|Just at the end of the first of two weeks at language school, here in Siena. I am in a very personalised class, with only 1 other student! This week, there were only 20 students in total at the school, spread over 5 different levels. I was placed in the most advanced class currently being taught (the more advanced classes that are theoretically available are for university students or for students where Italian is effectively their mother tongue, but there were no such students at the school now). So, I’m obviously making good progress which is very pleasing.
The personalised classes are great as the two of us can choose the topics we want to study. However the school has fewer social activities and less camaraderie than the school I went to in Sicily last year. The Sicily school had its own restaurant where students from different classes could meet and chat at morning tea and lunch. There is only a vending machine here in Siena, although some students go to a local bar for coffee. The Siena school does offer some social activities outside classes, but because of the small number of students, some of the social activities have been cancelled. I went out to ‘aperitivo’ last night with about 8 other students and 1 of the teachers at a local bar. We enjoyed drinks (including Aperol Spritz) for about $8 each which included being able to eat an unlimited amount of bar snacks and tapas platters. Yesterday I also attended a great lecture on the history of the last 150 years of Italian politics which I really enjoyed (obviously totally in Italian).
However, I’m pleased on the social front to report that I have a flatmate. Leanne is a vet from Melbourne and also attends my Italian school in Carlton, Melbourne. However, because she is at a lower level, we had never met in Melbourne, instead, only here in Siena! We started chatting on day 1 and she was in a not great B&B, where the advertising had not lived up to the reality. I had booked my apartment about six months early and it is a gorgeous 2 bedroom apartment, also with 2 bathrooms. So I offered, and she accepted, to join me in the apartment and quit her original accommodation.
I’ve included a few photos of my AirBnB apartment here in Siena. Both bedrooms have fabulous views across a valley to some of the historic buildings in Siena. There is a huge living room, 2 ultra modern bathrooms, and a very chic kitchen. The apartment has been architect designed in an historic building in the centre of Siena. The street leads directly off the Campo, the most famous piazza in Siena, so I’m only about 150m from this piazza.
Siena is absolutely beautiful. I love it - a great choice to stay here for two weeks. While it does attract many tourists, it is nowhere near as crowded as Florence. I also find the architecture much more beautiful then Florence. It has a medieval character, with huge stone gates, arches, narrow laneways that provide great views of churches and towers. I need to get out and take some more photos this coming weekend!
Some background about the Siena photos I’ve included to date. Siena has 17 ‘contrada’ or districts. I live in the district called ‘the wave’ which has a dolphin symbol. Each of the 17 districts has its own animal symbol. This symbol is found in many locations in each district - on signs, on unusually elaborate street lights, on the water fountain in each district, and so on. My school is in the district of the tortoise. The water fountain for the tortoise district is at the end of the street where the school is. The water is drinkable, so students fill their water bottles at this fountain on their way to school each morning. Another interesting symbol is the snail, the Italian word for this is ‘chicciola’. I recently discovered that the Italians use the word chicciola for the @ symbol in email addresses as it resembles a snail. How clever of them! Many people explore Siena and all its districts, including the peaceful back streets, by trying to find symbols from each of the 17 districts. To date, I have seen and photographed symbols from 5 districts, so I still have some more exploring to do.
My legs are gettting a good workout on the steep streets of Siena. Mid-week, I meandered for several hours one afternoon and found the beautiful and peaceful botanic gardens. They had several greenhouses including one with cacti and succulents. The gardens also had great views over the Tuscan countryside.
The weekend awaits, so time to put down the books and do some sightseeing.