Top 5 Reasons to Study Abroad in Siena, Italy

Here at SPI Study Abroad, we’re not prone to hyperbole. That said, Siena is, without doubt, the most scenic and enchanting town in the history of the world.

That’s how much we love this place.

So many people travel to the big European cities to experience narrow, winding streets, centuries-old artwork, and la bella vida. The irony is that so many of these cities (*cough* Venice *cough*) are so used to huge crowds of tourists year-round. Being a small town with less turisti, Siena preserves its beauty by being true to its medieval origins and passionately grounded in its Tuscan culture.

So, without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons to study abroad in Siena. We compiled this list using completely subjective and unscientific reasoning, fueled by our own wanderlust and love for this glorious hilltop town.

Reason 5: Everything is Instagram-worthy

One of the best things about Instagram is posting pictures of your travels to make friends jealous. Pick any spot in Siena, take a picture, and you’ll capture a dazzling scene of medieval Europe. Walking the same streets that were once home to Renaissance artists and influential figures is an everyday thing there. Don’t be surprised when the candid shots of your average day turn out to be crazy impressive.

Reason 4: The world’s best gelato is within walking distance

Remember, we’re using subjective, unscientific reasoning here. Whenever you sit down with gelato in a busy piazza on a sunny day, that can instantly become the best gelato in the world. Once you’ve had the blissful gelato of La Vecchia Latteria or Plurippemiata Gelateria, there is no going back.

Reason 3: The Renaissance originated in Tuscany and centered in Florence and Siena

A whopping 60 percent of the entire world’s art treasures with a UNESCO distinction are found in Italy and 50% of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites are located there. If you want to visit a country where you can truly appreciate classical artworks every day,  start looking at flights to Italy.

Reason 2: Siena is not remade for tourists

Smaller cities and towns are definitely the best for cultural immersion! Life just moves at a more leisurely pace (think strolls through pedestrian piazzas rather than dodging vespas while crossing the street). You’ll still be dodging vespas, just at a more leisurely pace.

Editor’s note: That last sentence was uno scherzo (a joke). Siena and SPI Study Abroad programs are very safe.

Reason 1: Il Palio 

Reason 1

In Italy, you often hear people say “Chi dice Siena, dice Palio”–“Who talks about Siena, talks about the Palio.” The festivities of Il Palio are central to SPI’s Italy program. The culmination of the festival is a horse race in the Piazza del Campo, one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. Each contrada (neighborhood) sponsors a race horse and jockey, and both are decked out in the colors and flag of their contrada. Between the colors, the chanting, the horses, and the excitement — taking part in the festival is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Truthfully, there are way more than just 5 reasons to study abroad in Siena.

Through its streets and piazzas, you’ll find a joy for life that can change your view of the world. And, at the very least, it’s a pretty awesome reality — constantly giving you fun stories to share with friends back home and charming memories that will stay with you for life.

La bella vida!

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

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Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

On-Site Supervision Team Abroad

We hire bilingual high school teachers, university professors, and caring local staff who, as a team, serve as international “moms and dads” throughout the program. Directors actively participate in all aspects of the immersion experience: helping with housing adjustments, checking in on classes, and making sure students are taking advantage of the wonderful excursion and activity opportunities. All SPI staff go through extensive reference checks.

Training & Experience

Directors are selected based on their experience working with teenagers in an international setting, their ability to communicate fluently in the language of study, and their academic & professional background. All on-site staff go through an intensive training process.

Daily Supervision

Students are expected to be respectful of their directors’ guidelines and abide by the SPI standards of conduct at all times. SPI directors and program staff are available 24 hours a day. Directors check in with students on a daily basis in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings; they also frequently monitor all aspects of each student’s progress. Homestays and residence directors are contacted to learn how students are adjusting, and to handle any concerns. Daily curfews are enforced.

Student Behavior Expectations

Since 1996, we have proudly attracted an academically-minded student body focused on improving their language skills and growing from cultural experiences. At SPI, we take our role as teachers seriously — we recognize that we are responsible for guiding students through one of their most life-changing experiences. We expect students not only to abide by our standards of conduct at all times, but also to serve as ambassadors of their local communities, schools, and cities.

No Alcohol Policy

SPI maintains a strict policy against the use of alcohol. Directors check in with students in the evenings; however, parents are expected to review our standards of conduct with their children and set clear family expectations prior to the start of the program with regards to their behavior abroad.

Afternoon Elective Activities

Our meaningful afternoon elective activities make local culture, art, architecture, museums, sports, and attractions come to life! Each program offers a variety of engaging activities designed to combine serious fun with truly inspiring “once in a lifetime” experiences. Electives are not included in the program price, and we suggest students budget $100 per week for participation in these incredible learning experiences.

Common Afternoon Electives

CULTURAL: Cooking, Dance, Art & Architecture, Museum & Theater Visits, Local Sporting & Cultural Events

SPORTS: Surfing, Volleyball, Soccer, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Hikes & Walks

ENRICHMENT: Photography, College Prep (Essay Writing, Admissions Prep), Photography, Guest Speakers

Sample Travel Excursions

SPAIN: Bilbao, Pamplona, Santander, San Sebastian, Guernika, Biarritz (France), Comillas, Picos de Europa

FRANCE: Bordeaux, Bayonne, Anglet, San Sebastian (Spain), St. Jean de Luz, Pyrenees Mountains

COSTA RICA: Liberia, Cloud Forest, Puntarenas, Rincon de la Vieja, Tamarindo Beach

ITALY: Florence, Orvieto, San Gimignano, San Vincezo, Castiglione della Pescaia

Our Screening & Selection Process

Students live with roommates in a local homestay or student residence that is experienced in hosting foreign students. SPI has worked with most participating homestays and student residences for a number of years, and they understand students are there to learn the language and experience the culture. SPI diligently screens each homestay and student residence facility with the following in mind: safety, location, cleanliness, and previous experience hosting students.


Most homestays have hosted students for many years and take their jobs and duties as cultural ambassadors very seriously. Our foreign schools also work with each family on a year-round basis to ensure a positive experience is had by each student. It is critical to understand that most homestays come from humble means and different dynamics.

Location of Housing

All housing options are located within a 10-30 minute commute from the school. Students will walk or take the local bus, which is a safe and normal way for students their age to get around in our host cities. The majority of our housing options are located in the same areas where students will be close to each other.

Evening Curfews

Student curfews are set based on what a culturally appropriate weekday and weekend curfew would be for teenagers in the country of study. This is normally between 10 PM – 11 PM on weekdays and a little later on the weekends depending on location and group dynamic. As an important safety measure, program staff diligently monitor student curfews. Specific curfews are listed on each program page for your reference. 

Typical Housing Dynamics

Students are well supported in all housing options and are provided with: meals, a living and study space, laundry service or facilities, linens and towels. It is fundamental that students have an open mind to trying new foods and living in an environment different than “home” to benefit from this transformative experience!

Although SPI homestays come in all shapes and sizes, the majority are older couples or single/widowed women in their 50s – 60s who have extra room in their home and are eager to host students. We have found this dynamic provides the best support, the most interaction, and the most culturally rich experience. Some homestays do have children, but students should keep in mind that homestays with children are busier and often offer less interaction — much like a busy American family.

Language Course Overview

The language courses focus on developing communication skills by simulating real-life situations through interactive class activities that include writing, oral expression, film, music, food, and literature.

> 2 Hours – Grammatical Concepts

> 1-2 Hours – Conversation, Culture, Literature, Film, etc.

> Small class sizes with levels 1 through AP/IB

College Credit Opportunity

SPI uses foreign universities and accredited language institutes for coursework abroad. These institutions provide high school students, upon successful completion of their courses, with an official transcript that they may use to petition college credit from their future university or college. Official transcripts are first sent to SPI in September, and then we will mail an official copy of the transcript in a sealed envelope to each participant. You will mail the official transcript packet directly to your U.S. university once you are enrolled.

Credit Hours vs. Credit Granted

Most SPI language immersion programs give 30-80 contact hours, or classroom hours, enabling for a potential of up to 1-6 semester college credit hours by your university. Contact hours are treated differently at every school. Some schools will grant specific class credit for the hours (e.g., Spanish), although most give a general foreign language or elective credit. Normally, 15 Contact/Class Hours = 1 College Credit Hour.

IMPORTANT:  Due to the nature of college credit granting by each individual U.S. university, it is impossible for SPI to guarantee credit for any student.