Jul 8, 2017

YA-24: Il Palio di Siena!

As you all probably already know by now, Il Palio is the heart and soul of Siena. The Palio is a horseback race in which ten contradas (the town quarters in which Siena is divided) run to win the Palio – a banner (il Cencio) and silver plate. It’s a tradition that has been going on since the medieval times and the contradaioli are extremely proud of it and work all year towards it. Celebrations span over four days: the three days leading up to and the actual Palio on the 2nd of July for the Madonna di Provenzano, and there is another Palio which takes place in August.
To be honest, you really have to live in Siena to understand it. Clearly, I am not part of it, as I’m not a contradaiola but a mere Erasmus student, but having lived in Siena for the past five months has given me a big insight on the contrada life. Siena is divided in 17 contrade and I live in Drago, right on top of the società. Over the past months I’ve learned about what the locals do as a community, the different Feste Titolare in each contrada celebrating their patron saints and the different parties (so far, Megan and I have managed to attend 13 out of 17 which is not bad at all!). And, clearly, all of it leads up to the Palio festivities, so here is my experience of it!
Thursday was the proper first day running up to the Palio. I woke up late and showered before heading to the Piazza at around 12 for the Estrazione dei Cavalli. The horses running the Palio had been chosen during the prove di note, but it was during the estrazione that they were going to be tried in order to find out which were the best horses. The assignment is done by a lucky draw, but the contradaioli know which horses are worth it. In my case, I arrived to the Piazza with Dan at 12 and just missed the access to the Piazza itself which had been closed a little earlier so we had to watch from under the bleachers. We were by Bar Il Palio, in a pretty good spot as I managed to score a hole in between the seats and stairs from which I could see everything but was still in the shade. There were a lot of people in the Piazza (including Jess and Emilia who were quite close to Via Duprè) and even more tourists than usual, apart from the contradaioli sitting on the bleachers. The horses took about an hour to actually come out of Palazzo Pubblico and they ran three fake corse – it was amazing! The jockeys were dressed in white and black (the colours of Siena) and it was the first actual time seeing the horses running on the tufo. It made me so excited for the actual race! It was also very exciting because one of the fantini fell off the horse and the horse started running in the opposite direction causing chaos. Then the people started invading the pista and it was time for me to leave and beat the crowds home, after managing to snap a couple of cool shots from my location!
After that I went to Conad to buy a couple of things for the afternoon and had lunch home. The whole thing took longer than I’d anticipated, but it was worth it. I rested at home until 5ish and then headed to Megan’s to help her with the cake. We were organising a surprise leaving/early birthday party for Vero in Orto Tolomei an hour later. It took me forever to get to her house though because with the allocation of the horses and prima prova taking place later that afternoon, the Piazza and adjacent streets were absolutely packed and so I had to loop around it… We managed to ice the brownies and chop the fruit and still reach the Orto in time to meet Jess there and set up. We wanted to get the gazebo as it looked like it might rain but it was taken when we arrived so we set up on the grass instead. We made the Pimms and were ready for the surprise when Vero messaged saying she’d fallen asleep after her exam and was going to be late… So typical! So in the mean time we were gazing at the gazebo trying to figure out if the two guys were leaving anytime soon… Eventually the amount of stares, which crossed another table with three guys who totally thought we were checking them out, got out of hand and Megan took one for the team and went up to them to ask for the ‘hut’. Then we moved all our things and waited for her to come. She was so surprised and it was a very emotional moment. We gave her some presents and had the cake whilst drinking the last drops of Pimms that Megs had brought back from England. It was a lovely evening, secluded from the crowd and noise of the city centre. On our way back home at around 8 we happened to come across the Onda fantino arriving in the contrada and the people singing, it was pretty cool! Vero came over to mine to use my laptop and get her plane tickets and then I had an early night – I was so tired!
On Friday I woke up early to go to the Seconda Prova in which the fantini train with the horses around the Piazza. It was starting at nine so I got to the Piazza at half past eight and managed to score a place right on the fence by the mossa or starting line. I was insanely close – I could stretch my arm and touch the horses! I was really happy to have made it to the Piazza on time and actually see the prova. It wasn’t very long, but it was still exciting. The mortaretto which is the shot they fire to signal the start of the race or change of event was super loud as I was right next to it, and this time the Pantera horse was quite agitated so it took four tries to line up the horses behind the mossa and start the fake race. Bruco won this time, followed by Giraffa. And then the contradaioli invaded the pista and started chanting and following their fantini  and cavalla back to their contrada. The horses are such an important thing because according to the rules, the fantino can be changed up to the day of the race but the horse cannot, so there is a person called the barbaresco who literally spends the four days between the assignment of the horses to the race by the horse – a sort of horse bodyguard!

After the prova I went back home and it then started to rain and didn’t stop all day so the prova in the evening was cancelled (another reason why I was happy I’d gone to the morning one, because the mud of the pista meant the Saturday morning one was cancelled too (there are six leading up to the actual race – Thursday afternoon, Friday morning and evening, Saturday morning and evening and Sunday morning). I wanted to go to the gym but instead I decided to cook in hopes that the rain would stop. It didn’t happen so after cooking I went to the gym anyway which was very empty. I was completely soaked on my way back home though, even after making a run for it! So I went straight into the shower and then had lunch and finished the season of OITNB with Dan which was insane! Each season just gets more surreal than the previous one… I then decided to nap for a bit before getting ready to go to the Final Erasmus Party at Essenza. It was supposed to be a pool party but since it was raining all day they did it indoors. I met with Vero, Simay and Megan in Piazza del Sale and we took the bus to reach Casetta. Fortunately, there was an ESN guy in the bus who led the way because we had no idea where we were going – Vero and I had gone to the place for the Secret Party but we’d arrived and left in a navetta leaving in the middle of the dark of the night, so we had no actual idea of where the place was… We eventually reached at around half eight. The cena was meant to start at 8 but everybody was waiting outside because it wasn’t ready yet. The disorganization was real – most of the Erasmus students were Spanish and very, very drunk at that stage and we were quite hungry. We had to wait for like an hour until we were finally let inside and the buffet dinner was utter carnage as all the drunk people wanted to eat as much as they could and we were also quite hungry. We managed to eat a lot of carbs which was much needed and then we were feeling better. Vero did her makeup in the toilets and we made the clever decision of putting up a ‘guasto’ sign on the only clean toilet to try to keep it clean throughout the night, and then we went back to the party. They’d started playing music but weren’t selling drinks until 11 and there was still an hour to go so we danced a bit and hung out outside until we managed to get some drinks. We had a fun night; especially when the party was open to everybody. Sonia and the British aupair girl came too so we danced together and we saw a lot of people we knew. As per usual, a great night with great people and funny Erasmus stories to tell. Megan and I made it to the ESN picture, repping the UK in the sea of Spaniards! And we left on the 4:30 bus back to Siena, reaching my house in the mist as the sun was coming out. I was absolutely knackered!
On Saturday I was hungover so I spent the morning cocooned in my bed and drinking water until I felt a lot better. I took a shower and ran some errands, still feeling quite crap and thinking I might have caught a cold because of the temperature changes since I was feeling cold and my head was killing me… I prepared the bag for the Palio the next day and started packing for the Industrial Triangle trip with Megan and then met her at 6 on the Piazza for the Quinta Prova or Prova Generale. There were a lot of people so we were in the Mossa area but not near the fence. Fortunately, it is on one of the raised sides of the Piazza so we could see anyway. It took a while to start off as they, again, had trouble lining the horses up but this time it was the Aquila horse that won, without the fantino who fell off mid-race, followed by Bruco. I then came back home and relaxed before going over to Megan’s to meet with her and Vero for Vero’s last night. It was a nightmare to reach her house because Civetta had closed off Banchi di Sopra for their cena generale – all the running contradas had their own cena before the big day- and so I had to divert and go around the long way. I eventually got there and we went to the Piazza which was full of people! Literally, had never seen the Piazza so busy before! Simay joined us and so did Sonia and another aupair girl and then we walked around – abbiamo fatto un giro- and ended up in Bellavista but since it was full of creeps we barely lasted two songs in there. We slowly made our way back and had to say good-bye to Vero who left the following morning. It’s sad that she’s not here anymore, but we will see each other soon at home xx

Finally, on Sunday the 2nd was the actual Palio. There was a morning mass for the fantini and then a last prova but I slept through all of that. I got up at around 11 and made some pancakes for breakfast before getting ready and packing my bag for the day. I met Megan in the Piazza at around half two, no bags checked (yay for Italian security) and we went straight to the fence by the mossa. We were so lucky with the location! We ended being second row behind the fence, with a great view of the fantini and horses and the Passeggiata Storica. The shade arrived around 15 minutes after us, sparing us from the sunburns and need to drink a lot of water, and we watched the Piazza fill up and had a packed lunch. They went round the Piazza wetting the tufo with a hose and completely drenched us and we ended up being covered in mud but fortunately we dried up quite quickly. Also, there was a slight breeze and it was nowhere near as hot as it has been over the past weeks, so we were very fortunate! Ody came by for a bit and we spent our time chatting and spotting people in the crowd. They closed the Piazza earlier than expected and around 5pm was the corsa a cavallo of the police, which is a tradition. It was a much needed piece of entertainment, ngl. At around 5:30pm was the start of the Passeggiata Storica which was one of the best things of the day. We saw all the contradas parade by, with their respective fantino and cavallo, as well as the flag displays and even the contradas which were not running. Everybody was wearing the traditional medieval attire with wigs and tights and all, and there was a lot of drumming, of course! We also got to see the symbols of the contradas that don’t exist anymore like snake and orso, along with the Palio and silver plate on the carriage. It was absolutely amazing! It took like 2hrs, but every minute was worth it! 
After that came the horses, at around half seven. The Palio this year was absolute madness. The Tartuca horse, which was being ridden by the most experienced fantino, would not calm down so they spent a whole hour trying to line up the horses behing the mossa, Torre going first and Onda as rincorsa. The moment when they pulled out the order of the horses was so solemn, the whole Piazza was silent! We fortunately had some guys nearby who knew what was happening and were explaining it to us, because it got to a point when we couldn’t see anything.  They did two false starts in order to try to calm down the horse and even brought in the barbaresco, but nothing would do it. It kept crashing onto the fences and ended up hurting its leg, so after a long deliberation, the jury decided Tartuca would not run the Palio. We nearly thought it would be delayed until the next day, which wouldn’t have been great. So after an hour and a half, at 9 the Palio was run. It was so, so exciting! Aquila and Giraffa leading the way, the Torre fantino falling off the horse,… Eventually, Giraffa crowned itself victor and then it was madness. The spectators flooded the pista and flags were being waved and tears were being shed. The Giraffa flags started being waved around and the contradaioli got the Palio and followed their fantino and horse back to their contrada. Honestly, it was such a stressful, tiring and long but exciting and unforgettable event! I will never forget it!

Once it was done I made my way home, which took forever because the exit to the Piazza was basically a person at a time through the Porticos, and got to mine at around quarter past ten. I took a much needed shower and had dinner before joining Megan at Bar del Corso and going to Giraffa for the celebrations. All the contradaioli were out with their flags and scarves, parading the Palio along the streets and serving free wine – it was madness! Half of the Siena student population was also there, of course. Megan and I ended up hanging out with Emilio and a couple of his friends and walking around Piazza. I said good-bye to Ody who left the following morning and we ended up by Bibo, getting some pizza to round off the night. Such an eventful day that I’ll never forget!
As I’m writing this on the Monday I can tell you I slept in this morning and was woken up at midday by the Giraffa drums. I’ve been home packing for the trip tomorrow and went to the gym, but I’ve been feeling quite under the weather today and have barely managed to finish writing this up, so unfortunately I will be delivering you this post with the photos (which I haven’t even touched) when I come back to Siena in the weekend. Right now I need to sleep otherwise tomorrow I will not be feeling great, hope you understand. Too many emotions and stress have worn me out!
Ci sentiamo presto!

Jun 28, 2017

YA-23: attempting to battle the heat, back to social life and Brunelleschi’s Cupola!

First, I want to start acknowledging the food at Boccon del Prete for the end-of-exams celebrations with Megan because it was so, so good. Definitely recommend the place because the food was amazing and not particularly pricey, but make sure to book! I had an amazing glass of soave classico white wine and Megan and I shared a platter of polenta with parmesan sauce and sausages that was to die for and then we each had a plate of pasta, mine being sage pesto pici with almonds and pecorino. Honestly, one of the best meals out – we stuffed our faces and it was so worth it!
Ok, now that that is out of the way, let’s get to what I’ve been up to now that I’m a free woman. First up, battling the heat. It has been so insanely hot I literally can’t deal. During the day you have to stay in because it is way too hot to walk around; during the night it’s so hot you have to sleep without even the bedsheet covering you and with the window open risking the mosquito bites (I’m full of bites but what can I do?), even in doing so it’s so hot it is hard to sleep through the whole night. You sweat even when you aren’t moving. It’s pretty disgusting. That is one of the reasons I can’t wait to go back home – I really miss the sea and mild summer in comparison to this. My fan has become an extension of my arm (and it comes in particularly handy when going out!) and I am constantly drinking water, but still I get a lot of headaches from the heat.
Anyway, on Tuesday morning I woke up early and went on a photo walk around Siena to take some pictures for Okizia and decided to explore some of the areas in Siena I hadn’t been to before, like Nicchio down Via Pispini or the church for the Madonna di Provenzano in Giraffa. It eventually got way too hot and so I went back home and dropped by Conad to pick some things up. Once home I had lunch and did some chores before meeting Megan to go to Orto dei Pecci. I’d never been and it is quite a peaceful spot, we lay down in the shade with our books and relaxed free-of-guilt for a while before heading back home. I wrote up the last blog for my University of Bath Placements’ Blog which you can read here: http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/hss-placements/2017/06/20/year-abroad-viii-final-thoughts/  After dinner I met with Vero, Megan and Néstor to go to Maudit for the bigliettini night but unfortunately it wasn’t on so we had a couple of drinks and were joined by Millie, Simay and Christina and then went out in a hunt for food and treated myself to a Peterland cone of chips with chicken nuggets because why not. We chilled in the Piazza for a bit and then eventually went home to get some sleep.
On Wednesday I did some research about trips before I leave and Megan came over to book our trip to the Industrial Triangle from the 4th to the 7th of July. It is going to be crazy as we are doing Torino, Milano and Genova in literally three days, but I hope it turns out fine. I would’ve liked to travel more but there isn’t enough time. It will be the last trip we do before I leave because then my sister comes over and even though I wanted to travel around with her it is a) way too hot and b) way too expensive so we’ll stay in Tuscany and visit a couple places around here and try to survive the heat. There will be a lot of gelato involved and hopefully a couple of contrada parties and beach/pool days…
Then I had to sort out some things with the landlady before meeting Emilia to go to Fortezza and go over her Spanish presentation. She was very good actually! Quite nervous about her test but she did great so I’m happy for her. Once back home I did a bit more of trip planning, went to the gym (and nearly melted into nothing in the process) and had a night in. I was woken up at around 4 by Dan though, because the shower door shattered into pieces. There was glass everywhere. It was a nightmare. So now we are showering with only half a door until we get it sorted out.
On Thursday morning I did some laundry and then went to the Ferrovia with Megan to book all the tickets for our little trip. That was the most productive thing I did all day because after lunch I literally just lay in bed and tried to nap and watched Youtube for like a solid four hours. I eventually got out of bed and into the shower to get ready to join Megan and go to the contrada dinner at Onda. Going to a contrada dinner was one of the things in my bucket list so I’m happy I was able to do it. It was a bit awkward at first because we were clearly outsiders and didn’t really know what we had to do in order to get some food but we eventually figured it out and so we ordered gnocchi al pesto, a selection of grilled meats and some salad and sat down on one of the long tables until they brought us the food. It was pretty cool because the dinner was outdoors in the contrada garden overlooking Orto dei Pecci and they had a bar, a barberi game, live music... There was a lot of people and everybody was enjoying themselves. The food took ages to arrive though because they had a problem in the kitchen but it eventually came and it was very good. There was a group of younger people sitting next to us and we all laughed when a very drunk man decided to jam out to the live band and was really feeling the music... We also saw Duncan and we ended up staying for the whole concert which was a folk-rock band called The Occasionals. It was pretty good and we had a lot of fun!
The next day I ran some errands in the morning. I watched OITNB with Dan and then went to the gym after a light lunch and decided to look up the Erasmus paperwork I have to sort out soon. The rest of the day I spent chilling at home, popping into Conad for a few more things and trying to beat the heat before heading out to meet Vero, Megan, Simay, Christina and Ody in the Piazza before going to Onda. There were a lot of people at Onda but we weren’t really digging the music because it was a random rock group from the area so we decided to go to Bellavista. Not digging the music there either so Vero and I ended up grabbing some pizza and eating on the Piazza before going home #typical Also, they had already set up half of the fencing for the Palio which made it so exciting – it is so soon!
Saturday was incredibly hot and it was the day we decided to have a barbecue because the previous night had been San Juan and being in Italy we didn’t have a bonfire, so it was barbecue instead. We were sweating so much because it was incredibly hot, but Megan and I met around half one at the Coop with Vero, Sonia (a Spanish aupair), Ody and Giovanni and we got the things we needed (not without a bit of struggle in not forgetting stuff behind #(not)organizationgoals ). By the time we arrived at the Villa it must’ve been around half two and so we prepared the Greek salad (to make Stefanos proud) and then left Vero and Giovanni cooking the chips while we took the rest of the things to the park to start the barbecue. Turned out there was another group using it so we had to wait for them to finish. All in all, we had lunch at 5pm, but it was very good and filling – Greek salad, hamburgers, sausages, chips, lemon beer and watermelon. So good! After that we packed up and went home. It was still incredibly hot and I barely managed to get some sleep before having a light dinner and showering. There was a Rettorato party organized by uRadio with DJ Smerling playing so we had to go. I had to change my outfit because it was insanely warm but Vero and I met with Megan, Sonia and another aupair girl in the Piazza to drink some wine and Jess came round to say hi. When we got to the party it was absolutely packed but the music was really good and we had a blast of a night. We bumped into a lot of people (which was bound to happen, when all of Siena was there) and managed to lose people on the way and find them back again. At the end, we found Emilio and danced with him until the music finished and then we went for pizza and had it at the Piazza. He was nice enough to walk us home – at last an Italian with no double intentions haha
On Sunday it was hot (again). I slept in until I was woken up by the drums and then had breakfast while watching OITNB with Dan and did some cooking. After lunch I phoned Erin and then did some work and Vero came over to use my laptop because she’s having problems with hers... Hopefully she can sort it out soon. I then went with Megan to get some dessert to bring to Francesco’s, because he was cooking lasagne for us! It took us a while to find a tiramisu but eventually Nannini’s delivered. We also bumped into the Onda and Leocorno parades while out. Once back home I got ready and then I met Megan to head over to Francesco’s. We had a lovely night. As I said, he cooked home-made lasagne for us – from scratch! As in he made the white sauce and all. It was so, so yummy! His Chinese flatmate was also there and we had a lovely evening having dinner together and singing along to Francesco’s guitar until we were told off by the neighbours. Really fun night.
On Monday I woke up early and went to run some errands in the morning. It was super warm as usual so I had to do it early because I didn’t fancy walking around Siena in the heat. They were filling the Piazza with sand in preparation to the Palio this Sunday so it was closed. We now have a beach but no water, unless you want to crash Fonte Gaia which is probably not a great idea… Then at home I did some work and chilled for a bit. I went to a super hard gym session which left me with quite a few sore muscles and met up with Vero and Megan in the evening on the Piazza to have a chat and relax.
On Tuesday morning I got up early because I was going with Megan to Florence to visit the Cupola. I was pretty excited, but we started the day missing the bus and having to take the next one which did not look like we were off to a great start… However, we managed to get there just in time and somehow managed to skip the queue and be the last two into the 10:30 slot. It was pretty hot in Florence and we had to climb a lot of stairs up a very narrow staircase, but it was so worth it! We walked around the circumference of the inner cupola and saw the frescoes up close, and then we walked in between the two cupolas up to the base of the lantern, from where we could see all of Florence since it was a sunny day! It was amazing! Even more so after having studied it in high school, visiting it irl was crazy! 
After the cupola we went for gelato at Don Nino’s to cool down and we visited a couple of shops and then at midday we went to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. I wanted to go because they have Michelangelo’s Pietà Bandini and it was great to admire it too. I’d love to see his Pietà Rondanini in Milan but I don’t think we have enough time unfortunately… Aside from that, the exhibition is interesting but not breath-taking. They have taken the originals out of the Cathedral and created a museum with them. There’s another statue by Donatello and a lot of sculptures which adorn the Cathedral. I particularly liked the part about the Cupola, of course, and there were a couple of videos by Bill Viola which made me think of Dad! After the museum we decided to go to l’Antico Vinaio in Via dei Neri to get ourselves a panino and, let me tell you, it is so worth the wait! Mine was porchetta with onion chutney, ruccola and roasted courgettes and it was so tasty! Megan’s had porchetta, crema di tartuffo, spicy sauce, grilled veggies and ruccola and was also really good. Can’t go wrong with them, the queue is there for a reason!
After eating our schiacchiate we had to do some walking to help with digestion so we walked to Giardino di Boboli which I hadn’t been to before. They were quite nice to walk around in, but it was very hot so we ended up climbing to the top of the hill and crashing on the lawn for about an hour to regain our strength… And then it was time to go back. We passed a few other shops we needed to go by and then caught the 6:10 bus back to Siena, arriving in the middle of a rainstorm that got me soaked in the 40m from the stop to my house. It was fine though, because all I did after that was go straight in the shower and watch a film before bed after a long, tiring but satisfying day. If you are curious, I watched ‘Wild’, which was interesting but I think ‘Into The Wild’ is still way better in terms of insightful/roadtrip/based on true story/hiking films.
And today I woke up at around ten and decided to go to the market, even though rain was menacing… It did start pouring down while I was browsing the market but I had luck today and got myself two tees and two dresses, so I’m pretty happy. The rain has stopped now, and I’ve been home doing laundry and getting a couple of things done. Also, watching Orange Is The New Black with Dan; only two more episodes to go now, so hopefully will finish it soon! This season is crazy!
This afternoon I’ll be staying in as it’s super-hot and windy outside and then I’ll go to the gym and probably to Al Cambio with Megan and Ody tonight as they have another ESN night today.
Tomorrow start the days leading to Il Palio, which is this Wednesday, so I thought I’d wrap the post here and dedicate the next one solely to the festivities, as it’s the heart and soul of Siena. Unfortunately, I missed the ‘prove di notte’ this morning, when they try out the horses in the Piazza, but it was between 5:30 and 7:30 in the morning and I didn’t actually find out until I woke up today, so no chance of my getting there unfortunately. I will keep you in the loop in regards to the Palio – I’m so excited!
A presto!

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!