These last few days have been busy as our students have settled in to life in the beautiful city of Siena.
On Sunday we took a short tour of the city, and students were able to see some of the more notable locations (Piazza del Campo, Banchi di Sopra, and Palazzo delle Poste); we had some tasty gelato, and many students went back home after to recoup from jet lag.
The next day, students started language classes at the Dante Alighieri school, and were placed in classes based on their knowledge of Italian. Then we met up to watch the benedizione del cavallo (the blessing of the horse) in preparation for the Palio. The Palio is the most famous event in Siena, and is known around the world; it takes place in July and August. It is a festival of elaborate pageantry, cultural import, and historical significance. The city is divided into 17 contrade, each with a motto, flag, and symbol. 10 of them will race their horses during each instance of the Palio. Our students saw the benedizione del cavallo and the parade that followed, and then watched the race on tv (it is exceedingly difficult to find a place in the piazza to watch the event, so it is often easier to tune in to the local channel to watch).
On Tuesday after class some of our students joined a tour of the famous fountains of Siena. These were representative of the city’s various contrade (and a few even provide potable water), and they were all close to various churches of each contrada. Our tour guide, Andrea, provided a great deal of information about the churches and fountains associated with each contrada.
Wednesday was an exciting day, as we took a bus up to San Gimignano (dubbed the Manhattan of the Middle Ages, owing to the tall towers that soar upwards, making the panorama of the city look like the New York skyline). Some of us toured the Duomo, while others took the opportunity to explore the city. We also tried gelato at a shop whose awning says “Il gelato più buono del mondo” / “The best gelato in the world.” Whether this sentiment is true, you’ll have to ask your child 😉
There were classes on Thursday, and students were given the choice to take free time or come on a walk up to Fortezza Medicea. The fortezza is made up of the gigantic walls that once protected the city during the Late Middle Ages/early Renaissance. Now people go up to the top of the walls to walk or jog, as it is a quiet, verdant place with a beautiful panorama of the city.
Friday, we had class and then took a tour led by LIvia of the Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Pubblico. We climbed to the very top of the tower and took in the incredible view of the city and the Tuscan countryside. The Palazzo Pubblico was similarly breathtaking, as we saw the famous frescoes illustrating the effects of Good and Bad Government.
Saturday was an eventful day, as we spent the day in Florence! We toured the city’s famous piazze and went to see MIchelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Afterwards, we took a couple of hours to shop and walk around. Some students returned to Siena with Livia, while others remained with me to climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo to take in a stunning panorama of the city.