Okay so a whole bunch has happened since the last post. The intensive Italian language courses that we are currently taking are definitely intensive. I have homework every night which gives me an excuse to go to the “bar” or cafe, and buy yet another cup of cafe latte. Delicioso. Yesterday I went to the sea with my roommate, Emily, our friend Sam, and her really awesome host mom. It was about an hour drive there and the view was incredible the entire time, even when we were driving five miles per hour behind a grumpy old man and his wife. Italians, like new yorkers, are crazy drivers. I would love to rent a vespa and drive throughout Siena, but I am a little too scared for my life to do so. Anyway, the beach was great, the water was the bluest I have ever seen, and the American obsession with censorship was no where to be seen- and by that, I mean there were plenty of topless women around. Oh to be free.
Going a bit further back in time, on Saturday, after our Intensive language class, the group took a trip to il Museo Santa Maria Della Scala. I wanted to stay there for hours, but unfortunately my stomach wouldn’t let me. The museum was full of giant frescoes, statues, and religious paraphernalia that was set up in a way to make you feel as if you were alive in the 14th century.
Saturday night was my first experience at a Sienese contrada party. Siena is divided into 9 regions, or contradas that most people hold true to for life. Each contrada has its own flag and respective mascot, colors, ect. Every summer there is a horse race called the Palio in which each contrada enters an elected horse and an elected rider to compete in the race. We watched a video in class of the event (unfortunately i will not be able to experience it in person), and it was so incredible to see how emotional people get before, during, and at the end of the race. It is essentially like the world cup in terms of support and dedication, only on a smaller and more local level. There is a sense of pride here though for one’s contrada that surpasses that of a fan’s love for their team. The race is built into the culture- people live for the race and some have been waiting more than 20 years to experience a victory. The bragging rights of the winning contrada last throughout the year and are in no way seen as snobbery or conceit, but rather as a truth.
Here is a picture of my friend Sara and a poster of the flags of each respective contrada behind her: