Falling in Love With Italy - A Mini-Travel Guide from Siena

Andrea Zelen
January 6, 2019
Beachfront from Cinque Terre

Italy is one of the most incredible countries in the world, full of culture, food, and adventure. One of my main focuses when coming to study abroad in Siena was getting to know my host country as much as possible. Therefore, I focused most of my travel within it and spent as much time as possible seeing what makes it so special. Though I visited incredible places in the Tuscany region with the IES Abroad program, and Siena is the city that has captured my heart, this article will focus on other beautiful cities in Italy and how the most magical experiences there.

Cinque Terre

One of the first places I visited with classmates was Cinque Terre, a picturesque group of cities that you can only reach by boat, train, or by hiking between them. We took a Flixbus from Siena and had quite a hike from the bus station to the main train station. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, since we got to walk through the beautiful center of La Spezia, and take the train that trails the cost with incredible views. We decided that the best option was to find an AirBnB in Levanto, a smaller beach city located just north of the main cities of Cinque Terre. It was cheaper, less touristy, and an easy train trip to the trails of Cinque Terre. If you visit, I highly recommend hiking between at least two of the cities, though we hiked between three. You get a breathtaking view of the cities, and nothing feels better than swimming out into the ocean after a long hike.


Another incredible trip was the Naples, Pompeii, and the islands of Capri and Sorrento. We took another Flixbus from Siena to Naples, and honestly were a bit concerned about the neighborhood we got off at once reaching our destination. It was so dirty, with garbage everywhere. But once we got into the city, everything was much cleaner, and we decided to get lunch at one of the many Michelin star pizza places (lists of them can be found online). It was unbelievably delicious. Number one tip – go with friends who like to share. We had a “slice for slice” deal, where everyone traded pieces of different pizzas, and each one was different and delicious. We booked our AirBnB in Pompeii, which was a bit out of the way but was under 10 euros each for two nights. Pompeii was must-see, but be ready to spend a lot more time than you expect walking around and exploring (it was a whole city, and there is so much to see - we spent maybe 3 hours there and I got through a fourth of what was there). I highly recommend getting an audio tour, since so much history is spread throughout the lost city, and it’s hard to fully appreciate it without understanding it. One of the best experiences we had were exploring islands near Naples, specifically Capri, which has a beautiful hike to Anacapri that is breathtaking, and Sorrento, which is famous for its lemons and limoncello.


One of my favorite trips of the entire semester was to Venice and the surrounding islands of Murano and Burano. We stayed in the city of Mestre, the mainland portion near the island of Venice. It has bigger places available for cheaper, and a really easy bus system to reach Venice. We realized that for about 26 euros, you could get a 48-hour pass that includes all the busses, trains, and water ferries between Mestre, Venice, and the surrounding islands. Venice was beautiful, with narrow winding streets, bridges everywhere, and stunning sights around every corner. The Doge’s palace was magnificent, and, though we only saw it from the outside, the Basilica of San Marco was a sight you couldn’t miss. The islands are also unbelievable. Murano is known for its glass and glass blowing and you can catch a live demonstration in many shops. Burano was a fisherman city, and it is famous for its colorful houses and lace making.

These cities are just a small sampling of the incredible journeys I took during my time abroad. Siena was a beautiful city, with so much culture and history, but it was also the perfect starting point for other journeys across the country. While checking off some of my dream cities to visit, there were so many more that I have yet to explore. I can’t wait for my next tour of Italy, and the adventures yet to come.

Andrea Zelen

<p>I am a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, studying Communications and Business Administration. I was born in Serbia but grew up on the north side of Chicago, so I have a&nbsp;major love for the city. I have a passion for food, art, and adventure. I’m always ready to try something new and to see where life takes me, and this semester is my time to try out everything. I’m excited to share my study abroad story and see what excitement&nbsp;awaits me.</p>

2018 Fall
Home University:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, IL
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