Hello! I do not know how to change the top of this page from saying, “Just another wordpress site.” It is very pessimistic!
Anyways, I have arrived in Siena, Italy! I am living with a great host family: Annalissa is the mother, she is separated and has two children: Livio, who is 17, and Olga who is 14. They live in a really nice apartment on Via Avignone, which is about a 25 minute walk from the main walls of Siena. My school is also in the central area of Siena. It is around forty minutes from my apartment. It is near the Piazza del Campo, the very center of the city. Piazza del Campo is beautiful. It is the main “square” of town, although it is kind of shaped like a fried egg. It is on a hill, and therefore the main area is slanted downwards. Bars, cafes and shops surround this main square. Yesterday when it snowed SO much, people (of all ages) were sledding down the hilly sidewalks into the Piazza del Campo. It was so fun to watch. It was also so funny because they were basically sledding down slippery cobblestone because it only snowed a few inches.
Snow in Siena is ridiculous! The city is not prepared for snow storms of any kind. Therefore, everyone stays home. Except for our school…My host family took yesterday AND today off. They are very lucky. Italians seem to react to many obstacles such as a snowstorm in this way. They let it be! My host mother, Annalissa often reacts to things this way. She admires the Dalai Lama and she teaches seminars on movement therapy and other kind of natural healing remedies. She owns an herbal remedy store in the center of town, but she no longer works there. I would like to see it one day! Annalissa also speaks English VERY well, which is wonderful for me because it is a comfort sometimes. She also has a chic mushroom cut.
Olga and Livio are very pleasant to live with, too. Olga is 14 and uses the word “figo” to describe something that is cool or attractive. I guess it is short for figaro figaro figaaaarrrrrroooo!!!!! She is so nice and she speaks English pretty well! Livio is really nice, too, but he does not speak any English. We still communicate and he is a great help with my Italian homework! I enjoy eating dinner with the family and hearing their exciting Italian conversations. Sometimes I accidentally interrupt because I think they are done with a sentence, but I never know if it is a pause or if they are finished!!! Often Annalissa’s best friend, Andreas comes over for dinner. He is funny and makes jokes and speaks no English! We communicate in French, and in the tiny bit of Italian I learn every day.
I absolutely love walking to school. Sometimes it is really tiring, especially up the hill to school, or when it is really snowy and slushy like the past two days. I love walking by places and remembering little details. For example, there is a little house plant/flower shop on the way to school that I pass every day. An old woman sits in a little chair looking out the window all day. Sometimes when I’ve passed, she is not in her chair and I wonder where she goes!!
The shopping is really beautiful here. Yes, there are some tacky European cheapo clothing stores, but there are also wonderful privately owned shops with amazing leather shoes, leather bags, scarves, makeup and everything. Many stores are very specific and only sell one kind of thing. Like leather boots. !!! I am contemplating what leather product I will purchase in Italy. It will be special!!! There is also a store that just sells tights which is so fun. And another store on my walk home sells knight clothing and armour. Like the tin outfit. I am scared to go in but it appears that the clothing is authentic and I feel rather curious.
The group of students on my program is really nice and I am having fun exploring the city with them. There are about 30 of us, liberal arts students and art students combined. There are eight students in the Siena Art Institute. Everyone is American except for one girl from Sicily named Viola who won an award to come to the school and is so sweet, and two people from Serbia, and one girl from Macedonia. The school has started inviting Eastern European students to apply! Everyone is interested in the city and what is to come and we are all friendly to each other and want to be friends! Eighteen of us are living with host families, and the others are living in apartments near the Piazza del Campo. One of the apartments looks like it is from the Real World.
The Siena School/Art Institute is in a building on the top of the highest hill in Siena. The view is AMAZING and so beautiful. I am posting a picture from one of the windows with this post. The school is two floors of a building. It is very cold; I wear like four shirts every day and two pairs of leggings and two pairs of socks. I have my own little studio area because I am in the Art Institute. We had a studio lottery, and mine is one of the crappy ones!!! I have a little sliver of window. But I enjoy having a little portal to make my art. I am excited to get started. It is overwhelming though, the notion of being in this new city but also having to create a life and routine for myself. It is also overwhelming because I want to travel. I want to travel to Rome, Florence, Pisa, Bologna, Milan, Venice, Naples, Sicily, Paris, Greece, Morocco and everywhere! I am wondering how many of those places I will get to. But my friends and I are all very excited to travel and we’ve begun making plans! I am definitely going to Israel with my mommy for the first break. And I know I will be going to Florence next weekend for a field trip, and me and my friends here in Siena will be spending the night and exploring! I am so excited to see paintings by Caravaggio. I will probably cry.
These next three weeks are an Italian intensive at school. I got placed in the Intermediate class for some reason. It is a good challenge, but I am often overwhelmed! I am excited to be in this class though, because I am determined to be able to speak Italian well by the end of this semester. One of my other classes has begun, too, called Art and Society. This will be an interesting class because I often think about the effects of art on..society! Yesterday we went to Siena’s Museum of Natural Science. There were some STRANGE things. Like thousands of birds in glass windows. They looked like a choir of birds. There were also terracotta reproductions of mushrooms. The Tuscans are obsessed with mushrooms! There were also Siamese animals and other things that made me feel rather nauseous. We will be going to the Natural Science museum in Florence next weekend, which is not my first choice of activities for Florence but that is okay. I will go to other places after. There are apparently wax anatomical body parts at this museum which will be very interesting and I hope I can look at them without vomiting!
Our whole school got to go out to lunch the other day at this place called Fonte Giusta. We were served a creamy barley and vegetable soup, then pumpkin ravioli, then ravioli in a tomato sauce, then gnocchi in a meat sauce, then thick spaghetti in a creamy white sauce and THEN tiramisu which literally tasted like coffee and cream. And we got pitchers of very good wine. It was so fun. I sat with the two deaf students in our group and their interpreter which I was nervous about at first, but then we talked for the entire lunch. It was odd at first communicating with their interpreter, but I had a good time!
Two other important things I have tried here. Brioche cioccolato, basically a croissant filled with chocolate pudding/frosting, and a chocolate cannoli, its chocolate filling was basically Nutella.
Also I must mention the pets at my apartment. Since I have been afraid of animals my entire life, this homestay has been a huge step for me. There is a dog, Macchia, and a cat, Willie (pronounced Wee Lee). Willie and I have become quite close. I picked him up the other day. He is a jumping bean and can open door knobs and likes to look out windows. I like him so much! But I am still occasionally freaked out.
On Saturday we are going to the Enoteca Italiana, a wine museum and wine bar in or just outside of Siena. I am so excited, it will be a very authentic Tuscan experience! Also coming up, I plan to take dance, hopefully ballet, and volunteer at an organization for underprivileged, at-risk Sienese children, AND I am going to get an Italian language partner! So many exciting things! But first this snow must melt because I left New England to get away from wintertime blues!!!
SNOW!!! People sledding down into the Piazza del Compo
The view from my classroom at school! (Before the snow)