9 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad in Siena, Italy

    The beginning of a new academic year is a busy time for college students as they adjust to their new classes and schedules full of extracurriculars. Some think ahead and try to map out their academic careers for the coming semesters. For many at UVa, studying abroad is in the cards.

    If you have any interest in studying in Italy whether it is for a semester or summer program, then you should consider UVa’s program in Siena with CET. This program is compatible for students from a wide range of majors including: media studies, history, sociology, economics, political science and more. Also, no prior knowledge of the Italian language is necessary.

    Here are nine reasons why you should consider enrolling in this program.

    1. The Palio

    If you choose to do a summer session in Siena you get the chance to experience one of Italy’s most impressive historical events–the Palio. The typical tourist may perceive this event as a mere horse race around the city’s center but it has more significance and history for the Sienese people.

    Siena is divided into 17 districts known as contrade, which are named after animals or symbols. The residents in these districts are all proud of their own contrada. On July 2nd and August 16th of each year, 10 contrade are selected to participate with their own horses and jockeys.

    The days leading up to the Palio are exciting as members of each contrada wear their colors and flags while parading around town to celebrate. Experiencing the Palio gives you a sense of how close each community is based on this tradition that dates back centuries.

    The winning horse of the July Palio
    The winning contrada of the July 2017 Palio parading down the streets.
    1.  Everything in the city is within walking distance

    Piazza del Campo is the main public space conveniently located in the center of Siena which means that restaurants, bars, and stores are within close proximity. You can find a lot of people hanging here throughout the day and night whether it be tourists or locals.  From here, you can get anywhere in town in approximately 20 minutes or less by foot.

    Piazza del Campo

    Since Siena is a small town you get a first hand experience of campanilismo, an Italian concept in which residents feel a strong connection to their hometown as part of their identity. Exploring the town is an easy and rewarding adventure.

    1. The Academic Program Itself

    The Professors are intelligent and excellent at teaching the material. It is easy to develop bonds with your professors since classes are relatively small compared to class sizes here at UVa. Plus, there are CET sponsored cultural activities like partaking in a cooking class and going to an outdoor movie theatre. Another appeal is that since CET is directly affiliated with UVa. Credits transfer directly, making it a smooth transition process.

    Photo courtesy: CET
    1.  The views

    Siena is located in the Tuscan region of Italy which is known for its beautiful panoramic views of vineyards and valleys.

    1.  Immersing yourself in Italian Culture

    Besides the Palio, Siena has a lot of history and is known for its art and architecture. One of the most popular historical sites in Siena is the Duomo known for its religious zeal.

    The Duomo

    Italian Professor here at UVa Francesca Calamita encourages students to choose this program.

    “Siena is a great place to study Italian. Full immersion of the language means full immersion of culture. This opens up new doors to understanding Italian life-style, cinema and literature–what Italians do in their spare time. It opens how to live abroad if one needs or desires to do so for his or her future. You already have taste of another culture where you have advantages since you can speak the language,” said Calamita.

    “My time in Siena was wonderful. I met some Sienese residents and tested my Italian in ways I never thought I would. The liveliness of the city kept every week as interesting as the last, but its small size made it feel like a true home and a place with which I could soon become familiar. The culture of the Palio shaped the city. When the race finally arrived on July 2nd, I was not disappointed in any way with the elaborately choreographed event.  These memories and others truly made this summer a heartwarming experience,” said fourth-year Moira Hull, a participant of the program this past summer.

    1. The Bars

    Italians refer to what we would consider coffee shops as bars. Here you can find strong and pure quality Italian coffee, pastries and sandwiches. In Siena, there is a bar around every corner. You can find locals hanging out here and it is a good way to practice speaking Italian. A cafè (shot of espresso) is only one euro.

    1. The Food

    Food in Italy has a reputation for being the best because of its fresh, less processed ingredients. Tuscany is known for its wine and cuisine. “La Piccola Ciaccineria” is a pizza place where you can grab a slice of pizza or “ciaccino” which is a Sienese variation of pizza but is essentially stuffed focaccia. Another pizza recommendation is “Mister Pizza” and if you are lucky you will catch Mr. Pizza himself playing his guitar and singing.

    A slice of “ciaccino”


    Cantucci and ricciarelli are two types of almond based cookies that you can find in just about every bakery given that they are Tuscan classics. Siena is also known for its creation of Pici, a thick hand-rolled pasta.

    And of course you can’t forget gelato when in Italy. Gelateria Kopakabana is a popular spot for many since the price is good and the quality is authentic.

    1. Traveling

    Traveling enriches you and Italy is a great destination because it has a rich culture and it is easy to go from place to place. Being located in central Italy makes it easier to go to northern or southern Italian cities from Siena on the weekends. If you feeling really ambitious, you can hit other countries. In the past students have gone to places like Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and Croatia.

    Lisbon, Portugal
    Capri, Italy
    1. Putting yourself out there

    College is the perfect time to go abroad because UVa gives you a lot of options and opportunities that you may not have once you graduate. You are able to study and learn beyond the classrooms and gain real life experiences.

    “Confronting another culture opens your mind and so does confronting diversity. Meeting new friends with different habits–they may be different from you but will help you relate yourself to others better,” said Calamita.

    For more information, visit UVa’s Education Abroad office located on the second floor of Minor Hall or click here.


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