When I first mentioned the name of the course I was going to follow in Siena to one of my best friends, she only giggled. La dolce vita, that’s nothing you can learn – in her opinion. But trust me: once you enter the magical world of this course, the Italian way of life will have an everlasting influence on everything you’ll do!
La dolce vita definitely is not the same as the famous dolce far niente. To experience all parts of Sienese culture within five days means using all your senses at the same time.
From the smell of strong coffee in the morning to the soft evening breeze during a late night passeggiata, join the Italians during their dolce vita!
STEP 1: IL CAFFÉ
It all starts with coffee. I have never met any country in which people take coffee so serious as in Italy. After three days of drinking my caffé in a neighbourhood bar, surrounded by locals, I understand the magic of a little glass filled with black liquid so strong that you immediately experience everything and everyone much more intense. A perfect start of la dolce vita...
STEP 2: CHIACCHIERARE
... and a perfect start of the language courses in the morning. The school is in Via del Paradiso, so maybe only the name should be enough to understand the atmosphere. Imagine a huge terrace, some small class rooms, many different students and teachers who all share their passion for the Italian language, the many topics to discuss (I bet we are all curious about Italian politics, design and fashion)... It is even said that the most beautiful and pure Italian is spoken in Siena – need I say more?
STEP 3: IL PRANZO
But the best things have yet to come. After four hours of grammar and conversation, of word searching and Italian stories, it is time for lunch. I bet you understand an Italian menu yet before coming to study La dolce vita, but make you sure that you’ll taste all sorts of local food. My classmates and I found the best food in small trattorias, a few steps from the Piazza del Campo, with no menus outside. Try the pappa al pomodoro!
STEP 4: IL VINO
Being right in the middle of the Chianti, la dolce vita definitely means also wine tasting. We explored the Tuscan countryside by tasting different sorts of wine – maybe the sweetest way to remember the Tuscan hills. And for most of us this wine tour revealed the real magic of wine: after a glass of wine, the Italian language no longer had any secrets for us. La dolce vita has just started, but we were all feeling like we already were getting used to it.
STEP 5: L’OLIO
But coffee and wine are not the only ‘holy’ liquids in Italy. So after tasting wine, the very difficult task of tasting olive oil was lying ahead of us. Did you know that every olive oil has its own ‘passport’ or that some restaurants even have their own list of olive oils, just like a wine list? After tasting the real olive oil, you’ll understand why Italians are so passionate about their ‘green gold’!
STEP 6: L’ARTE
Another essential part of la dolce vita, that has nothing to do with food, is the Sienese art. The small city is really a treasure keeper: the Duomo with an astonishing pavement, the former hospital Santa Maria della Scala, the Palazzo Publico with works by the great Sienese painters Simone Martini and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, the Torre del Mangia, the Pinacoteca with many, many Mary’s painted by Guido da Siena, Duccio and other artists of the Sienese school... Together with all the vivid stories told by our guide these art collections will leave an unforgettable impression in your hart and souls...
STEP 7: IL DOLCE
Studying all these beautiful art works makes hungry. A good excuse for tasting one of the Sienese sweets is that making these sweets is a local art as such. In small bakeries you can taste the most delicious cantuccini, panforte, panpepato and ricciarelli.
STEP 8: LA PIAZZA
Strolling the narrow medieval streets around the Piazza, and of course the Piazza del Campo itself, is maybe one of Siena’s greatest pleasures. Since the Piazza serves as the perfect meeting place for all Sienese people, for students it is the best place to meet local people and bambini that are glad to help you with your Italian pronunciation and vocabulary. Also they can tell you all about Sienese traditions, especially about the Palio.
STEP 9: IL PALIO
This famous horse race has been organized since the Middle Ages, but today the passion for this event is still alive. Weeks before the race (July 2 and August 16), the ten contrade (neighborhoods) which will participate are filled with excitement. Make sure you don’t miss one of the many parades, diners or masses if you attend the language school in June or August!
STEP 10: LA PASSEGGIATA
Your day in Siena is not complete without a passeggiata. Before dinner, join all Italian families by strolling the city center. Of course you have to wear something nice – fare la bella figura is an important part of this evening walk. Buy a gelato, look at all beuatiful people, talk with your new friends from school and with some Italians and simply enjoy life – maybe this is the essential lesson of la dolce vita!