Joining the Siena Community

Andrea Zelen
November 14, 2018

Siena is a beautiful medieval city located in the heart of Tuscany. From the moment I moved into my apartment overlooking the mountains and the stone walls of the Basilica of San Domenico, I knew that choosing this to be my home for the next three months was the right decision. I also knew that I wanted to uncover every aspect of this magnificent new city.

One of the best ways I’m discovering my new home is through the little family-owned shops on every corner and weekly markets in the Siena Fortress. The owners are wonderfully welcoming and friendly people, who always greet me warmly when I stop by. Coming from Chicago, I never created a routine or relationships with the large stores that surrounded my apartment. Since there were always lots of new places and people wherever I went, I just explored without taking the time to get to know the employees or owners. It’s a city where remaining anonymous is quite easy in your routine, and I took full advantage of that. Siena is quite the opposite, where community and culture are cherished. It is here that I’m learning to appreciate every moment, and take the time to develop connections.

Alberto the Grocery Store Owner

Next door to my apartment, Alberto has a shop that I’ve loved stopping in since the first day I moved in. It’s a tiny store, with a little bit of everything, from fresh bread and cheese to shampoo and soap. He’s the only employee, and it’s clear he had formed a relationship with everyone in the community. I tend to walk in and can listen to the conversations and laughter of locals stopping in to pick up some necessities on their way home. We make small talk when I stop by. Through hand gestures and a few words in both Italian and English, we’ve managed to talk about my studies and the ever-changing weather of the city. It’s always a pleasure walking in and seeing his cheerful face during the day.

Pasquale at the Siena Organic Market

Siena has two markets that are hosted in a large medieval fortress in the edge of the city: a huge Wednesday morning market, where you can find everything imaginable, and a much smaller Friday morning organic market. It was during my first trip to the organic market that I found my new (and really only) favorite organic wine seller, a wonderful man named Pasquale. Though my Italian knowledge was (and still is) minimal, he kindly shares stories and samples of his wine, olive oil, and cookies with me when I stop by the booth. He produces his wine locally, showing me on a map exactly where it was located in relation to the city center, and takes such pride in his products. It’s incredible to be so connected to the products that I’m consuming regularly, as well as the people who produce them.

This connection I’ve created with some locals in Siena are unbelievably important to my affection for this city. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to become a member of the community and learn from those who’ve spent their entire lives here. I’m excited to continue my Italian education and develop these relationships during my stay in Siena.

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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