Account of my Travels

Written by Amalie Jessica Frehner

I went to Siena in May 2016 to study Italian for a month at the Università degli Stranieri di Siena. When I arrived in Siena I was enchanted by the old architecture and the colourful flags hanging from the windows, the pleasant bustle of activity, the arched doorways and the colour-coordinated shutters lining the façades of the street walls. I will forever cherish the memory of eating a gelato while strolling down the main street on my first night in Siena.

I went to school from Monday to Friday. My classes went from 9:30 to 1:30, and consisted of two lessons, one on Italian grammar the other on Italian conversation, and were taught by two different professors. Our conversation professor assigned us articles on various topics, which we then read together and ensued to underline the words or expressions that we didn’t understand. When talking about current issues, he asked each person how the situation was dealt with in their own country. The students in my class were from Japan, South Korea, China, Morocco, the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Catalonia, Argentina, Nicaragua, and Brazil. I was happy to be the only one whose mother tongue was English, so that I would be forced to express myself in Italian. I was impressed by how well everyone in my class spoke Italian. In spite of this, things often got lost in translation during our discussions, resulting in hilarious and absurd misunderstandings. One of my favourite memories of the university was the Notte di Poesia, in which students read poetry from their country in their respective language, and then read the Italian translation. Over thirty countries were represented in the auditorium that night.

One of my favourite things to do in Siena was simply to walk around with my map and my camera, looking and feeling like a tourist. I strove to identify all the different contrade, the respective neighbourhoods to which all native Sienese belong and with which they feel a strong identification. As you might have heard, on the first of July, there is a horse race around the Piazza del Campo, in which each contrada is represented by a horse and rider. The winning contrada has license to celebrate extravagantly in the streets in the following weeks. As I was in Siena in May, the contrade were preparing for the race by decking the streets with their colours, parading around the city, twirling their flags and beating their drums. On one of my walks, I happened upon a group of kids in a park who were solemnly performing a drumroll while others waved flags around. The pride of the city is the Piazza del Campo, the huge open area surrounding an imposing castle, the old city hall. Today, the city hall has been turned into a museum and a lookout. The Piazza del Campo is a lure for tourists, although it is so vast that tourists, students and locals can comfortably share the space.

While I was studying in Siena, I spent my weekends traveling to different cities. I visited a few nearby towns, such as Lucca, Pisa, and Montepulciano, but also ventured out to Bologna, Rome and Naples. Each place was different from the last, and offered its own charms, although I found similarities in the architecture of Tuscan towns. Sometimes I traveled alone, and sometimes I went with others. There are still many places that I haven’t seen. For example, I have heard ravings about San Giminiano and Lecce, and I still want to see Verona, Trieste and Sicily. Even in Siena there are many places that I have yet to visit. I have heard that La Vecchia Latteria serves the best gelato in Siena, but I have yet to taste it for myself.

Learning Italian in Siena is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I found a great balance between the stability of going to school, and after class, the adventure of exploring new places. If you are going to study in Siena in the future, you will probably find your experience completely unique, as there are so many different things to do over there. Regardless, I can guarantee that you will not be able to resist the charm of this medieval city, and there will always be interesting people to meet.




Siena: The City That Never Sleeps

Written by Daniel De Paola

This past summer I decided to take my fourth year Italian credits in Siena, Italy. I arrived in Italy on June 28th, and returned to Canada on August 31st. All in all, I spent roughly 2 months in Italy, deciding to backpack around the peninsula after my course finished at the end of July. Upon arriving in Rome, getting to Siena was easier than I expected. There are trains and buses, both of which I took many throughout my trip, and I really couldn’t say which I preferred more – it simply depends on the amount of money you want to spend, and the amount of time you have available. A friend of mine was able to give me the contact information of a landlord in Siena and so finding accommodations was rather painless, and the flat I stayed in was really awesome. I had a roommate from Japan that only knew Japanese and Italian, which forced us to have conversations in Italian (which for me was the whole idea behind going to Italy). I had a balcony off of my bedroom that overlooked a church courtyard, which was as picturesque as it sounds.

The most fun I had in Siena was definitely watching the historical Palio horse race. Held twice a year for over 5 centuries, it is the single most fascinating thing I have ever seen during my trips abroad to Italy. I arrived in Siena 4 days prior to the race and so the town was buzzing with pre-Palio festivities. Each neighbourhood (contrada) provides a horse for the race, and the members of the neighbourhood (contradioli) don various coloured scarves to represent their neighbourhoods. I just happened to be living in the winning neighbourhood, the She-Wolf zone (La Contrada della Lupa), and they had not won a Palio in nearly 30 years. When their horse, Preziosa Penelope, won the race there were street parties, rallies, festivals, concerts, and parades nightly for an entire month straight. That is not an exaggeration – an entire month straight. I didn’t sleep a wink for quite some time, but after a certain point I learned to just go outside, enjoy myself, and bask in their victory like it was my own. If you’re ever planning to go to Siena, be sure to go when the Palio is on.

Another amazing thing about staying in Siena is its proximity to a bunch of other awesome cities and towns. On the weekends my friends and I would take off on buses or trains and go to Rome, Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, etc. and so despite the fact that Siena itself is a beautiful medieval walled-city on a hill, there is also a wealth of beauty that lies just beyond and

Panorama del Facciatone, overlooking the Piazza del Campo


is fairly accessible. As I said, I finished my course and then began a month long backpacking trip. If you were so inclined to be a bit more adventurous and spontaneous as I was, you would find quickly that there are fairly-priced hostels and budget accommodations all across the country in places from Milan to Palermo. Depending on the amount of time you have in the country, it is definitely something worth looking into.

Regarding the course at the University for Foreigners in Siena, I enjoyed it thoroughly. The professors were world-class, and were extremely helpful. It was such a privilege to be learning the Italian language, as well as culture, in an Italian classroom setting. The course was quite easy seeing as I already had a great deal of practice with Italian grammar from prior courses I had taken at Western. There is a written and oral entrance exam, by which the professors are able to place you in a class that is suited to your individual level. Otherwise, the classes are very informal and conversational. I cannot say enough good about my experience as a student in Siena. As well, because it is a school for foreigners, I met many different people from all around

Me in the Red Shirt!

the world, including England, Scotland, Turkey, Portugal, Iran, Japan, China, Russia, Poland, Spain, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, etc. many of whom I still regularly speak to. The friendships you make when travelling abroad are some of the best friendships you can possibly make.

Overall, I had the experience of a lifetime during my study abroad in Siena and I miss it every single day that goes by. I don’t know what it is exactly, but Italy has a certain way of doing that to you.

Piazza del Campo



MLL presents a lecture by Prof. Alessandro Portelli – “Memory as Event: Imagination and Meaning in Oral History”

Greetings to All.

Join us for a talk by Professor Alessandro Portelli, world renowned and highly influential oral historian and musicologist, who will discuss the role of migrant sounds from Afghanistan, China, Ecuador, Philippines, India, Kurdistan, Romania, Senegal, and Somalia in Italian folk music.

In 2015, Professor Portelli was awarded the prestigious Dan David Prize for his extraordinary work over the last three decades in linking oral history and collective memory, completely changing and enriching the way we look at history and the past. With his research, Professor Portelli has transformed the way subjectivity and history coalesce to form meaning. He has been a pivotal figure in the investigation of history and society via eyewitness testimony.

All Welcome.

Friday, October 9th, at 3 pm

AHB 3B02

Alessandro Portelli

Students of the Italian Program Win Photo Contest Two Years Running!

We would like to once again congratulate the winners in the most recent Modern Languages and Literature Photo Contest. First place winner, Becky Quinn, and third place winner, Laura Acquaviva, entered photos that were taken while on exchange in Siena!

Check out this article to see these beautiful photos and read about Becky’s and Laura’s experience while in Italy.

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International Learning Award

This is a new award for second-year undergraduates who are interested in taking their third year abroad. If you have received an average of 80% or above in your second year, you will be eligible for an award of $1000 to help pay for your experience.

To be able to qualify, students must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Be organized or approved by Western University staff, faculty, or department
  • Be eligible for academic credit
  • Form a required component of the student’s degree program

For more information, please visit the university website: