Jun 19, 2017

YA-22: Galleria dell’Accademia, end of exams (finally) and winning the photo competition!

I’ve been pretty busy over the past two weeks doing revision for my exams and trying to balance it out with some sort of social life, but today I finally finished all of my exams, so I’m back! I’ve obviously been in Siena most of the time – revising in Sala Rosa or at home- so don’t expect crazy travel stories, but I have to say I’ve had a lot more fun than if I’d been in Bath preparing for finals… Oh the Erasmus life, I’m going to miss you.
On Monday the 5th I decided to get up early to go to PAM. I know; getting up early to do the groceries, what has my life got down to? But it gets insanely hot between eleven all the way through to 7pm or so, so it’s either getting up early or going late in the evening if I don’t want to pass out during the trek, so I’d rather have an early start and make the most of the day… The rest of the day was average. I studied for a bit, I went to Cinema class after lunch and to Power Pump in the evening and I had an early night because I was tired and was going on a day trip to Florence the next day.
On Tuesday I woke up to great news – I got cast in the ensemble for BUSMS’ production of ‘In The Heights’ in October! I was so, so happy! It means that I have to be back in Bath in early September and so my summer is not going to be very long, but it will be worth it! I then got ready and caught the 8am bus to Florence. The day was quite overcast and rainy but it worked well for me because my plan was to go into the Accademia – and I hadn’t booked a ticket. I got to Florence at around half nine and it was already super-hot and packed with tourists, but I headed directly to the Accademia and started to queue. I spent a good three hours in the queue until I managed to get in at around half twelve. Fortunately, it was in the shade, I had my revision notes with me and I used up my time to speak French with another guy who was also queuing and to catch up with Chopi. Also, I paid a third of the pre-booked ticket, which was amazing! Obviously, Michelangelo’s David and Pietà were the best two pieces in the museum. The level of detail of Il Davide is insane and it was great to be able to appreciate the original with my own two eyes. The rest of the museum is also interesting – there is a lot of medieval work, mostly triptychs and other wooden boards with a lot of gold detailing. To be honest, if you are interested in medieval art, definitely come to Tuscany because it’s everywhere. Once I was finished I bought a quick lunch from Carrefour (so classy, I know!) and went to the ticket office for the Duomo to find out how to go about climbing the Cupola. I have to book in advance so will probably go with Megan, if not this week then definitely the next. I then decided to do some shopping and got myself a new going-out top and bikini, so I was pretty happy. I got a McFlurry at MacDo because it so happens that getting the chance to visit MacDonald’s only comes once in a while around here… And then I got the bus back. I was pretty tired when I got home but I dropped my stuff and went to Mensa Sant’Agata to drop off the books for the Piazza del Campus book-crossing event taking place throughout the week. The selection of books was great and I stayed for a bit before coming back because I was knackered! That night I phoned Lara and it was lovely to catch up. Productive day? Not so much. A great day though? Definitely.
On the Wednesday I spent the day studying and went to the gym, nothing too relevant. Mum booked my ticket back which was a sad realization – I’m leaving in a month! Where has time gone? However, Erin is coming over to visit before I leave so I’m looking forward to that!
On Thursday I did some more studying and then had my last cinema class (at last!) and then ran some errands and studied some more before heading to Mensa Sant’Agata for my shift manning the Piazza del Campus table for the bookcrossing with Morena, Sylvia and Giulia. We had a nice time chatting even though it got pretty windy. A few people came to swap their books and I think it was a pretty successful event! By half nine we packed up everything and Alessandro helped us take everything to Valeria’s house. I was pretty tired so after picking up my suitcase from Megs’ I went home – such a long day!
On Friday I got up early and went for a run at the Fortezza at 8, trying to avoid the heat. It was a good one. I then did some cleaning and studying after the shower. Megan and I decided to go out that night so I met her after dinner and we decided to try out Valdimontone but before we even got there we decided we weren’t digging the music and decided to go to Giraffa instead. The location was pretty cool – a square in front of a massive church! It was live music though, which was alright for a while but we eventually got bored and decided to try Bellavista but it was quite empty… We chatted to Tsubasa for a bit and then decided to go home and get some sleep by half one. It was a bit of a failure of a night, but we got some rest to be productive the next day anyway!
On Saturday, as I said, I got up and did some cleaning and cooking, I went to Conad and then I did some studying until the afternoon. Connie was in Siena for the weekend so I met up with Megan and her to go to Morbidi for aperitivo. It was lovely to see her and catch up, it sounds like her experience in Puglia is a lot like mine in France so coming to a student town was a nice change! We then chilled in the Piazza for a bit before going home to get changed before going to Giraffa. Natalie joined us for a bit and we actually had a lot of fun that night. The music kept getting better and better and we were dancing the night away – from the 80s to Italian music, to reggeaton to dance hits. We were there until half one and then went to Al Cambio and enjoyed the last Sabato Universitario of the season there – Dj Smerling and his music are bomb (and I think Megan will agree!).
On Sunday I woke up late and made pancakes and then I did a bit of studying before meeting Connie and Megs to go to the Orto Botanico, which I hadn’t been to yet. It was so, so scorching hot but the garden is very peaceful and we were pretty much the only people there. Because of the heat, a lot of the plants seem to have dried up (ie the water plants were non-existent) but I really liked the cacti room and the pond full of frogs! After that we searched for the Fonte di Casato di Sotto, which is a hidden fountain near Megs’. The pictures looked better than the reality, because it was full of pigeons, but I randomly found a sculpted head in one of the holes on the wall that had a clay note saying ‘Forse c’è un attraverso l’acqua dove possiamo riposare’ (‘Maybe there is a beyond the water where we can rest’), which I thought was pretty cool despite the initial fright!
I then went home and continued to study and sadly booked my ticket back to Bath on the 5th of September. Literally, I’m barely going to be at home this summer! I’m so glad I passed my driving test because it means I can make the most of the time I will be home…
On Monday guess what I did? Yep, more revision. I studied until lunch time and then met up with Connie and Megan to go to Zest for lunch. It’s a pricey restaurant but the food was worth it. I got a melon and mint gazpacho and a fig, mozzarella, and crudo salad. So tasty and refreshing! I then said good-bye to Connie because she was going back to Rome on her way down to Puglia and did some more revision before the gym (literally thought I’d throw up because it was so hot!). That night I had a chill night in, spoke to Mum on the phone for a bit and got some sleep.
On Tuesday morning I went to Sala Rosa with Megan, the only way to be productive since once the heat kicks in it was so hard to concentrate! I did some more revision and left at lunch time. I ran some errands and decided to attempt some more revision that afternoon but I wasn’t very productive – my flat gets really hot in the afternoon… So instead I decided to meet up with Vero and her friend Néstor who was visiting from Tenerife and we went to Fortezza for a couple of beers just to chill and watch the sunset. It was really nice and we’ve decided we have to do that more often! I then came back home and ended up watching some Orange Is The New Black with Dan – the new season is crazy!
Wednesday was, again, Sala Rosa with Megan and Ody. I managed to get a bit of work done and then we went to buy the tickets for the final ESN party at the end of the month – it’s a pool party and looks super promising so I’m excited! Once home I did some cooking and took a nap before doing some more revision (I wanted to read through my cinema notes as my exam was the next morning) and then went to the gym. In the evening it was Emilia’s birthday so she’d organized a little party at hers. I went round for a bit but didn’t stay too long because of my exam the next morning, but it was fun to see everybody! Katy was also here on a visit so it really felt like a little Bath reunion!
On Thursday morning I had the cinema exam which was a joint interview style one with Dan and Daniel, the other two Erasmus students who went to the appello. It was absolutely fine, I spoke about Ombre Rosse and Il Grande Cielo and the teacher was really nice and congratulated me for my work which was great! I got 30 con lode so I couldn’t be happier. That took around half an hour because we were the first ones to do it, meaning we had the rest of the day off. I came back and sorted out some paperwork and chilled for a bit. My landlady had some more people come over for house viewings and I decided to watch a bit of Modern Family before attempting to study some more for Storia Sociale but it was very hot so I didn’t do much. Instead I went to PAM because I had to buy some stuff for the dinner at mine the next day. I was fortunate enough that it started raining cats and dogs just as I’d paid for everything so I had to walk home in the rain and got soaked (it wasn’t cold though, mind you, but it was pouring it down!). I think the rain didn’t help because I started feeling quite tired and got a headache so I took some paracetamol and went to sleep early. Might have been the rain, might have been the stress (?). No idea.
The next morning I was feeling much better. I’d intended to go out for a run but since I had felt so bad the night before I decided to sleep in instead. I then did some cleaning and laundry and tried to study for a bit, but it was really hot, yet again (is that what my life is going to be from now on? Avoiding the heat? I must admit my fan has come so handy lately, especially on nights out haha). I prepared the ingredients for the paella just so I could come back home and cook them quickly since I had to be at the Rectorate for an Erasmus event celebrating the 30 years of the Erasmus programme. Here’s the thing, I only found out two days before that they’d be giving out the #MySiena photo competition prices during that event and since I’d entered four pictures, I thought I’d go by for a bit. Dario had also messaged me asking if I was going and was really keen on my attending, which made me suspicious. I got there at six with the intention of leaving soonish to get on with the cooking. There wasn’t a lot of people but there was the intervention of various different people linked with Erasmus, including ‘Mamma Erasmus’ which is the lady who set up the programme in Italy – Siena being the first University, by the way! They also had the photos put up in an exhibition which was cool to see as there were a couple I hadn’t seen before. But by twenty to seven I knew it was going to run over the time so I decided to leave. More like I tried to, because Matteo chased me down the street and was like ‘No, don’t leave! You have to stay until the end, you’ll see why!’.At this point, it was clear I’d won something and they needed me to be there to pick up the prize. What I didn’t expect was winning the first and only prize and having to deliver an improvised speech in Italian in front of the audience. It really can’t get more Year Abroad than that, can it? They gave me a copy of my photo ‘La vita di contradaiolo’ to hang up in my room and took a couple of pictures of me. And then I had to flee unfortunately, because I was already running late. Sadly I couldn’t stay for the aperitivo… Anyway, I got home and took a quick shower and started cooking the paella. Ody, Megan, Vero and Néstor arrived a little later and we had a lovely evening together before going out to Selva. Megan baked brownies and they were so, so decadent!
The party at Selva was average. It was in the little square by the Battisterio which is crazy central and they had inflatable balls bouncing around because it was beach party themed, but the balls became annoying pretty quickly and the music wasn’t amazing… We danced for a bit and then went to Bellavista, but the music there wasn’t great either and it was pretty empty, so Vero, Néstor and I decided to go home at around two. They wanted to go to Cinque Terre the next morning (which eventually didn’t happen anyway) and I had to study, which did happen.
On Saturday I slept in and spent the day studying for Storia Sociale. It was super-hot and I literally spent the whole day going through my notes until my mind couldn’t handle it anymore. Then I gave up and decided to watch Mr. Nobody. That night I went out with Néstor and Vero and actually had a lot of fun. I met up with them in the Piazza quite late as they’d had to pack because Néstor was leaving the next morning and we had a couple of drinks before heading to Tartuca. It’s actually so cool because we’re all from Tenerife so it felt like a little reunion even though I didn’t know them before Siena. There’s never anybody from Tenerife in Bath, so it’s shocking to see the amount of people from the Canaries in Siena! In Tartuca we met with Jess, Nat, Emilia and Rebecca who was visiting from Trento so it was cool to be able to see her for a bit. The music wasn’t amazing but the party was at Orto dei Tolomei which was a great location but eventually we decided to switch to Al Cambio. In a turn of events, it was Vero and I on our own in Al Cambio and Néstor was nowhere to be found until he reappeared later on. It was quite an odd but funny night and I had a lot of fun with them. Then it was after-party pizza on the Piazza and going home to sleep!
On Sunday I slept in and spent the day doing revision but had kind of given up on trying to cram in anything else, so I went through my notes a couple of times until around half six when I couldn’t deal with it anymore so I just finished watching Mr. Nobody and watched some more OITNB with Dan before bed. I was clearly so stressed about the exam…
This morning I went to the exam. It started at 9 but I was fifth on the list being alternated with other master students so I actually did my exam at around half ten (earlier than I thought because the two Italians on the list before me didn’t actually show up…). The exam was fine; I really like the teacher because he’s very reassuring. I made a fool of myself during half of the interview because I had no clue of what he was asking for, but somehow I managed to get through it with a 30 (Erasmus pity probably played a part)! And then I was finally free! Not that bad, huh? I then joined Megan and tried to help her out because she’s having a nightmare with the Erasmus paperwork and has been waiting all day to do her test which she did not long ago… I’ve spent the rest of the day writing up this post for you and will later go to the gym and then we have reservations to have dinner at Boccon del Prete, which is a restaurant a lot of people have recommended – end of exam celebrations for the foodies Megs and I!
Also, my Piazza del Campus interview with Dario (ESN GES President) is now online, so click this link if you want to give it a read! Grazie mille! #plug
As you’ve read, these past few weeks have involved a couple of parties and a lot of revision, but now that I’m a free chick I’m going to have fun! Néstor’s flight got so delayed he was offered to stay a couple more days so we’ll be hanging out with him and Vero, and I hope to explore more of Siena on the days leading to the Palio (less than two weeks to go eeeek!). I’ll keep you updated on my busy (and amazing) Italian life.
A presto!

Jun 4, 2017

YA-21: Festa in Contrada del Drago, Pimm’s and Secret Party!

This is an interesting post because I finally get to talk about the party in the contrada  where I actually live! I only found out a couple of weeks ago that I live right on top of Contrada del Drago’s Società so I’m pretty much in the middle of it all and I was happy to just look out of my kitchen window into the festivities.
On the Saturday I was tired from the night before but I was efficient enough to get up and make some pancakes for breakfast (they’ve become my addiction lately) and then went to Conad to grab some extra things and did some cleaning before hitting the gym. It was really empty as it was Saturday lunch time and I had a great workout. I have now downloaded Spotify (I still don’t understand why it took me so long to do it) and have some new music to keep me motivated in the gym when it’s so hot outside I’m physically melting woop-woop.
As I walked to the gym I noticed they were setting up all the food stalls and games along my road, Via del Paradiso, for the contrada dinner later that night so it was pretty cool to see the whole process. I spent a big part of the day just looking out of my window! So after having a shower (and literally having to unscrew and put the shower doors together again from scratch because they had popped off their rails), I did some cooking and laundry before heading out for a walk. I knew the battesimo dei contradaioli was that afternoon so I walked to Piazza Matteoli and it was so busy! They were christening the new members by the statue in the courtyard so a lot of people were around but I managed to snap a few pics. I then decided to walk down towards San Domenico and I discovered a secluded garden which is usually closed off – the views are absolutely amazing! On my way back home I bumped into the next door neighbour who actually told me that the capo of the contrada lives in our building and that the most important members dine in the courtyard while the rest of the people “come noi due” eat in the street – so cliquey. I spent the rest of the day planning the week and writing on the blog before getting ready to go out. It was amazing when the party started as the road got super busy and there were people singing and it was great! Megan and Vero came over and we had a cheeky photo session and a couple of drinks before heading to Chiocciola for the party in the garden. Ody joined us again and we had a tonne of fun dancing. I preferred the music from the previous night but this one was just as fun. We then decided to hit Al Cambio – typical Saturday- and were so energized we kind of tried to convince Tsubasa to keep the party going in his house but it was a failed attempt so it was pizza slice for my tummy and time to go to bed as the sun was coming out.
On the Sunday I got woken up by the drums of my contrada downstairs but I slept through it and then had breakfast, did some cleaning and showered. I was super tired from lack of sleep, but I attempted to film my ‘In The Heights’ audition (and failed because my voice was not collaborating) and then did some studying until 6ish, when I met Megan in the Piazza for the Estrazione delle Contrade for the Palio della Madonna di Provenzano. The roads were packed with contradaioli singing their hymns and the Piazza kept getting busier and busier by the minute. We scored a spot near Nannini’s from which we could see the Palazzo Pubblico where they were going to pull out the flags. There are 17 contradas in Siena but only 10 can run each race so what they do is they alternate six and draw the other 4 by luck. The atmosphere was buzzing and there was also the Drago parade at the same time with the flags being waved around the whole piazza because of the celebrations of Santa Caterina. It was amazing to see the reaction of the crowd when, after the three trumpeters finished their call, they brought each chosen flag out of the window to join the others. People would cheer and boo and shout and scream and sing. It was insane and I loved the feeling in the air. In the end, the contradas running in the July Palio this year are Pantera, Onda, Leocorno, Torre, Civetta, Selva, Aquila, Tartuca, Giraffa and Bruco, in this order. That’s three rivalries which will make the atmosphere even more incredible. Sadly Drago didn’t come out but that means they will definitely run in July next year (guess I’ll have to come back, huh?)… After the Estrazione finished the Drago parade did a tour around the Piazza so Megan and I made our way to the front line to snap some pics. It is a crazy tradition- those flags look hard to handle and the clothing they wear is so interesting. There were boys of all ages, from as little as 6 handing out brochures to older members, through to old contradaioli with drums, all male though (sexist, much?). However, I think the tradition is so unique I’m glad I’ve been here to experience it! After the drums and flags came the cohort of newly baptised contradaioli followed by the rest of the members of the contrada, singing their inno. It was absolutely great!
Once the parade was done Megan went home and I decided to sit on the Piazza and chill for a bit until the mass dispersed. I got back home around half eight and had a relaxing night in.
On Monday I was adamant to be productive so I got up at half nine and got ready to go to the ESN office to buy the tickets for the Secret Party on the Friday and then went to the Library to do some studying. There was no Internet which meant no distractions but also I couldn’t look up any doubts I had… I did manage to go through quite a bit of content before heading back home for lunch before my cinema class (boring as per). I treated myself to some ricciarelli on my way home (it was a whopping 30 degrees outside and I was literally melting) and then I read some coursework before going to Power Pump and spending the rest of the evening reading my French book, ‘Joyeaux Noël’ by Carrion. I managed to finish it this week and I really enjoyed it –easy read in an attempt to keep up my French.
On Tuesday morning Megan was hosting an English breakfast lunch at hers so I went there a little bit earlier to help her cook as I hadn’t been able to do the groceries with them.  We were a lovely group – Vero, Megan, Ody, Tsubasa and an Italo-Swiss girl names Natalie who I hadn’t met before. It was an amazing breakfast – I was starving but it was worth the wait. We teamed our efforts and everybody helped and we had a long chat about travelling and living abroad and Swiss chocolate. I really like the little group, I believe because we have different backgrounds and have all lived abroad before. We seem to have similar interests and get along really well. Next date? Paella at mine.
I left them at around 2 to go to Sala Rossa to study for a couple hours and I fortunately managed to get some work done because this week has been kind of useless in terms of advancing with actual revision (which is why I plan on only studying this coming week and partying in the weekend). I left Sala Rossa at around five and did some cooking and planning before showering and getting ready to go to the Piazza del Campus meeting at 8pm. It was quite long but PdC have organized a book crossing event for next week which should be good and I have an article about the ESN due to be published which I guess will be my second and sadly last contribution to the student newspaper as they are soon stopping for the summer. Once the meeting was finished I went back home for dinner and got ready to join Megan, Tsubasa and Ody and go to Club23 on the Piazza. I’d never been there before but it was their closing night so better late than never. It was pretty empty for it being midnight though and I wasn’t digging the music so I decided to call it a day and go home.
On Wednesday morning I made pancakes for breakfast (do you see a pattern here?) and went over to Carta Zucchero which is that book shop café which was closing down and they had a sale of books for 1 euro or less so I decided to go get a couple books for myself and for the book crossing event. I then went to Conad and decided to record my audition for ‘In The Heights’. To be fair, I hate how I sing but oh well if you don’t try you are definitely not getting a part anyway. I’d love to be ensemble but will know next week at some point I guess. After lunch I did some work and reading before going to Power Pump. It was such a good workout but it killed me. Between the heat and the reps, I think I’m going to pass out each time lol Then it was shower time and I was meeting Megs to go to the aperitivo at Conad but because it looked like all they were bringing out was pizza we decided to try out an actual restaurant. We went to l’Antica Trattoria l’Aquila and the food was really good – don’t be deceived by its touristy appearance! I got spaghetti carbonara with zucchini and a side of roasted veggies and Megs finally got round to eating her lasagna, also with a side of veggies. The food was amazing, the weather was lovely so we sat outside and we were so full by the end! We then went to Megs’ to get ready and drink some tea before hitting the Piazza with Ody and Vero. We went to Al Cambio and had a tonne of fun dancing despite the place being quite empty for a Wednesday. I swear, that place is not amazing but the music is bomb. I’m going to miss it when we leave!
Thursday was the 1st of June. Where has time gone? I only have about two weeks before I finish my exams and then I will be enjoying the sweet, sweet life of Italian vacations until I go back home. Sadly a lot of people are leaving quite soon but Megan is staying around and Jess will be in Florence so I have travel buddies yay! On Thursday I woke up early but was quite tired so I wasn’t as efficient as I was planning to be… I replied to some emails and sent in the audition as well as having lunch before going to cinema class. It was boring as usual but at least we only have one more week to go! I definitely need to start studying for it though because my test is on the 15th… After class I went to Conad to pick up some lemonade and went to Jess’. Megan and Vero came not long after and we had Pimm’s and pineapple in the balcony while sun tanning and catching up. It was absolutely lovely! It was funny because Vero took a picture of me which I think embodies my Erasmus experience: Siena rooftops, sunbathing while trying not to melt or burn and drink in hand. Can’t complain, can I? After that I came back home and studied for a bit before dinner. Vero and I were going to go to Drago that night but we decided to pass because we were already planning on going out Friday and Saturday anyway. It turned out well because I got some sleep and actually managed to go to Drago anyway because I had mixed up the day for Giraffa (it’s next week not yesterday!).
The 2nd of June is public holiday in Italy as they celebrate the Republic Day. I intended on going jogging in the morning but decided to sleep and instead I studied and did my laundry and sorted out my wardrobe. I have a lot of clothes I can’t actually wear anymore because it’s way too hot… After lunch I went to the Piazza to meet with Dario and interview him for my article for Piazza del Campus. It was insanely hot and I managed to score a spot in the only square of shade available at 3pm. He was really nice and we spoke for like a quarter of an hour which took me ages to transcribe but I’ve more or less finished the article now which is perfetto. After dinner I got ready and met up with Vero in the Piazza to drink. It was super busy! I reckon because it was public holiday but I swear there were so many people! We chatted and sipped our trusty rosé before going to Gramsci to take the bus to the Secret Party. They’d only announced the location a couple of hours earlier and – believe me – it was such a fun night! The first bus was full so we had to wait for the next one. We were chatting to Sergio whilst trying to sneak through the crowd and also saw Ivo, Fredericke and the rest of the big international Erasmus group. We were so pumped for the party! I had an absolute blast and it was definitely worth going. The location was outdoors and even through it wasn’t particularly full, the crowd was big enough – a great mix of friendly faces and unknown people. A lot of drinks were drunk, a lot of great songs were danced, a lot of drama happened and I had an amazing night. It is definitely up there with the best nights out in Siena. We didn’t want to leave, but we couldn’t miss our bus back. And then we were hungry but all the places were closed so we ended up wandering around 4:30am Siena, empty as you would expect, and trying to unwind before going home. We saw the sunrise before going to bed. What a ball of a night.
On Saturday I was hungover so I was completely wiped out for the day; definitely not ideal with exams looming in the near future. I drank a lot of water and had some food so I eventually felt better. I didn’t do much: clean, cook, download some new gym music… I attempted to write the blog post but decided taking a nap would be more worthwhile. After dinner I got ready and went to Emilia’s as Ellie and Sam from Bath were in Siena visiting so I wanted to come round to say hi. I stayed there for a bit before going to the Piazza to join Vero and Ody before heading to Drago. The contrada was absolutely packed and we barely recognized anybody. The music was not really our taste and the gardens are strangely structured in tiers so it is hard to get around. We danced for a bit before making the executive decision to head to Al Cambio where we knew we’d dig the music for sure. It was quite empty when we arrived which was to be expected as the contrada party hadn’t finished but we danced anyway and it eventually filled up. We had fun dancing; Antonia was there and so were Andrea and another Spanish girl, the girl from Nicaragua and Elena the Greek girl. We saw Tsubasa and Pomodorino boy and all the usual faces at Al Cambio on a Saturday. After that Vero and I were starving so we got our good old Lievito Madre pizza slice to enjoy on the Piazza del Campo before heading home.
This morning I slept in and was woken up by the Giraffa drums of their parade going down my street. I plan on getting some work done so I’ve been writing up this post (so much has happened in a single week!) and I’m staying home and doing some studying this afternoon. I want to go to bed early to catch up on sleep!
Next week I think I’ll potentially go to Florence to visit the Museo dell’Accademia and maybe the Duomo and I will spend most of my time studying which won’t make for a particularly thrilling post but I will soon be free of exams! There is the book crossing event too and Connie is coming to Siena on Saturday so we’ll definitely be going out. The plan is consistent study throughout the week in order to have fun over the weekend! Let’s see if I stick to it!
A presto!

May 27, 2017

YA-20: living the sweet life of spring-time Siena!

Hello again!
Even though I haven’t done much travelling lately (I haven’t done travelling at all tbh), I’ve had a great time in Siena. The weather has finally improved and literally gone from rain to full-blown summer with sunny days of up to 28°C. It has just been calling for sunny chilling on the Piazza and barbecues, so that’s what we’ve been doing.
On the Tuesday I went to class and ran a couple errands including picking up some books to read from the library’s very limited foreign language collection. In the afternoon I went to the Piazza to start reading one of them. It was so insanely warm I sat in the shade but was so warm anyway! Then I was joined by Vero and we spent a good three hours chatting and catching up because it had been ages since I’d last seen her! We got sort of hungry and decided to go to Peterland for some chips and nuggets. Cheat meal but it was so worth it! The amount of chips was insane and neither of us could finish them, but it was so good because I hadn’t had chips in a very long time… We spent another two hours and a half just lying on the Piazza chatting, “marujeando” like I say in Spanish, until we decided it was high time we went home! It was such a lovely afternoon-evening <3
On Wednesday I went to class, did some bulk cooking… The usual. After lunch I went to see the Storia Sociale teacher to have a clearer idea of what to expect in the exam and he was really nice. Now I can structure the studying properly (but actually sitting down to study it is a whole other story…). I did some work at home and then went out for a run before having dinner and getting ready to meet Vero in the Piazza for pres before Al Cambio. We bumped into the old man with his rabbits which Vero always mentions but I’d never actually seen. He just brings them to the square and sets them free and people pet them and take pictures. Oh, Siena, sometimes you’re weird. Al Cambio was a strange night though. I hadn’t been there on a Wednesday in like forever and it was quite empty (I guess people have already started to study for their exams). The theme was 80s and 90s music, but they were playing a really bizarre repertoire – music 4/10. Megan joined us and we found Emilio and Tsubasa and also Ody and his friends. I’d met Ody back in March when we were going to Vainilla but hadn’t actually spoken to him until now. His friend Stefanos was leaving on Saturday so they were making the most of his time left in Siena and we ended up hanging out with them and their two Italian friends – it was fun.
On Thursday I had one of those days when you just can’t do anything with yourself. It was also quite hot which didn’t help. I showered and did some work, went to cinema class (boring as usual) and then decided to grab some snacks in Conad and watch a bit of Modern Family because why not? I cleaned the house and then had a chill and early night because I was feeling tired.
On Friday morning I ran some errands and had something to eat before heading to PAM to meet Vero and buy some drinks and snacks for the barbecue. Ody and Stefanos had organized everything and so we went to their residence which is outside Siena near the Ospedale. It is amazing! I always find it interesting to see halls in other countries and this one looked a lot like an English one except for the shared bedrooms and the fact that it was right in the middle of the countryside. So we joined them two and Pier, Matthew and Zoe (yes, another Zoe) to head to the park and get the barbecue going. The guys took care of everything while us girls were chatting (they kept saying they didn’t need any help hey!) and we had a great lunch – everybody was starving! The meat was great and they’d made chips and an actual Greek salad that was so tasty. And music and beers to top it all off, it was a fantastic sunny afternoon and we couldn’t have asked for anything better. Vero and I left around half six and then I got home and decided to skip crossfit and instead take a shower and nap for a bit. We met up with them all again on the Piazza at around elevenish for Stefanos’ last night out in Siena and stayed there having some drinks until around half one when we decided it was time to hit Bellavista. The music wasn’t great but we had fun anyway and the guys kept the creeps away so it was a win-win situation. It was sad to say good-bye to Stefanos, he seemed like a really nice guy I wish I’d met him earlier.
On the Saturday I woke up around half ten and went out for a run and workout at the Fortezza. It took me some force of will to get out of bed but I felt so energized after doing some exercise! After showering, doing some laundry and having lunch I went to the Fortezza again to meet up with Emilia and Katy, who’d come to visit from Naples. It was nice to see her; we went for ice-cream at La Favorita (mint and lemon this time) and bumped into a parade from my very own contrada del Drago. I had no idea it was going on, as well as seeing a couple old cars from the Mille Miglia who’d come past Siena earlier in the morning.
I then decided to go to Santa Maria della Scala which is another museum in Siena opposite the Duomo. It’s an old hospital and has historical sites and also pieces of art on exhibition. It was interesting. I got a free audioguide with my free ticket (perks of being a Siena student) and wandered around on my own. High-lights of the visit were the Compagnia di Santa Caterina della Notte with the original archives, the Archaeological Museum which houses the Treasury (so eerie to walk on my own) and the temporary photography installation ‘Ten Years and Eighty-Seven Days’ by Lucia Menazzi Moretti, about the experiences and statements of death-row prisioners in Texas – it was very thought-provoking and definitely worth a visit if you are in Siena before the 4th of June.
After the museum I dropped by Conad and did some work before having dinner and getting ready to go out yet again. I went with Vero to a friend of hers, Amber, for pres and Hà and Tsubasa happened to also be there, along with a few other people I didn’t know. We played a couple of games and left around midnight to hit the contrada party at Oca before it finished. When we got there it was packed! It was outdoors and they’d set up tents and the music was great, but there was so many people we had a hard time finding a familiar face! Ody and another Greek girl ended up joining us and we danced for a bit before heading to Al Cambio, where Megan joined Vero and I. I had such a fun night dancing and chatting to people outside the club. I saw Andrea, Sarah, Francesco and a few other people. The post-club slice of pizza was heavenly and much needed and I got home just in time to avoid the rain.
On Sunday I was really tired and kind of hungover so I slept in and had breakfast, then did some cooking and showered before lunch and sat down to study. Of course, it was not easy to concentrate, especially with the lovely weather outside, but I did what I could. I also spoke with Moni who caught me up on the Fécamp news while she was tending the bar in the Mill. I can’t wait to see her in Glasgow!
Monday was an average day. I went to class, I went to the gym and died, I bought a flag of contrada del Drago, cause you can’t live in Siena without having a flag of your quarter (also the party is this weekend so keep tuned for the next post!). After Power Pump I came back home quickly to shower and get ready to meet Vero, Jess, Megan and her parents in Pomodorino. Mike and Debra were so lovely inviting us for dinner – I had a nice evening chatting and eating pizza and dessert!
On Tuesday I was really productive for once. I woke up at 8 and went to do the grocery shopping in PAM because it wasn’t too hot yet. Then I came home and grabbed my packed lunch before heading to class and after Storia Sociale I had lunch under the sun with Jess and we spent a good three hours and a half in Sala Rossa which is an old church turned into study space. After that I came home, got changed and hit the gym for an hour. I was knackered but it was so worth it! Then I popped into Conad to grab a few bits I hadn’t found in PAM and came back home to do some cooking and chill. My tortilla recipe was published on Piazza del Campus and you can check it out here: https://piazzadelcampus.it/tortilla-espanola-5971/
On Wednesday I wanted to be efficient but that went out of the window. I went to the last Storia Sociale class and then came back home and sorted some stuff out and did some bulk cooking. I then had lunch and decided to take a short nap because I was kind of tired. At around fiveish I met with Grazia to catch up and speak a bit of Italian which was really nice. We sat in the Piazza – it was so hot!- and she also took me to a bookshop in Via Camollia with massive discounts due to closing so I got myself a copy of a thriller in Italian. I went back at around seven and had lunch and got changed to go up to UniStraSi for a Notte di Poesia or poetry night. Vero and Simay were reading so I went to listen to them. The event involved reading poetry in foreign languages and then their translation into Italian and was a nice evening, but I thought it dragged on a bit too long. We left before the end because they had an exam the next morning.
On Thursday I woke up early and went out for a run and workout in the Fortezza and then at home I did some laundry and a bit of revision before lunch and going to class for the film screening. We watched ‘À bout de souffle’ by Godard and I really enjoyed it! I want to watch more of his films. I then wanted to watch ‘I Vitelloni’ by Fellini because I didn’t go last Friday but the film guy was nowhere to be found. I borrowed a copy from the library instead but I didn’t realize my disc reader doesn’t work so I was left watching only half of it through online streaming fml I then decided to do a bit of work and organizing for the next day, as we were going to the beach! I didn’t do much else that day.
On Friday it was only Megan and I going to the beach. We decided to go to Castiglione della Pescaia which is about 2 hours away changing in Grosseto (which is a very sad looking town in my opinion). The trip was fine and we got to the beach in the morning and spent a good couple of hours sun tanning and swimming (even though there were no waves and it was very shallow). It was great to feel the sand and salty water again – once an islander, forever an islander!
We got back to Siena around six (and we managed not to sunburn so kudos to us!) and I decided to nap before getting ready to go out. We went to the Piazza for some drinks with Andrea, Sarah, Etienne (who came to visit for the weekend), Dan and Leona, Vero, Megan and Francesco and then hit Chiocciola for the outdoor party that everybody was raving about. It was really cool – the garden is amazing and the place was packed! The music was great and we had a tonne of fun. Afterwards Megan and I went with Emilio to Bellavista but there was no more music so in the end I just got some pizza and went home. Not bad at all.
As a sneak peak, just know that the next post starts with the Contrada del Drago party on my very own road, so definitely keep tuned to read that! Happy times!
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Alla prossima!


May 15, 2017

YA-19: Sara in Siena, contrada parties and exams!

Hello again! You might want to grab a cup of tea and/or snacks for this one because it’s going to be a long blog entry (can you tell I’ve been neglecting my duties lately?). Enjoy!
On May Day morning I went to PAM with Dad to do a massive grocery shop (got to make the most while your parents are in town) and then I spent most of the morning studying. Unfortunately, after lunch it started to rain so we had to stay inside until it cleared up but the sun eventually came out and we were able to go on an afternoon stroll. I took Dad to San Francesco, the Piazza and then we went for coffee at MeetLife. I then left Dad who wanted to walk around a bit longer and I went back home to do some more work – had a lot to catch up and some exams looming over the horizon. All in all, it was a nice and simple public holiday giornata.
On the Tuesday I had lessons so I left Dad sleeping in while I went to class and then I had to run some errands and get the books for Storia Sociale. I had lunch at home with Dad and then we decided to go to the Duomo. We got tickets for the whole thing and I’d never been inside before but it is beautiful! My favourite part were the floors of the Cathedral and Libreria Piccolomini, which is decorated beautifully with frescoes and golden details. The view from the Facciatone is also amazing – you could see our house from it! And then the rest of the Complesso Museale del Duomo is also interesting, they have a massive variety of paintings and the crypt and baptistery are also pretty. Overall it was a good decision to go. On our way back home we bought a basil plant from an organization to fight breast cancer and Dan and I have decided to name it Boris. Unfortunately, we are struggling to keep it alive so any advice will be appreciated…
Dad was leaving on Wednesday morning so I went to Storia Sociale and then back home to say good-bye and drop him off at the bus station. It was lovely to have him around and explore Italy together <3
After dropping him off I decided to get to work and do some cooking and have lunch before going out for a run. I fancied running so I went to the Fortezza and ran three laps which adds up to about 5km – you can imagine how tired I was at the end but I was really happy to have got back into running. I showered and got comfy in order to start reviewing properly for my upcoming French exam and then was told there was a newspaper meeting in the evening. Unfortunately I really had to study so I had no more options than to stay in and go to the next one…
Thursday morning was the French test. The quiz went fine and when we got to the oral presentation everybody was so much more nervous than we should’ve been. The oral was in front of the students, which I find strange in comparison to England, but once it got going it was just a matter of managing to go next and get it done. I got 30 con lode in the subject, so I’m more than happy! I spent the rest of the day attending my other lectures and running a few errands, but mostly taking it as a break – a treat after the morning test. That night I met with Megan and Jess to go out for dinner. It had been a while since we’d been out and Megan and I have decided we want to go through the list of restaurant recommendations in Siena. We want to end our Erasmus experience being able to rate the restaurants and Contrada parties – worthwhile aim, huh? Food and dancing; can’t go wrong with that! That night we tried Osteria Gatto e Cane near Jess’. I went for pici cacio e pepe which I’d never eaten before and were really tasty, with some bruschettas and roasted veggies to share. All the food was good and the portions were filling, which was great! Cosy and local place to go for sure.
After dinner it was mildly raining but we’d heard there was a Contrada party at Valdimontone, so Megan and I head there. Fortunately, they’d set up a tent in the garden which was much needed because at one point it was raining cats and dogs. The music and atmosphere were alright – it was a fun night, but it’s not up there with the best. It also felt like Friday, but it was Thursday, and that totally threw me off!
Friday was a normal day of errands and lectures, but in the evening I met up with Jess, Nat, Emilia and Ivo to go to Morbidi for apericena. I hadn’t been there in ages and the food is definitely good. A pricier place than usual aperitivo, but so worth it! We got a table and it was lovely to catch up and have a chat. I’m such a fan of more social meet ups in which you can actually talk! After eating we went around town trying to find a nice place to have a drink and I then left them and head to Parsifal for a photo gallery event with the newspaper lot. It was a cute event – the photos pictured the impact of students in Siena, with before and after shots of different locations. We had a couple drinks and chatted; there was also a group playing some traditional music from the south and I ended up being taught how to ‘dance’ the tarandella. It was overall a great experience because I got to speak Italian and have a different Friday from the usual, as well as meeting a lot of new people (which, at the same time, means forgetting a lot of names…). We eventually moved onto Le Logge and hung outside but I left them at around half two. I wasn’t planning on a late night, but what can you do when you get caught up in actually being part of the Italian landscape of Siena?
Clearly after going to bed so late, my head wasn’t functioning properly the following day. However, I had to get up early because Sara was coming to visit in Siena. It was lovely to have her and I can’t believe she made such a long trip to and from on the same day – she must’ve been exhausted in the end! We were unlucky with the weather and had to fight heavy rain, but we made it work. I showed her around the city, we went into the Duomo, we had pizza at La Trofea and ice-cream at La Favorita (honestly, probably the best ice-cream in town)… She really loved Siena despite the weather which I’m happy about. Megan joined us by PAM for a bit before Sara had to go and catch her train, and we attempted and failed at taking a decent picture together haha
I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some cooking and napping before the evening. The plan was to go out to the Contrada party at Lupa, but the weather took a very wrong turn and there was a proper thunderstorm and horrible rain. However, Megan and I were ready and, since it seemed to subside a little, we decided to go to the house party at Saverio and Matteo’s. If it kept raining, we could always stay there if the Contrada party was outdoors… We dropped by for a bit but really wanted to go dance at the Contrada so we made a bit of small talk before heading to Lupa – turns out it was indoors which was great! It was a lot emptier than the day before, probably due to the rain, but the music was great and Megan, Fredericke and I ended up jamming away the whole time. We then found Emilio and Tsubasa so we joined them and stayed until the end of the night before deciding to move onto Al Cambio. However, I was so tired I gave up and decided to go to bed before actually reaching the club lol Lupa is definitely up there in the contrada party chart.
On Sunday the 7th it was Mothers’ Day in Spain so I rung up Mum before heading to the Pinacoteca. I wanted to check it out because it was free the first Sunday of the month. There were a lot of medieval triptychs with gold paint, maybe too many for my taste as I’m not a fan of that period but I have to say if you do actually like it, you should definitely check it out. I spent the rest of the day home doing some revision but mostly relaxing and going to bed early to catch up on my sleep.
On the Monday we had a massive misunderstanding with our Cinema lesson. I had the usual morning and was thinking the class would be at 2 until Dan mentioned it starting at 12 and I was really confused and nobody really knew what the deal with it was, so we went round at 12 and it was only Erasmus and a couple Italian girls who’d turned up and the teacher was nowhere to be found. After waiting for a bit we decided it would be on at 2 then, so I went to the mensa at Sant’Agata with Duncan to grab some lunch before class. It was annoying to waste the time but nice to spend some time with Duncan outside the classroom lol Then back home I had to deal with Student Finance paperwork and ring them up a few times as well as go to the gym and do some work. The usual.
Tuesday was not much different. I went to class, I ran some errands, our landlady came over. We found out our contrada’s società is downstairs which is amazing because it means we’ll be in the midst of the festivities when the time comes woop woop! I also phoned Lara because it had been ages since we’d last spoken and it was great to catch up. I really miss her and can’t wait to see her in the summer. And then I went to Maudit to join the British lot for the evening. It was fun and the odd event happened with some Canadians on tour in Europe coming round to our table. If that’s not the place to meet the strangest people in Siena, I don’t know what is.
Wednesday and Thursday were quite uneventful. I went to class, ran some errands, did some revision. I like to go and run in the Fortezza now that it’s warm but not overwhelmingly hot. I had the cinema exam for which I got the feedback today and was complimented by the teacher on the content and my Italian, so I’m super happy! I also encountered the weirdest thing in Siena thus far: a sort of fraternity of young guys who dress up in capes and blast music from pimped cars with stages on top. Literally, so weird. They have been touring Siena for the past week. And I decided to have two movie nights because it had been ages since I’d last watched some films. I was tempted to watch a new one, but in the end I went for the trusty ‘Sweeney Todd’ and ‘The Lovely Bones’, both of which I’m a big fan of.
This past weekend has also been great fun. On Friday I was quite efficient writing up posts for the different blogs I’m a part of (if you didn’t know, I also write for the University of Bath Placements’ Blog which you can find here: http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/hss-placements/author/zam22/ ) and going to the gym (literally, I nearly died in cross-fit last Friday – it’s Monday as I write and I have the worst sore muscles ever and I think I might’ve pulled my arm so any advice on that hit me up). Anyhow, I was decidedly going out anyway so I got ready and head to Emilia’s for pres with Jess, Ivo, Dan and Francesco. We played cards and chatted for a while until we went out to la Civetta – it was mildly raining but that was not going to stop us. The music was really good and we had a great time. When that finished at one, Megan and I were still really energized and wanted to find somewhere else with music so we went on a quest with Francesco. Unfortunately, Cacio e Pere had just finished and Pantaneto was dead. In Leocorno we found Tsubasa, Emilio and a friend of theirs and joined them in looking for something else. Eventually we ended up at Tsubasa’s dancing to the music of his laptop. It was such a bizarre but fun night.
On Saturday I was knackered and should’ve probably slept in but was planning on “being efficient” which did not go to plan. Instead, I did some laundry and chilled in bed until after lunch, when I joined Megs, Emilia and Jess at Orto Tolomei for some sunbathing. The weather was lovely and it was so nice to chill under the sun – perfect temperature to feel warm but not melt from the heat. I – as always- slathered SPF cream on so I don’t think I got very tan, but it was a lovely afternoon in the park with such a summery feel. Then at 6 I met with Megan again to go to the Battesimo dei Contradaioli of the Contrada dell’Oca, by Fontebranda. It was a lovely event to attend and we saw how the contradaioli get christened and receive their contrada banner. The community feel is insane and I cannot believe how, in such a small place as Siena there are seventeen different contradas! Now that the events are starting I actually want to stay in Siena to experience the Palio properly – I can hear the drums every morning and I randomly bump into contrada parades. It is something unique to Siena and I don’t want to miss out on it!
Anyway, after the christening we went to Piazza del Campo to chill for a bit before heading home to have dinner and get ready to go to Emilia’s to watch the Eurovision Singing Contest 2017. We played the drinking game and had the contrada party right next door, so I wasn’t paying much attention and only stayed for the performances before heading to the party with Megan. I was surprised to hear that Spain got no points, until I realized he’d sung a clear false note – that explained everything… I also had bet that Portugal would win and, alas, there we go. At Civetta it was rock’n’roll night so Megs and I jammed out to the songs and when it finished we headed to Al Cambio. It was horribly hot in there as per, but we found Emilio and his friend and danced with them all night. I had so much fun! Literally, we danced for hours. And then after the club closed we went home because it was pretty late and we were pretty tired.
And, as expected, on Sunday I made myself get up at a decent time but ended up not being productive at all. I phone Lara and Erin which was nice and also checked out the market with Megan – there was a lot of clothes and shoes and kitchen gadgets on sale, but nothing too eye-catching. I attempted (what I deem a failure) at doing some work but ended up giving up and having an early dinner. While I was making dinner I hear the Oca parade coming down my road and it was amazing! There were drummers, flag waving, and all the contradaioli of all ages. It was insane! Then I hurried to Sant’Agata for the Piazza del Campus meeting. It was kind of hard to follow because they were speaking very fast and about topics I wasn’t familiar with, but it will eventually get better I think. I was also very tired. After the meeting I went with some of them to Cacio e Pere because there was supposed to be a concert but the place was packed and it hadn’t actually started yet so I decided to just go home and greet my bed for a much needed sleep.
And, finally, today I went to the usual lectures, I went for a run and have been writing this post for ya’ll. I doubt I’ll be doing anything interesting today; I’m planning on having a chill night in.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations! You deserve a cookie. I have no idea of what I’ll be up to this week aside from probably enjoying the lovely weather we’re having and attending a few extra events and contrada parties – you’ll have to wait for the next post!
A dopo!

May 11, 2017

YA-18: exploring Pisa, Cinque Terre and Lucca with Dad!

Hey y’all!
This post is long overdue but I’ve been caught up with exams and having to put my life together again after Dad came to visit, so excuse me. I have another post that will (hopefully) be up in a few days, but here’s a travel one for now. Enjoy!
Last time I updated, Dad was here for the Easter break and we’d been doing some travelling around Tuscany: some Tuscan villages and Florence. This time, since it was the weekend, we decided to branch out.
On Friday morning we woke up to a gloomy day in Siena but we got ready to catch the train and get to Pisa. As per, we had to change at Empoli where it was quite chilly and windy but at least it was sunny. Around three hours later, we finally made it to Pisa and got to our airbnb – a room right by the station. It was quite Spartan but clean and convenient, perfect for the two nights we were to spend there. The host was also really nice, so give me a shout if you want more details!
We dropped our bags and decided to have lunch at the kebab place under the flat. The food was actually pretty good for the price – wish Siena actually had different food options! We went for chicken with rice and veggies and were full and ready to go explore after that. Since I’d been in Pisa before (with Megan and Sebastian, read the post here), I had a good idea of what things to show Dad and where to go. We made our way from the station and I showed him Haring’s mural, the main shopping street (where I got some black trousers in Pimkie that I’ve been living in for the past two weeks, ngl), we managed to find the old pastry shop where we bought panpepato the last time so I definitely had to introduce Dad to such a delicacy and then we stopped by the Chiesa di Santa Caterina. I’d never been inside but, despite having quite an impressive outside, the inside is quite empty (something that I’ve found in a lot of cathedrals and churches I’ve been to while in Italy). After that we headed towards Piazza dei Miracoli. It was Dad’s first time in Pisa so he was excited to see the Tower – turned out to be bigger than he was expecting! We took the hilarious touristy pictures pushing the Tower and then we decided to go for it and get the general ticket to access the Cathedral, Camposanto, Battisterio and Museo delle Sinopie. We skipped the Tower because it was crazy expensive and you have to climb a tonne of stairs… The sky was clear and blue even though it was quite chilly, but such a change from rainy Siena!
First up was the Camposanto, which turned out to be my favourite place out of them all. It’s basically the cemetery but it looks amazing! Certainly worth the visit – the courtyard was beautiful and the murals and statues inside were gorgeous. I would have not expected it to look how it did.
Then we moved onto the Cathedral. In my opinion, the outside is a lot more beautiful than the inside. The ceiling of the main altar is the biggest asset of the Cathedral ‘s interior but unfortunately the roof was being restored so a lot of it was covered with scaffolding… There are also a few nice pieces of art in there, but nothing out of the ordinary. Next up was the Battisterio, which is separate from the Cathedral like a lot of renaissance constructions in Italy. The building is massive and beautiful, although the interior is a bit empty (as usual). I climbed to the tribuna or second floor and there was an amazing view of the façade of the Cathedral with the Tower popping at the back (if you haven’t seen it, check my IG! Link below). Then right before leaving one of the wardens asked for silence and she starting belting out some chords that echoed all along the building – it was breath taking! So glad we caught that bit!
Finally, we went to the Museo delle Sinopie. We weren’t really sure what it was about but apparently the sinopie are the drafts of the murals covering the Camposanto, which were discovered after the cemetery was bombed during the Second World War. The sinopie are a layer of plaster painted with red dust onto which they add a second layer of plaster where they add the actual paint and create the famous frescoes. They somehow managed to remove the layer underneath and create an exhibition in the old hospital, which is now the Museo delle Sinopie. It was interesting, but a bit confusing until we asked the warden to explain it to us. We also watched an interesting video about the Piazza and its buildings, and I learned that, obviously, the Leaning Tower is actually the campanile of the Cathedral, only it is detached from the main building. I swear, how do simple things like this escape my mind?
Just as we were walking out we bumped into – guess who? Yes, you guessed it. Sebastian and a friend. I don’t know how we manage, because Pisa (and particularly the Piazza) is always jam packed with tourists… It came in the right time though, because he was lovely enough to recommend some apericena places for us to go to later that day.
On our way back we went to Chiesa della Spina, which is one of my favourite places in Pisa, and then around a couple of back streets until we reached the airbnb again. We were knackered as we hadn’t been able to go into the room when we dropped our bags in the morning because it was still being cleaned. We decided to rest for a bit and regain our strength before heading out to Skyline for apericena. The place was crowded and clearly student-y, recommended by Sebastian along with two other places called Caino and Modus. We settled for Skyline and I introduced Dad to Spritz and Negroni – when in Italy, do what Italian do. On our way back home I got some cheeky gelato and then we went to bed because we were in for a long day the following morning… It was a lovely night with Dad though, great to chat and spend quality time with him <3
As I said, on Saturday we woke up early and went to the station to buy our tickets to La Spezia because, guess where we were heading? Yep, Cinque Terre. The sea, finally. There were no tickets available for the 10am train so we got them for the 11am one and decided to go for breakfast in the café near the airbnb. The train was very busy but we sat near a window and were able to see Viareggio and Carrara (famous for its marble). Well, more than the actual towns, the stations in the towns. We got to La Spezia, in Liguria, at around half twelve and it was jam packed. We wanted to get the day tickets for Cinque Terre but were not too sure how to; this is how if you are interested -
Once you arrive in La Spezia Centrale, head to the Information Office. There will probably be a large queue, but believe me, it’s worth queuing then and there than having to purchase individual tickets between each village along the coast. The Day Ticket costs 16euro (13 for over 65yrs) and gives you unlimited access to the trains between La Spezia and Levanto (which is the line that serves the Cinque Terre villages), the trails between them and the buses that run inside each town for the whole day. They also give you the train timetables and a map. It is so worth it because it avoids the fuss of having to stop in each town to buy a ticket, and it actually works out cheaper if, as we did, you plan on visiting all the towns in one day.
Anyhow, we got our tickets and jumped into the train, Monterosso bound. The train line covers La Spezia-Riomaggiore-Manarola-Corniglia-Vernazza-Monterosso-Levanto in that order so we decided to get off in the farthest Cinque Terre and make our way back. We managed to score some seats by two lovely French ladies and their three kids, we had entertainment for the journey since the baby was so happy playing peekaboo with Dad… Also, turns out one of the ladies had been to Tenerife and the other one came from Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, a small town near Fécamp where I worked last semester! What a small world!
Once we got out of the station in Monterosso I was so, so happy to see the sea and smell the salty air. Honestly, I hadn’t realized how much I was missing the coast… Monterosso was full of tourists but the beach was lovely and the sea was bright blue – no waves though! It was a very much a seaside town and we decided to stop for lunch at a place called Bar Giò, right next to the beach. They had a daily menu option which was a very good deal and the food was very good, so definitely recommend eating there! We ordered two menus and some fried calamari and it was heaven: salad, torcie al pesto, lasagne, anchovies and calamari, with some decent bread, olive oil, water and wine to accompany it. It was simply beautiful – I was so happy!
Manarola and the food in Riomaggiore
Then we went onto exploring the different towns. They are all similar but different in their own way. Monterosso is definitely the beach resort; Vernazza is very touristy like Manarola, but this is because they have the most beautiful marinas to take pictures of; Corniglia is the only town without a beach as it is up on a hill, you have to climb a lot of stairs but the view is amazing and the town reminded me a lot of El Cotillo; and Riomaggiore which was probably my favourite because it looked like the most ‘lived’. Because these tiny towns have become such a tourist destination, some of them look like they don’t have real inhabitants but are just made for the tourists… Also, let me say, they reminded me so much of the Canary Islands! The beaches off the cliffs, the marines, the vegetation, the feel of the towns (the ones not extremely touristy) – despite the architecture being different, the resemblance was uncanny! I’m happy we made the long journey there, it was definitely worth it, but being from the Canaries myself, I’m not used to such crowds! They were beautiful though, and I went overboard with the pictures and was able to enjoy a lovely sunny day by the sea – what more could I want?
Mostly Vernazza
In Riomaggiore, which was our last stop before coming back to Pisa, we grabbed some fried fish cones for dinner and waited for the train. The trip back felt long, but I think that must’ve been because we were knackered after so much walking!
Sunday was our last day before returning to Siena so we decided to visit Lucca which is a nearby medieval town. We woke up, got ready and checked out of the airbnb before going for breakfast. We then caught the train to Lucca, which is around 30-40’ away from Pisa, left our suitcase in the baggage deposit and went out to explore. The day was quite sunny and warm, and the town was full of those fluffs of seeds that seem to have invaded Tuscany over the last few days… Lucca is a beautiful city for a day trip and I would advise getting a bike if you are a confident rider, as it is pretty much flat. The city is encircled by a massive rampart which has been turned into a park and the inside is full of medieval buildings and lovely streets. We bumped into an artisan market in which we got a few presents (including a beautiful necklace by the artist Mauro Marri) and then I spent a long, long time browsing though second hand books on some stands that were nearby. I honestly have a problem with book markets – I could spend hours looking at the different options! I ended up getting a book about Italian proverbs and explanations of their origins for 1 euro which is really interesting. Such a shame I can’t carry weight back with me, otherwise I would’ve got a few more!
We did a lot of walking around and sight-seeing: Piazza Garibaldi (nearly any Italian town has its own version of it), San Michele with its beautiful façade, Puccini’s house (the opera composer was from Lucca), San Frediano (Dad’s favourite place of the day, it has an amazing Bizantine mural over the entrance), the Anfiteatro, Torre Guinigi (famous for the two Holm Oaks that grown on the top!), San Martino and the fortress. We had lunch at a bar near San Frediano which had average food but I went for linguine alla carbonara and salad, the best was the ice-cream and eating outside in the shade. Once we were done with walking around the centre we decided to head to the ramparts and go for a walk in the afternoon sun – it was busy with families going out after the Sunday dinner and with people doing sport. We then went back to the station, picked our bag and sat on the platform. Our train was delayed for nearly an hour and we were worried we wouldn’t make the connection in Florence… Fortunately though, once we were on the train from Lucca the driver must’ve sped up like crazy because we caught up and ended up being ten to five minutes behind schedule, allowing us to just about catch the connecting train from Firenze Rifredi to Siena. This second train took ages but we eventually reached home at around nine. So tired!
As you can probably tell, we had a busy but lovely weekend exploring some new towns in Italy and enjoying the nice weather. I’m so glad I was able to go to Cinque Terre and to spend time with Dad, I really missed him!
If you want to see more photos, be sure to follow my Instagram as I’ve been posting there loads. Also, keep your eyes peeled for another post that will be up soon.
Alla prossima!