Where is that Tuscan Sun??Siena, Spring 2009

Where is that Tuscan Sun? Under those Tuscan clouds. Behind that Tuscan rain. I’ve been in Siena for over three weeks, and I’ve seen the legendary Tuscan sun once! Yes, many people write about the extravagant beauty of the Tuscan sun, but no one writes about the dreary “pioggia” that steadily bombards this charming little region during the winter months.

But haven’t we all heard the saying, “If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain?” My rainbow (the beautiful green, rolling hills outside of my bedroom window) is worth a little bit of rain. Though my fifteen minute walk to school has been slightly “dampened” by the rain, Italy is still as enchanting as it could be.

This past weekend, our entire program went on an IES Cultural Trip to Milan. I had an amazing time-- getting to know the people in my program more, exploring a new area of Italy, and (surprise) eating the food!! I think I tried the best Tiramisu yet; but then again, it seems like my favorite Tiramisu is just the last one I ate! The gnocci (my new discovery) and chocolate and tiramisu gelato are just two reasons why I love Italy, but they alone are enough to make me fall in love with this incredible country. In Milan, my favorite sites were the Duomo (the second-largest Gothic church), La Scala (the most prestigious Opera House in the world) and Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. I’ve seen many famous paintings, but this one stood out most to me. It was such a surreal feeling: standing in the room, examining the world-famous, much debated painting. Milanese culture is very distinctive, and the past mixed with the top fashion couture of the moment is such an extraordinary combination.

I started my “real” classes this week and I am really happy with the way they are turning out. My Italian language classes continue, but instead of three hours each day, we are now meeting only two hours, three days a week. Amanda, the IES Siena director, teaches two of my four classes. She teaches the required course, Presence of the Past, which is all about the history of Siena, complete with weekly Field Study. I am also in her Grand Tour of Tuscany Literature class, which also has a weekly Field Study. Amanda has been so helpful as our Director, and I’m very excited to enter a classroom setting conducted by her lively personality. Today, in my History of the Black Plague class, we watched several videos of the famous Palio. The vivid excitement portrayed through the video only deepened my desire to return to Siena for the Palio one July or August.

Life in Siena just keeps getting better. I feel like I’m just blending right in, until, before I even open my mouth, the man behind the counter talks to me in perfect English. On the way home from school today, the bus driver not only recognized me, but remembered what stop was mine-- I pressed the button to get off a stop too early and he knew to go on to the next stop! I’ve started settling into a routine and, once the rain stops, I plan to start running a trail that I found while walking with my two host sisters. The view from my window is only the beginning of the gorgeous countryside I’m living in! While a part of me feels like I’ve been here for years, mostly I’m so distraught at the fact that one-fourth of my time in Siena has already passed. My stress these days amounts to crossing places that I really want to visit off of my list and making agonizing decisions of “must visit,” “go if I have time,” and “really want to visit, but I want to visit there more.” I know, tough life.

In two weeks, I will travel to Naples with a few friends from IES. While there, we will visit Pompeii and the Almalfi Coast. Here’s the twist: we’re leaving Siena at 12 AM Friday night and arriving in Naples at 5 AM. After spending a day in Pompeii and a day at the Almalfi Coast, we will then board a bus at 12 AM Sunday night and arrive in Siena at 5 AM Monday morning—just in time for class at 9 AM!! If that’s not enough adventure for you, don’t worry, because I have more. Tomorrow night, I’m going with my host sister, Laura, and all of her Italian friends to dinner and a discoteca... I bet you can hardly wait to read my next blog!

The slow-paced Italian rhythm of life (except for that whirlwind trip to Naples) is much more contagious than I thought it would be, and I continue to love every minute I spend here. The only thing missing is that crazy sun!

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  1. Be careful in Pompeii. There’s said to be a volcano somewhere nearby. You’ll need to plan your sleep schedule with great care, too. We’ve looked up recipes for tiramisu but haven’t been brave enough to try to concoct any. You’ll have to fix some for us when you get home. Enjoy!

  2. Just found your blog today and enjoyed reading about your adventures. Certainly hope you’ve seen the Tuscan Sun by now. Think of you often

  3. Hi McCown,
    Stumbled across your blog today. I was just writing about mine so far and how being a tourist and living in a different country differ quite a bit! I sympathize with your lack of sun as well. Today is the first day out of many that is actually sunny! It is amazing! I wish I could have gotten to meet you all when you came to milano!I am glad you liked it! I hope to stop in Siena sometime! :)

  4. Hi,

    Just stumbled on your blog today. I just moved to Siena as well, and luckily it’s been sunny lately… no? :) Hope you have a great time!

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