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A Tale of Two Tuscan Landmarks

April 10, 2023
by JJ Koumaglo

A great resource that CEA CAPA offers is experiences throughout the program that include excursions, local cultural immersion, visits to neighboring towns, and more. These experiences allow students to explore more of their host city but also allow us to participate in some activities throughout our host country. CEA CAPA offers cooking classes, walking tours, coffee tastings, day trips, and much more, depending on the semester and availability.

I recently went on a day trip to Siena and San Gimignano, which are cities in close proximity to Florence. This trip was a wonderful experience that allowed me to explore two cities in ways I would not have been able to without CEA CAPA. I am going to share this experience with you through my pictures and what I learned from both cities.

First stop: Siena!

The day in Siena was broken into multiple stops. We started at the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico. This church was dedicated to St. Catherine who was born in Siena and lived most of her life in the town. The building is an homage to her service to the Catholic Church and to the town. We started our day where we were assigned groups for our tour. Our guide gave us an in-depth history of Siena and the church.

View of Siena and the Basilica Caterina San Domenico in Italy
View of Siena and the Basilica Caterina San Domenico.

From there we started to walk toward the city center to discover more of Siena and learn about the town's history and culture. I enjoyed many memorable moments of the tour and of Siena's history. Siena was once one of the biggest towns in Europe before it lost its power and strength to the Black Death.

The city is divided into 17 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own church and fountain where they baptize kids and those who want to join their church. The neighborhoods have their own flags, buildings, and community. From what our tour guide said, there is a rivalry between all the neighborhoods. This rivalry is important and impactful, especially during Palio di Siena, which is a big horse race that takes place during the summer months. It is one of the most televised and anticipated races in Italy. The race is a mix of history, tradition, and neighborhood pride. It is all that Siena is and it was incredible to learn about. The race takes place in the city center and takes approximately 60-90 seconds, and it is a key part of Siena's history and its beauty.

Torre del Mangia in Tuscany
Torre del Mangia found in the Piazza del Campo where the horse race takes place.

Lastly, we were able to take a tour of the Duomo di Siena. The Duomo has many works of art and sculpture from Michelangelo, Donatello, Bernini, and many more. This cathedral is a display of Italian Gothic architecture ornately decorated inside and out. It is a beautiful building with incredible architecture that holds so much history. After our tour, we were able to take some time to walk on our own and get some food before we continued on our trip.

Inside the Duomo of Siena
The inside of the Duomo di Siena.

Second Stop: San Gimignano!

San Gimignano is a hill town in the province of Siena. We were able to see the town from one of its towers. The view encompasses the vineyards and the mountains of the Chianti region. We took a walk up Rocca di Montestaffoli. This stop in San Gimignano was short and breathtaking. Being there was an amazing opportunity to take in the beauties of the Tuscany region. There are multiple artisanal shops and restaurants within the town. It was a quiet and relaxing break from our day.

Two friends standing by a short wall with the town of San Gimignano in the background
My friend and I at the top of Rocca di Montestaffoli.
A view above the homes and greenery in San Gimignano in Italy
The stunning scenery of San Gimignano.

While studying abroad, it can become difficult to explore other cities in the country you are visiting. Participating in this day-trip experience offered by CEA CAPA gave me a chance to discover other parts of Tuscany. While this was a trip I could have planned on my own I would have not been able to learn about the history and culture behind these cities as easily. Participating in these opportunities offered by your program is something I highly recommend to anyone studying abroad.

JJ Koumaglo is the Content Creator - Blogger.
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