Life is a “Pizza” Cake in Siena

Quinn H. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Masters School in New York.

We began our first Independent Travel experience at the Questura parking lot where we boarded the bus to Siena in the early morning. During the two-hour drive through the Tuscan countryside, mixed shouts in both Italian and English could be heard between host siblings and friends all eagerly anticipating the journey ahead. 

At SYA, most of us believe that all adventures in Italy should begin and end with food.  So, the first thing we did when we got off the bus was enjoy a delicious breakfast of un cornetto e un cappuccino at an amazing pastry shop. With the weather finally starting to cool, that espresso with its rich sweet foam was a nice alternative to the iced Dunkin Donuts I usually get in New York. Buon appetito! 

We strolled through the winding stone streets of the stunning medieval hill town, popping into different stores and cafes just to look around and say “Buongiorno!”  It was so exciting when shopkeepers mistook us for Italians - we spoke enough that they couldn’t tell us apart from our real Italian host siblings. 

From its historic towers, beautiful cathedral, and crowded piazzas, Siena was filled with incredible sites.  The Duomo di Siena was one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen with its striped and elaborate façade, to the starry ceilings, mosaic marble floors, centuries-old frescos, and Donatello’s sculptures in every chapel. Outside, the tiny streets felt like they hadn’t changed in hundreds of years.

We took a break from sightseeing at a quaint restaurant perched within the stone arches of a historic building.  The bricks that lined the walls infused the place with old-world charm.  I ordered a hearty Bolognese with thick, freshly made tagliatelle.  It was so tasty that I promised to go back to Siena before I leave Italy, just to have it again. 

Fueled by the pasta, we headed to the Torre del Mangia thinking we might climb its narrow spiral staircase to the top and see the rolling Tuscan hills outside the old city walls.  Instead, we were distracted by the breathtaking Piazza del Campo and spent time exploring the Cappella di Piazza and Loggia della Mercanzia with its remarkable stuccoes and frescoes. We watched the sunset over the Piazza and admired the Gothic architecture we had just learned about in Art History. 

As the night wore one, we were surrounded by the sounds of street violinists and clattering plates. We gathered with our host siblings and ate pizza after pizza, with layers of spicy sauce, melted cheese, and every imaginable topping. After a night full of laughs and delicious food, we went back to our beautiful hotel and slept soundly. 

Not surprisingly, the next morning we started our day again with crepes and pastries in a charming cafe.  Feeling recharged after another dose of espresso, we set out to explore more of Siena before we had to depart. 

During our exciting visit to Siena, we got lost many times, but that is the fun part of travel. It allows you to discover the unexpected - one of the reasons I came to SYA. After only five weeks of speaking the language, eating the food, and understanding the culture, I am already starting to feel my transformation into a real Italian.

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