Learn Italian: Dante School is excellent!
Where I live we have the change to take 5 days “educational leave” per year (employee pays lessons, company provides free days), 10 days can be accumulated. I didn’t take advantage of this for a long time and this year (2010) I thought that it is time to polish up my Italian. However, my country being bureaucratic to the bone, we can only book lessons with a specific, listed reference number. This ruled out my teacher Edvige Galasso in Gubbio and Perugia’s school which don’t have applied for such a number. And I didn’t want to go to Tropea, Milano, Roma or Firenze where schools and teachers had this number. But with Siena’s Dante Alighieri School I finally found both: number and location. When I contacted the school to book my lesson (2 weeks, private individualised teaching), they sent me a 3 pages need analysis. I asked for private teaching, and that I need to talk, talk, talk, to make sure my daily conversation skills would be improved. When I arrived for my lesson, I was thrilled how perfect my needs were met. I had three teachers (Francesca, Letizia and Claudio), each for a specific part of the day. Each of them was different with different interests and teaching methods and this was really perfect to make sure that I don’t get “used” to one specific style. I had lessons from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with one hour lunch break. When it rained we stayed in the school, when the weather was better we went outside and talked there. At the end, not only my Italian was improved but all three showed me exciting parts of Siena which not everyone would notice without a local explaining and showing them.
The school has everything one needs: space enough for many groups, internet access, a fabulous secretary, a recreation room with a piano and soft drinks and coffee machines. The school is located in an old house in Siena’s south, a nice building itself. On the message board I saw countless evening and weekend events, the teachers offered, such as cooking, wine tasting, hidden Siena, trips to the surroundings, etc.
Thanks Dottoressa Alexandra (the boss of the school) for your brilliant idea with the three teachers, thanks Francesca, Letizia and Claudio for your lessons and our stimulating and inspiring discussions! And thanks Serena for your help with the car!
Oh, and since we also had “internet lessons”, it was easy to convince Letizia to become VT member.
Oh, I should mention that Toscana dialect is a bit difficult in the beginning for those who speak a bit of Italian. The pronounciation of "hard c" is soundless. That makes for example casa sound like "(h)-asa"...
Dante Alighieri School, Siena.
Adress: Via Tommaso Pendola, 37 - 53100 Siena (IT).
Tel: +39 - 0577 - 49533.
© Ingrid D., November 2010.
Village for sale
West of Siena, on the Umbria border side, is the rustic village of Pierla, birthplace of Pope Saint Leo I the Great in the 5th Century . Although the "Rocca" (castle) is not accessible to the public because of safety issues, it is reputedly for sale as are the sorrounding buildings.
Bus from Florence to Siena - be a bit careful
It's easy to take the bus from Florence (SITA)to Siena and it's probably the best way to get to Siena. A ticket is only about 5-6 Euros.
I have taken that bus a couple of times. If you have luggage with you, you might want to know this:
You know how you put your suitcase or bags in the compartment below the bus before you get on it.
Sometimes these guys hang around the bus station who want to help you put your suitcase on. Sometimes they try to strike up a conversation with you first. My advice is just: don't let anyone (but the bus driver) help you with putting your luggage on. Do it yourself and see that it goes inside. Maybe, even once you're on the bus, keep watching who takes things in (or out) of the compartment. then you should be fine.
I know this probably doesn't happen very often, but I have guys like that offer me help and refused. With me on the bus was this English lady who had someone help her and then her luggage wasn't on the bus when she got to Siena.
Just be a bit careful, that's all. In Florence one should be a bit careful about things that like and pick-pockets. Siena is not like that at all.
Piazza del Campo (4 photos)
The shell shaped Piazza, one of Italy's most famous squares, stands on the site of the old Roman forum. Besides the Palazza Publicco, the Torre de Mangia, and the Fonte Gaia, the square is lined by medieval buildings. It seems every one has a cafe or trattoria at ground level. Of note is the museum within the Palazzo Publicco which contains the Lorenzetti frescoes on "good government". Construction began in 1297 and lasted 45 years. The famous tower was built between 1338 and 1348. A narrow steep stairway leads to views of the entire city, but the walk up is not for the fainthearted. Of special note is the Fonte Gaia (Joyous Fountain) in front of the tower. To bring water to the city, wide underground canals and galleries were constructed ending at this fountain, completed in 1343. At the time of our visit, it had not been rehabilitated. And yes, this is the site of the twice yearly Palio, the famous horserace in which each of Siena's 17 districts sends a representative entry. Attention should be paid to the paving of the Piazza, which is not haphazard. The periphery is stone, used for the Palio. The center is brick in a herringbone pattern and divided by travertine marble into 9 wedges representing the nine lords who governed Siena from 1285 until 1355 when Florence defeated Siena in battle and took control of the city.
Gaia Fountain "Fountain of Joy"
This is a 15th C fountain which is at the top end of the Campo. It is said to have replaced an earlier fountain which featured a statue of Venus. The locals decided this pagan statue caused the plague so had it taken down. As an example of their animosity toward Florence, they broke up the statue and buried it along the city walls of Florence. I guess it was a way of saying "a plague on you!."