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Ciao Italia!

Ciao Italia!

Seeing the old world through a new lens.

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Written by Matthew Prokosch      Add a comment

The Tuscan countryside at sunset. Che bello no?

Traveling to Siena was both a good and bad experience. The worst part was the fact that I had to go through security THREE times. I had three connecting flights. One at Syracuse Airport, another at JFK, and the last was at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. They stopped me all three times to go through my camera bag. At JFK, they even used bomb detecting residue wipes on my main camera and lenses. Ironically, every single airport either didn’t notice or didn’t care about my second camera that was in my bag as well. The other unfortunate experience I encountered was that one of my checked bags was broken when I picked it up. It’s still somewhat usable but I think it’ll fall apart eventually. Oh and the cab driver at the Florence Airport charged me ventitre (23) euro for the ride to the Florence train/bus station. I knew he scalped me but it was pointless to argue. He also almost ran into three pedestrians on the way and was swearing (I’m assuming he was) at every car that would try to cut him off. That was rather entertaining and terrifying at the same time. I couldn’t help but laugh every time he shook his fist and yelled at another driver.

Now for the somewhat interesting stuff. Once I arrived in Florence and paid the taxi driver his outrageous charge, I proceeded to walk around the train station looking for my bus. Well two tabachi and a couple of random pedestrians later, I finally found it. My conversations with the aforementioned parties were decent. I was like “Buonggiorno, dové SITA autostazione?” I was very surprised at how well they tried to help. One of my friends at school told me that whenever he asked a question to a local, he always started with Italian first. He noticed that the locals are much more likely to help you if you show an effort to communicate in their language. Or they don’t want you butchering their gorgeous language. Maybe both. Well I managed to find the bus I needed and off I was to Siena. I arrived at the drop off and I then proceeded to walk around that area for 45 minutes trying to find a taxi which aren’t nearly as common when compared to Florence. I then saw a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi in that Piazza. I was immediately inspired by “The Sword” of the Revolution! The man had fabulous facial hair. I’m a history nerd, get over it.  Anyways, I finally flagged down a taxi and I arrived at the IES Center in one piece.

After doing some paperwork at IES, the director of IES Siena, gave me an espresso to relax with. It was much appreciated. But then they told my taxi would arrive in 2 minutes to bring me to my homestay residence. Well, I drank that shot of espresso in well, one shot, and you can image the results. I hopped in the taxi with a very friendly (but also crazy reckless) driver who surprised the heck out of me when he started driving right through the middle of the VERY narrow, pedestrian packed, Sienese streets. I have no idea how innocent bystanders were not hit. I guess he’s a pro at such crazy driving. Bill Bryson, the author of numerous books, including Neither Here Nor There, said Italians drive like they spilled a beaker of hydrochloric acid on their laps.

Well, I arrived at my homestay residence and was greeted by both of my host parents. They immediately showed me around the house and then proceeded to engorge me with pasta! It was a rather simple meal, but the olive oil plus a ton of parmesan cheese, made a simple dish delicious. Our conversations were a bit awkward for the first few minutes or so, but then became rather funny when we started to communicate in a combination of Italian, English, and Charades. I’m going to be an unstoppable Charades player when I leave Italy. Anyways, my host family is very patient with me when I try to communicate with them, which I’m quite thankful for. My Italian is already improving! The one downside thus far with the homestay is the long walk I have to center of town and then even further to the IES center. It’s about a 40 minute walk or so from my residence to IES.

Okay, now for some pictures!


The Tuscan countryside at sunset. Che bello no?


The reflection in the sunglasses show the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia.


A more normal view of the Palazzo Pubblico. 


Il Piazza del Campo is a favorite hangout spot for the Sienese.


This is a view of the Piazza del Campo from the Torre del Mangia. This is where the Palio, the huge horse race, takes place twice a year. 


A view of Siena from the top of the Torre del Mangia.


Since dryers are practically non-existent in Siena, this is a common site. 


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