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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Saturday was day of glorious weather in a string of clear blue skies, slight breezes, lots of sun and temperatures in the 60s. We met at the train station at 9:45. I was running late and worried I'd be the last one there. I was surprisingly the first. I expected a pretty big group: Kristy, Bethany, Amy, Erika, Megan, Maria and Kelsey. The first to show up was Kristy's friend Laura, who I met while making pizza Thursday. I didn't realize she was coming but was excited to travel with new people. Erika, Bethany and Amy showed up to make five of us. We had no idea where the rest of the girls were but had a train to catch. Of course Erika had to get her coffee from McDonalds. I paced outside, knowing we were cutting it close. We power walked toward the platform until we saw a group in front of us practically sprinting for it. We followed suit. And good thing too, because the door practically closed on Erika as she darted onto the train. All for some McDonalds coffee and a hashbrown.
The ride to Siena was about an hour and a half. We stepped off to find ourselves going up a series of escalators and slanted moving walkways. Up and up and up. We couldn't believe how many there were. We counted ten on the way back down later.
We emerged on a busy street with no idea where to go. First we ran across the road to what we thought was a park. It turned out to be a well-landscaped parking lot. We wandered through the streets aimlessly, hoping to see the bell tower of Palazzo Pubblico, but no such luck. We kept walking until it felt like we were about to merge onto a highway, then took a left and headed uphill. With a few more gut-feeling turns, we found ourselves walking along a tall brick wall — the outside of Fortress Medicea.

This is incredibly overexposed but stupidly the only
photo I took. You can at least see what it is.
We walked through the park and passed a fountain.

We crossed the street to a small caffé in hopes of purchasing a map. I looked at the price: €6? No thank you. I joined the girls outside, standing by a railing taking pictures. Oh look, that's Siena across the way over there. Somehow we had taken quite a detour. But I can't complain. I might be outside of Seina, but I'm in Italy.

We made our way over to Basilica of San Domenico (the brick building dominating the left side of the picture above), which wasn't as far as we thought. There were no pictures inside, but it was another pretty church. Unfortunately I have to admit they've all started to blend together.

We walked onward and found a small hole-in-the-wall deli. We didn't hear much English coming from inside, which is my sign that we should eat there. We ordered sandwiches in Italian. I got sun-dried tomatoes, eggplant and asiago cheese on a baguette and three mozzarella balls — basically mozzarella sticks but far better. We walked to a ledge, which we proceeded to use as our table for lunch while we looked at San Domenico from yet another perspective.

Still mapless, we zigzagged through streets, darting left or right when we found a sign that pointed us in the direction of the Duomo. The stripes immediately distinguished it from all other duomos I've seen thus far. Bethany gave me a quick lesson about the church. In art history, she learned the goal for this church was to surpass the Florence Cathedral, but a Florentine essentially came to Siena, patted them on the backs and said "Nice try, but you won't do better than us. Might as well give up while you're ahead." (Or at least that's how Bethany put it). Part of the church stands unfinished and has been transformed into a parking lot. It's a little sad, but still impressive. Oh, more things I'm missing out on by not being in art history class.

Siena's Cathedral

Then we headed to Il Campo, the political center of town.
I really wanted to climb the bell tower of Palazzo Pubblico. Amy and I convinced the others to join us by telling them it was "only 102 meters," which we knew meant over 500 stairs.

We arrived at 3:18 p.m. The tower closed at 3:15 p.m. That is just my luck. I was actually pretty disappointed. Instead we got gelato and sat in the square.

Strawberry and chocolate gelato
This kid was adorable. He had on the world's greatest poncho.
Since I didn't get to climb the tower, we walked back to the duomo, which had a place to climb and see a view. Upon returning, not only did we find out it was €6, but just as I convinced everyone the price was worth it, they too were closing. I admittedly huffed like a 5-year-old. All I wanted to do was climb and see a view!
So we worked our way back to the fortress, hoping it would be open. We discovered it was actually a giant park, completely free and open. We watched the city turn pink as the sun set behind us.

We left the park on the opposite side and realized we had emerged very close to the train station. We weren't sure where it was exactly, but we recognized a building we had seen before our giant loop through the outer edge of the city. We laughed at ourselves and found a place to eat.
I had gnocchetti with gorgonzola cheese and saffron fondue. It was a small portion, but delicious.

While we were waiting for her to pick up our money and bill, she brought us two dishes of tiramisu on the house! It was very kind and delicious. We split them between the five of us, asked for directions to the train station and found our way to the top of escalator city. This was just the start:

We got home around 10 p.m., happy with our day. I almost felt like I hadn't done anything, but then I realized it's because I'm used Lydia-Amy style of seeing a city, which means see everything and climb every stair. I ran over the list of things I saw and did during the day. It was a nice change of pace.
Laura and I walked home together. I made some tea, did some laundry and fell alseep within the first five minutes of some Netflix movie.

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