The differences between Siena and North Aurora that I have noticed is that in Siena, you get the feeling that this city has been here for a very long time. Just walking the streets you can sense the presence of the medieval history that occurred here. Starting with the presence of the Roman Empire with the Lupa statue everywhere and moving on to when Siena had its many battles with Florence. The Medici coat of arms is plastered on the side of some of the buildings. In North Aurora, you would never see that much history. The most historic thing that we have is Devil’s Cave which belonged to the Native American tribe that lived along the Fox River, which flows through my city.
Something that really stand out to me is the presence of the contrade or neighborhoods. We just had the Palio on the 2nd of July and that was something that can’t even compare to our 4th of July and Superbowl combined. This event has been going on since the city was created. The Sienese have such a deep connection to their city and their contrada that I admire so much. You will never find something like this in my city, and I dare to say in America itself. Yes, we do have some people that are really passionate about sports teams, but even their reactions couldn’t compare to seeing the Drago Contrada winning the Palio.
Something that I really like about Siena is the fact that it is really safe. I don’t have to be as conscious of my important things like my backpack or purse if I’m just walking around. This is because if there is any type of pick-pocketing, that person could get kicked out of their contrada and possibly the city. They take crime really seriously in Siena, which is why it is so safe. I really enjoy that they city has quiet places like the Fortezza and busy shopping places like the main street by the Piazza del Campo. The restaurants are all incredible, from what I have had and the wine as well. I like that it is almost impossible to get lost in the city, because of the way that it is designed. I actually tried to get lost and explore the city, but somehow I always ended up at the Piazza del Campo.
Some things that I found frustrating is the smoking. This is something that always bugs me when I go abroad. In Italy, it is ok to smoke indoors, in hotels, restaurants, etc. What is strange is that the pictures on the cartons are much more graphic, but people still smoke. Another thing that bugs me a bit as well is the bus system. In America, we can count on our public transportation to be somewhat on time. Sometimes there are delays, but for the most part, they are on time. Here, it’s more like whenever the bus driver feels like going is when it will get there. For example, at my bus stop it says that the bus is supposed to come at 8:15am, but it always comes at 8:20 or later. On rare occasions will the bus be on time. Just yesterday, I was waiting for the bus to come at 5:27, but it never showed up. I had to wait another 30 minutes for the next bus to come.
My top local places in Siena are the garden behind the Piazza del Campo, the gelato shop called Nice, and the Fortezza. If you were looking for a quiet place to sit and do homework and not be bothered, it’s better to go to the Fortezza which is right behind Piazza Gramsci. Most people say that the gelato shop Kopakabana is their favorite and it is pretty good, but I prefer the Nice gelato shop, because they have a frequent buyer card and the taste is just incredible. Finally, the garden behind the Piazza del Campo is perfect for relaxing, maybe having a glass of wine. You can visit Orto di Pecci which is a restaurant in the garden that has small animals. The food is great and the atmosphere is calm. For pizza, the best place I think is this place called San Minato or something. It’s to the left of the Torre di Mangia in the Piazza del Campo. If you go down the second road on the left, you will walk right to it. Another good place for food is this bar next to the Wind shop in the Piazza del Campo, they make the best porchetta sandwich I have ever had. Also, during the summer the Fortezza plays movies for 5 euro on a big screen in the center. They are not old movies either, for example, I am going to watch Frozen on July 9th.
Also, the market is probably my favorite place. It’s hard for me to not spend money everytime that I go. It is an incredible experience and I suggest everyone to go to a market if they can. The most important thing to know about markets, is not to buy something from the first stand you see, because chances are there is another stand that has the same thing for a cheaper price. For example, there were these pair of pants I saw for 10 euro, which I didn’t think was a bad price, but I wanted to see what else there was, so I kept walking and I found the same pair of pants for 7 euro.
Theresa is a student at Norther Illinois University studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Summer 2014 term.