Talking About Siena

Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"Talking about Italy is one of my favrouite things to do. Talking about Tuscany moves even farther up the list. Talking about Siena, well… Talking about Siena is probably in my top three things to do after eating cake and drinking Prosecco!

Recently, Melissa Muldoon, the voice/face/writer/creative spirit behind the wonderful Italian language & culture blog Studentessa Matta asked me to participate in one of her podcasts and talk about… You guessed it! Siena.


In the podcast, which I recorded in my (then) rusty and error-riddled Italian, talks about my Italian learning adventure and also the city of Siena. I would encourage all of my readers to hop over to Melissa’s blog and take a look – not just at my podcast (although that would be nice!) but also at all the fun things she talks about and explains.

Melissa also organizes some really fun language immersion vacations here in Italy. I actually published a guest post about them here.

Again, grazie Melissa for the opportunity to participate in one of your great podcasts!

Guest Post: Top 5 Reasons to Study Abroad in Siena

Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

It’s pretty impossible for anyone to have a less-than-awesome study abroad experience in Italy. The food alone is reason enough to pick Italia as your abroad destination of choice — after all, this is the birthplace of pizza and spaghetti that we’re talking about here! And Siena is, by far, one of the coolest cities in the whole country. There are tons of reasons to study abroad in Siena – somehow, I’ve managed to narrow it down to five. Check ‘em out (and try to refrain from drooling over your keyboard!):


1. The aforementioned food. I could really go on and on about the merits of authentic Italian cuisine. Once you take your first bite of pappardelle alla lepre (it’s pasta; that’s all you need to know!), there’s just no turning back. And Italian food in the Tuscany region? It’s simply the best in the world. Best of all, Siena is located smack dab in the middle of Tuscany, where the highest-quality olive oil runs as freely as the Tiber River. Be prepared to try the freshest and most mouth-watering bruschettas and antipastos that you’ve ever had in your life.

Tuscan Pici

Tuscan Pici

2. Gelato. Okay, so this could technically go in the food category, but the truth is that Italian gelato is so good that it deserves a category of its own. Gelato is just the Italian version of ice cream, but it somehow surpasses the deliciousness of any ice cream you’ve ever had (this is probably because of the butterfat content, I admit). You’ll wander the cobblestone streets of Siena, gelato dripping from your chin — and you won’t even care, because it’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been.

3. The Palio di Siena. This medieval-era horse race is one of the biggest and most historic events in all of Italy — and it happens twice a year in Siena! Basically, it involves ten jockeys racing bareback around the city’s main piazza, but the scale of it is roughly akin to the Macy’s Day Parade. If you’re lucky enough to study abroad during the Palio festivities, get ready to witness one of the coolest cultural events you’ve ever seen.


4. The Tuscan countryside. We’ve all seen the requisite pictures of Tuscan olive groves and green countryside. But, the truth is that until you’ve seen those rolling hills and gorgeous vineyards for yourself, you really won’t understand. Experiencing the Tuscan countryside should be on everyone’s bucket list — the sheer beauty of it is just that amazing. Get ready to experience some of the loveliest villages and mountainous views that you’ve ever seen when you decide to study in Siena.


5. It’s not as touristy as other major Italian cities. Though it’s close to some of the bigger tourist hot spots in Italy, Siena itself just isn’t as touristy in comparison. This makes for an excellent cultural opportunity for students — in Siena, you’ll get a much more authentic feel for Italian life than you would if you studied abroad in Rome, or even Florence. You’ll also get more of a chance to be fully immersed in the Italian language — meaning, you’ll be speaking Italiano in no time (which, trust me, will make you feel like something of a linguistic rock star!).


About the Author: Justine Harrington is an admissions advisor for SPI Study Abroad, a provider of language immersion and global leadership programs for high school students. She studied abroad in the south of France – it was no Siena, but it wasn’t too shabby. Justine adores languages and travel, dreams of adopting at least five dogs, and has never met a bowl of pasta that didn’t instantly become her best friend.


Word of the Day: Eh? and Ehi?

La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

It’s true. I’ll admit it. We Canadians do use the often-mocked term “eh” pronounced “ay“. I for one, find it extremely useful in my everyday life. I say things like:

canadian eh?

“Cold today, eh?”

“Take care, eh?”

We use it when we want a response from someone, when we want someone to acknowledge what we said. We’ll even use it on it’s own if we’ve asked a question and a bit of time has gone by and we want to show that we’re still waiting on an answer. “Do you need my help with that?” Seconds pass, no response. “Eh?” 

“Yeah, eh?”

When I started spending more and more time in Italy, I realized that this tiny little two-letter word also had not one, but two Italian counterparts: ehi, pronounced, ay-ee, and eh, pronounced eh, more open-mouthed. My maple leaf-shaped heart burst with joy.

Now, the pronunciations are a little different, and the uses vary, but the Canadian inside me loves to be able to sneak in a little “ehi” or “eh” when I’m speaking Italian.

I answer the phone, “Pronto?”  I realize who it is (a friend) and say “Ehiiiii” like you would say “hey”.

I need to get someone’s attention. “Ehi, ascolta un attimo.” Hey, listen up for a second. 

I’m not sure about something that someone asks me. My response starts with an eloquent “Ehhhh, non lo so.” Hmm, I don’t know.

Don’t believe me, eh? Check out this little beauty I found:


Stavo mica scherzando, eh? I was hardly joking, eh?

So the next time you find yourself speaking Italian, just remember, there’s a little bit of “Canadian” in there too, eh?