Greetings from Siena! The last few days have been such a frenzy . . . where do I even begin?
Despite the late start, I ended up getting everything packed in time (and, ahem, under weight). We timed our arrival to the airport about as perfectly as you can, getting to our gate just as they began boarding. We were too chicken to try to con our way into an upgrade, and consequently ended up in the only row in our cabin that was completely full. We ordered champagne for dinner -- no drinking age on planes YES -- feeling very grown up and sophisticated as we toasted to our great adventure . . . and then left the rest untouched on our trays. To be fair, R finished hers, which led to an interesting conversation about twenty minutes later. "Is it bad to mix alcohol and benedryl?" "Probably, but I guess we"ll find out . . ." Unfortunately, far from passing out, neither of us slept much at all, arriving in Paris at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. local time. That whole plan about not napping once we got off the plane to avoid jet lag? R crashed around 9 or 10 a.m. I waited until we got onto our flight to Florence at noon, promptly passed out, forgot I was holding the cup of water they had passed out, and awoke with a start, dumping the remainder in R's lap. What are friends for?
The rest of the trip wasn't particular interesting, aside, of course, from the taxis being on strike when we arrived in Florence, lugging our hundred pounds of worldly possessions to the bus stop, asking in broken Italian if that was the correct bus to the city center (quick aside -- I asked the question TWICE, in my poor accent, to people who didn't actually speak Italian. That's what you get for trying.), and finally boarding the death ride that would take us into Siena. R and I parted ways at the Piazza Gramsci -- separation! anxiety! -- and I was driven to our apartment by my hostess, who had come to pick me up. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe the apartment and our hostess, S. She is a professoressa at the local university and could not be more welcoming. She makes a conscious effort to speak slowly and use simple words with us, but did tell us on our first night "Oggi e domani, parliamo in inglese perchè siete nuove. Dopo, parliamo soltanto in italiano!" (Today and tomorrow, we speak in English because you all are new. After that, we speak only in Italian!) It's a little hard to follow at times, but I wouldn't wish it any other way. It's helpful, too, that G, who is often over for dinner, speaks little to no English. Italian it is! And the house -- che bella! Located about a ten minute walk from La Piazza del Campo, S's home has marble floors and twelve-foot ceilings, each decorated with a different design. My roommate, E, and I each have our own rooms, where I awaken each morning to the tolling of the piazza bells and the chirping of birds outside my window. Breakfast is a homemade cappuccino and bread with butter and jam. Needless to say, life is hard.
What is particularly nice about the program is that it totals only fifteen students, so class sizes are minimal. R and I are in an Italian class all on our own, and I think my largest course includes only four others. We don't actually begin lessons until Monday, which is nice because it gives us plenty of time to learn the city. We did begin to learn our way around yesterday, when we had a walking tour of the city and then were released to explore and do some shopping. I have to mention that R and I had our first successful shopping experience in an OVS, a local department store here, wherein I did not notice until I got home that I had picked up two shampoos instead of one each of shampoo and conditioner. I could blame it on the language barrier, but let's be real: the bottles very clearly say "shampoo." We also stopped for our first lunch at a bar, where I enjoyed the most amazing sandwich of prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, and olive oil. Seriously still thinking about it.