I knew right away that I wanted to study abroad in Italy, but choosing the specific city was a bit difficult for me. Should I choose Rome, the center of all things culture and history? Or perhaps a more modern city such as Milan? In the end, I am so happy I chose the small, charming, historic city of Siena, and I would recommend studying abroad in Siena to anyone who will listen. Here’s why.
1. The food! Pretty self explanatory, but oh my goodness the pasta, pizza, risotto, gelato—the list goes on and on. Sure, we have Italian food in the U.S., but this is on a whole new level. Eating fresh pasta with fresh tomatoes is a wonderful experience, and getting gelato afterwards (so much better than ice cream!) makes my day every single day.
2. It’s a small city. I was a bit nervous about this aspect at first, but I’m so glad I chose to stay in a smaller city. First off, It’s less overwhelming. There are larger cities a bus ride away (Rome, Florence, etc.) so I can experience big city life on the weekends, but I have a calm, refreshing time on weekdays. In a small city you also get to explore the culture in a different way. Siena is much less touristy than the aforementioned huge cities so you get to become emerged in a totally different way. Lastly, you get to have your ‘spot’ and people start to recognize you. When you go to the same gelato place every single day in a little city the workers start to recognize you and give you sweet discounts (thank you to my friends at Grom), and everything feels a bit more like home.
3. You can practice Italian. This is in part because Siena is not huge, but many people here don’t speak English, or strongly prefer to speak in Italian. For those wanting to practice their language skills this is the perfect place. Many of my friends in homestays live with someone who speaks no English at all, and only ¼ of the people in my home speak English. It’s a little daunting at first, but very beneficial in the long run.
4. The history. Siena is an old, Etruscan city, and the history can be seen on every street. The best part of its history is the Palio horse race, which still happens twice a year, and the contrade. Each part of the city is divided into districts, called contrada, and each contrada has its own colors, icon, church, museum, and fountain. For example, I am living in the Onda (wave) contrada. People are dedicated to their contrada, volunteering their time and giving their money to ensure both the happiness and security of others in the district and a good outcome for their horse in the Palio.
5. Siena is beautiful. If you want to see a cute, traditional Italian city every day, come to Siena. Piazza del Campo, the city center, is an amazing sight, especially when the sun is shining. There are many lookout spots throughout the city in which you can catch a glimpse of the stunning Tuscan countryside.
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<p>I am 19 years old and am a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. I am working towards an anthropology degree because I am fascinated in all the different cultures, religions, and languages around the world. My hobbies include sewing, reading, hiking, camping, and traveling. Every summer I go backpacking with my family. Our most recent trip was to Rocky Mountain National Park. I am very excited to study abroad in Siena, Italy so I can practice my Italian and become immersed in a new culture.</p>