Olives!Siena, Fall 2009

As I write this, I am on a bus from Siena to Rome on an early Saturday morning. The IES staff has organized this trip for us, which is always nice because the hotels they place us in are always clean and comfortable and that’s a wonderful departure from many of the hostels we have become accustomed to staying in during our travels. In addition, IES sets up a dinner for us during each of these trips, which usually features the local cuisine and is large enough to feed the entire population of Italy, twice over!
Back in Siena, things are going pretty well. We are currently in the midst of research paper- writing season and, with that, comes the frequent café breaks, the obligatory computer crashes, and busy weekdays followed by relaxing weekends spent traveling. The courses offered by IES are not easy. However, I think that by the end of the program, I will have learned as much as someone could possibly learn about Italian politics, history, and culture within a four month period.
Last Wednesday, we took a break from our papers to go olive picking. After a long stroll through the countryside outside Siena, we arrived at the olive farm and met the owner, who explained to us the history of the farm, which had been in his family for many years. We then went outside to the olive grove and began picking! One piece of advice: If you ever come across the chance to pick olives, spare your taste buds major disappointment and don’t taste the olives you pick! They won’t be good, I promise.
After a couple hours of olive picking and playing in the fields, we returned to the farmhouse, where the owner had set out freshly baked bread sprinkled with olive oil made several days earlier from his farm’s olives. This extra dark green extra virgin olive oil was rich in flavor and almost spicy in a unique sense. Era delicioso!
With less than a month left here, it seems like reflections on my time here is an almost daily activity. In such a relatively short amount of time, I have formed very close friendships, learned more Italian than I could ever hope to learn during one semester back home, and gained a new love of travel, which I hope to continue when I return home!

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