I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier than when I finally hopped on the bus to Siena from the Rome airport, it was so relieving to know I made it and nothing went wrong. The bus ride from Siena was eye-opening. The fields, trees and hills were breathtaking. Plus, there were palm trees! You don’t see that in Minnesota, especially after the frigid cold snap we had the week before. The weather was glorious and the sun was shining bright. All the worrying in my trip preparations was for nothing.
When we reached Siena, it was a little surprising that we met our host families right away and took us home for the night in their cars. When we finally got in the city center, we took a ride up 7 escalators to go from the bottom of the town to the top of the hill. Then we reached a piazza and I was in awe. I quickly learned that I live right next to the ornate Duomo (Cathedral). We walked inside (and up a few flights of stairs) to reach our apartment on the top floor. It’s just like an American apartment, but with Italian character. Bright blue walls, a red fridge, and an incredible view of the city skyline.
That night at dinner, it was great to get to know my family! I live with a mom (Katia), her boyfriend (Donatello), her six year old son Alberto and another student Limayry. They are incredibly generous and sincere and Alberto is the cutest kid in the world! They are also great language partners. My host family is trying to improve their English and I am obviously trying to pick up on Italian so we’re helping each other out around the dinner table. Of course, that’s only a bonus to the great food we have every night together. Katia claims that she’s a bad cook, but I have yet to try something that isn’t new from what I’m used to and is still delicious! The rabbit our second night here was especially different, but “it tastes like chicken.”
Of course, even without the help of my host family, I have learned an unbelievable amount of Italian in the first week of classes. They aren’t kidding when they call it an “Intensive Italian Course,” but it’s good for us. Every day I know more things to talk to my family about in Italian or use when I’m out in the city. I didn’t really know any Italian when I came but I have no doubt I will be quite fluent when I leave in May. SIS has also done a great job at giving us the information and skills necessary to get around but only give us enough so we can go out and explore the city on our own. During the first week here, we took a walking tour of the four main areas of the city and heard some of the history of each part. No matter where you look, there is something that is representative of hundreds of years ago. This is what makes Siena so spectacular each and every day!
Although I’ve only been here a week, I already feel like this is home. I have met great friends and we are enjoying the search for a new “bar” (caffé) every day to do our homework. My host family has made sure that I have anything and everything I need and I couldn’t be happier. Life in Siena is definitely different, but in a good way. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester holds. Time for Italian class!
Julie is a current student at University of Minnesota, Rochester studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Spring 2014 term.