Ciao! Just had a very good lunch with my host family. We had a fried polenta, fried artichokes, fettucine in a ragu sauce and wine! Sunday is a nice and slow day in Italy. It is finally sunny today, which gives me hope that this week will be warmer!

Yesterday was a wonderful day! I met up with two friends in the center of town to go out to lunch. We decided to explore the streets until we found a restaurant we wanted to eat at. We met at the Piazza Gramsci, where the buses come in, and each of us took turns deciding which street to go down, until we found the right place! We decided to go into a Ristorante called La Buca di Porsenna. We had to walk down three flights of stairs to get into the restaurant, which looked like it was in an Etruscan cave! The walls smelled and looked like they were below the ocean! We ordered bruschetta, which came in the form of two large slices of bread. One was soaked in garlic and olive oil, and the other was covered in a thick layer of garlic-y tomato sauce. It was soooooo flavorful and good. I ordered housemade pasta with tomato and garlic sauce. The pasta was a realllly thick and chewy spaghetti, it was so good. It came in a little tiny mountain in the center of the plate. It was so cute! And filling. After our lunch, we met up with our school and went to the Enoteca Italiana of Siena, the wine museum and bar of Siena. This place had beautiful brick walls and ceilings, and the first thing I noticed was the cross-vaulting in the ceilings! It was exciting to apply my art history knowledge to an actual building I was standing inside of! Hundreds of wines from all over Italy fill the rooms of this museum. Some of the bottles were so beautiful with beautiful little pictures on the labels. One of them was metal and reflective. Some of the bottles were enormous and nearly 300 Euros. After we looked around the museum, we went upstairs to try three different wines. We learned the appropriate wine-tasting etiquette and proper steps to analyzing a glass of wine, from swishing it around in the cup to see it form “legs” on the glass, to swishing it around in your mouth to let your mouth adjust to the flavor. The first wine we tried was a rose from the very south of Italy. It was fruity and rather dry. The second was from the very north of Italy and was red. It was smoother! The third one was from somewhere near Siena in Tuscany, and it had a bit of a burn; it was more alcoholic than the others. Now I am a wine connoisseur! Ha!

I love watching the way people interact in Siena. It seems to be a very tight-knit city in many ways. Couples on the street are very intimate and walk closely together. Men, old and young, walk around together, out and about, which I never see in the states. I tried imagining my Daddy walking around with a group of Italian men from bars to cafes and it makes me laugh. A few days ago I saw a man and his teenage son walking on the street, arm in arm! It was very sweet! On a larger scale, too, the Sienese are like a giant family, especially when it comes to the Palio. On Friday in our Italian culture class, we learned about the Palio, the incredible horse race that occurs two times over the summer in the Piazza del Campo. The city is divided into 17 contradas, or neighborhoods, that represent a certain animal. For example there is the tortoise contrada, the caterpillar, the bear, and even the unicorn! For the Palio, each contrada has one horse compete, and a jockey. Often the jockeys are not from Siena; many of them come from Sardinia. Although right now, the best jockey who competes in the Palio is from Siena. But the jockeys are not considered the competitors in the Palio, the HORSES are! So, the morning of the race, the HORSES are brought into the church of their contrada for a blessing! The priest says to the horse, “GO, and come back as a winner!” We watched a video of this happening. The video also showed the actual Palio. There are about a gazillion people in the center of the Piazza del Campo. The mayor of Siena does a lottery to see which ten of the 17 contradas will compete, because there can only be ten competitors. Once each contrada is chosen, the people from these neighborhoods freak out and run around and wave flags and go nuts. A couple of days later, the actual race happens. There is a Palio march, and men in authentic medieval outfits are doing quite impressive flag dances. The horses and jockeys come out and get ready to race. They all fight for a good area on the line to start. Each contrada has an enemy in the race, so they try to push them out of the way at the starting line. But, only nine of the competitors are at the starting line. The tenth competitor gets to come from behind whenever he chooses, and when he emerges, the race begins! He has to carefully decide a good moment when the other competitors don’t look ready. Then he comes through and everyone else goes AHH and starts racing behind him. The race lasts literally 70 seconds. An entire year of preparation for this minute long race. In this particular race, one guy knocked two others over around a corner, and one of the horses went into the crowd. It’s crazy!

So after the race, all of the contradas celebrate in their neighborhoods. They line the streets with long, long tables, and hundreds of people eat this huge meal together outside. It’s amazing! It looks like an enormous Shabbat dinner hah. So this is why I think of Siena as a family. Their enormous Palio Shabbat dinner!

Last night I went to a bar called the Bella Vista Social Pub with friends. It was Cuban themed which was odd but also ironic because I was just in Cuba! The walls were covered with decoupage of movie posters and newspapers and magazine covers and the music was fun. They even use Havana Club rum! Ha!

Today I am doing homework and hang out around the apartment. I am trying to learn more and more and more Italian everyday! I am excited for my upcoming trip to Florence this Saturday!!! I have also been looking up where all of my favorite paintings are in Italy so I can visit them. So exciting. I am also excited to start PAINTING soon.

A Sienese snowman! They are so much classier about snowmen here! His eyes are made with slices of zucchini…very impressive.

wonderful little pasta mountain

Enoteca Italiana di Siena

CROSS vaulting in the ceiling, and the ASL interpreter Maggie, signing!