Student space

Going for a Walk

Walking is the best way to get to know more of any place; perhaps that’s why I don’t feel like a stranger here anymore. A good portion of our time at school is devoted to educational walks, be it in Siena or on our field trips to surrounding regions. Our tour guide Roberto has a plethora of historical facts to impart to us, particularly about architecture. Our new favorite game of his is “Which is the oldest building in the square?,” second only to “What style of architecture is this?” I think the main takeaway is that the Gothic style is embodied in pointed arches.

Siena is a city made for walking; the small size of the city proper, the absence of heavy traffic, the numerous tiny alleyways and hidden squares. The two-minute walk from home to school (that I got lost on the first time I made the trek alone) has become a friendly thing, from the grey and white cat that sits sleepy-eyed in a window to the vibrant silk flowers on a windowsill two stories up. We have become pros at navigating the crowded streets surrounding the Piazza del Campo; rolling our eyes at each other as we dart around the tour group that stopped to take pictures, as if we aren’t also visitors to this ancient city.

For the past three Wednesday mornings I’ve gone to the open market next to the Fortezza and spent an hour or two just walking. The sprawling market is beautiful in its own way, and walking through it gives one a strange sense of serenity--though it can be a bit claustrophobic at the more crowded sections. I don’t buy much when I’m there, for some reason I just really enjoy window-shopping and the great people-watching opportunity it provides.

Walking at night is much different from the day. At night, shops and cafes that are bright and lively in the day are silent behind metal shutters, while the bars that slumbered in the daylight hours glow, and the the telltale sounds of merriment spill out onto the street along with their patrons. Walking home alone at night is perhaps the most intimate one can get with a city, getting to know its other personality. The comfort of reaching my door and knowing that a bed awaits me up just three flights of stairs, and of knowing that I get to call this city home for a few months more, is like no other.

Mae-Chu O'Connell

Siena Art Institute student