible.
Despite its size, Siena has endless bus and train routes that connect to Florence, Pisa, Rome, Venice, etc. Isolation is no problem here, and I can easily buy a ticket mere hours before an adventure and get anywhere I want with ease.
3. Host families are boss.
I came into my study abroad research not knowing whether I wanted to have a host family or not. Since moving to Siena, I’ve realized that it was the best decision ever. I chose Siena Italian Studies mainly for the homestay experience, and it has completely made my semester. Plus, it is nice not having to cook for myself!
4. Volunteering is good for both parties.
Part of my program’s requirement is three hours of service a week, and I really like that. I’ve been teaching English to little kids at local elementary schools every Wednesday, and they are the funnest, silliest, best students in the world. I look forward to going every week!
5. Small classes are fun.
And not only that, but the classrooms have amazing views of some of the most beautiful things in Siena! The Basilico di San Domenico is on the cliff above the school building, and the medieval wall runs on our left.
6. Pici pasta is the best.
This thick pasta is a traditional Sienese dish, and can be served with tomatoes and mozzarella, or wild boar ragù (another Sienese specialty), or- my favorite – sheep cheese and ground pepper. My mouth is already watering!
7. The market around the fortress.
Every Wednesday, there is a giant market that surrounds a giant medieval fortress just 5 minutes from my house here. There is everything from shoes to cleaning supplies to the best fried mozzarella balls. I could spend hours every week just walking around and looking at all of the wonderful things.
8. Medieval city = amazing experience.
Siena is an old city, which means a lot of the buildings are historical and absolutely beautiful. I love just getting lost in the twists and turns of the streets and finding beautiful little fountains or gardens that have been there for hundreds of years. Every day is a new discovery of something amazing here.
9. Tuscan views.
Example A: My living room window. From there I can look out at sunset and see the beautiful Tuscan hills bathed in the orange and pink light, with the traditional Cypress trees swaying in the breeze. Everything I have ever imagined about Tuscan countryside comes true when I see this view.
10. Center of Italy=center of travel.
This relates to an earlier point, but it so true. Siena is in a very well placed central location, and thus makes it really easy to travel anywhere in Italy without an incredible hassle. Florence is an hour away, Pisa is two, and Rome is three. Think of all the weekend trips!
11. Lazy days are the best.
As fun as traveling is, it is also great to take a weekend to stay in Siena and just get to know the city. The city gives off a very relaxing, Italian feel that Florence and Rome sometimes neglect in their busy, metropolitan life. Siena is everything Italian and more, perfect for a lazy weekend at home.
12. Soul Café and Tiger.
Two of my favorite stores: one a coffee bar and the other a cool knick-knack store that sells everything from Christmas lights to giant chocolate bars. I could spend hours in both places, which are just a couple minutes from Piazza del Campo.
13. Chatting in the Piazza del Campo.
On weekends, the Piazza is full of friends and family out enjoying each other’s company. I love sitting on the old cobblestones and talking with friends for hours at a time, and it’s even better with a gelato in hand.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of exercise, so coming to Siena’s hills was a bit of a challenge after the car-obsessed USA. But after four months of going up and down the huge suckers multiple times a day, I feel really healthy and energetic. What used to take me 10 minutes now takes me 3 or 4, and I’m hardly even winded. Couple that with my host mom’s awesome healthy cooking, and I feel better than I’ve felt in years.
15. La vita è bella.
The Italian outlook on life is one that I’ve worked hard at having. Life is definitely a gift, especially here in the beautiful heart of Tuscany. Siena has taught me to take life less for granted, and realize how great it can be if I just step back and let it happen.
So now, I just have a couple more presentations and tests before Christmas! I’m already looking forward to another wonderful semester here in beautiful, wonderful Siena.
Clara is a current student at College of William and Mary studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Fall 2015 term.