Immediately upon arrival in Siena, our bus was hit with a hailstorm. Since then, we’ve been caught in a thunderstorm almost every afternoon, experiencing the extreme weather that’s been occurring throughout Italy in 2023. This image shows the view from our apartment as a storm approaches from outside the city walls.
On one of our first nights at our apartment, we decided to make our own antipasto before going out for dinner down the street. While charcuterie isn’t exactly Italian, it was fun to get together with the other CET students living in our apartment and try a variety of fresh cheeses and meats from local stores around Siena.
The Duomo di Siena is a highlight of the city. Construction for the cathedral began in the 13th century, and it took 175 years. However, it was never fully finished as the plague hit Europe and construction issues arose. CET provided us with free tickets to see the inside of the duomo, where we took in the stunning architecture and artwork.
On our second day in Siena, we had a CET excursion to the Tuscan countryside. First, we visited Val d’Orcia, where we climbed the Rocca d’Orcia (Tower of Tintinnano). At the top of the tower, we had a stunning view of Val d’Orcia and neighboring cities.
For the next leg of our day trip, we traveled to Bagno Vignoni, a village known for its thermal baths. While you can’t swim in the hot springs shown in this photograph, other thermal baths throughout the village are open to the public. Visitors mingled, ate, and dipped their toes in the baths as we walked through the small town.
The Palio di Siena is a bareback horse race held in Siena twice per year, where 10 of the 17 Siena Contrade race. Each Contrada is a district or neighborhood in Siena with its own church, social club, allies, enemies, etc. As the first Palio of the year approaches on July 2, activities and social events become more frequent as Siena anticipates the big day. Contrade hold celebrations such as the one in this photo to raise money for their Contrada, using it to prepare for the race.
We spent the day in Florence this past Friday, waking up to catch a 7 AM train out of Siena. As we first entered the city, we observed the Arcone Triumphal Arch in Piazza della Repubblica. The Arcone marks the heart of Florence, built in the late 1800s when the city was Italy’s capital. We sat down for a quick cappuccino and pastry at a bar nearby in the piazza before beginning our exploration for the day.
As we wandered through Florence, we stumbled upon many markets like this one with vendors selling Florentine commodities, of which was primarily leather. We haggled and bargained with the vendors, knocking down their over-marked prices in pursuit of jewelry and leather products.
I walked around the Duomo di Firenze, or Florence Cathedral, and was absolutely stunned by the size and beauty of the building. I got a picture in front of the duomo with my roommates, CET neighbors; it’s my favorite picture of us so far. While the line for entry was a bit too long for us to wait on this day, we made plans to come back and take a tour of the interior at another point during our time in Siena.
Our last event of the weekend was another day trip to Marina di Grosseto, a beach town about an hour southwest of Siena. While the bus ride took a bit longer for our journey, there will soon be direct buses to the beach during the summer season. The water was a stunningly clear shade of blue, and we could see fish swimming around our legs as we waded in. It was a perfect and relaxing end to our week of exploration both within and nearby Siena.