There is a stark contrast between my days and nights in Siena. This past week, I’ve settled into a routine where I spend my mornings getting things together and trying to get online (with some mild success). Usually, I spend some time reviewing my class notes from the previous day before I head to class around 1pm. Today I’m doing my week-worth of laundry, which takes 2+ hours using Italian laundry machines! Thankfully I have no competition with getting machines because most of the dorm students are taking morning/all-day classes (YES!). There are also no dryers so clothes take some time drying on foldable drying racks.
In the afternoon, I enjoy my class immensely because Marco is a great teacher. We do exercises from the book and from the videos, and practice what we learn with other students. I’ve asked my fair share of questions in class and Marco is very patient and understanding with everyone.
And finally onto Siena at night. What I had imagined it to be a quiet and sleepy historical city really bustles with activity and life–if you know where to go! Tourists and locals alike hang out at Piazza del Campo, which is the main square in Siena. It is also the location for the Palio di Siena. The event is the annual horse race, held once in July and another time coming up later this month, which settles the rivaly of the 17 contrade, aka the districts that Siena is divided into, each with their own mascot/symbol. I’ve spent several nights out there with friends, enjoying the breeze while drinking wine (drinking alcohol in public is not illegal here!).
Another highlight of a Siena night is attending a contrada party. To me, these parties are the best kept secret of Siena because they are done for/by the locals as semi-private yet large scale events. They take place in a particular contrada’s large outdoor garden/lawn space and involve music, a dance floor, food, and drinks. Earlier on in the week, the Nicchio contrada (symbol: the seashell) held parties, and now theLeocorno contrada (symbol: the unicorn). The Nicchio parties were much larger compared to the Leocorno one since the contrada had a sprawling lawn and also something along the lines of catering service! I had a “true” Italian feast one night, where the chefs at the event gave my group of friends buffet style plates of eggplant lasagna, sausage and beans, proscuitto, cheese, and a lot of red and white wine which amounted to 50euros in total for our whole group. For the experience alone it was worth it, as they sang what appeared to be the Nicchio anthem! I felt like I had entered into the real part of Siena that most tourists don’t get to see and the locals were quite welcoming–all thanks to my friends who have advanced skills in speaking Italian~
Besides relaxing or partying, Siena has numerous nighttime events at the Fortezza Medicea di Siena (Medici Fortress of Siena). The word Fortress isn’t an overstatement–it’s a large space that house the Enoteca Italiana (wine shop) and the Siena Jazz School. The Masterclasses played wonderfully when I attended the concert on Thursday night. Also, the Anfiteatro della Fortezza is the open air amphitheater which has ample room for hundreds of people to come together for movie nights! They even provide seat cushions (self-service, get as many as you’d like) to make the experience more comfortable if you choose to sit on the historical stone ledges.On Wedsneday, I went to a viewing of the Tree of Life. If you’ve watched the movie, you can imagine how fitting it is for me to be watching that here. Given that it was dubbed in Italian, it brought full circle how surreal yet eye-opening my experience in Europe has been so far!