Siena Postcard

Siena, Italy


It’s been ten years since that time I lived in Siena, Italy. This week, many of us who were in that study abroad program are coming together again for a wedding in Louisiana. The groom, Nick Miller, is getting married in a lakehouse by the Toledo Bend Reservoir. I was only 21 years old when I was in Siena–and now I look back and I’m reminded of that line from the song “Countdown” by Phoenix: “Do you remember when 21 years was old?”

Here, I will share an old note I wrote to myself. I wanted to write it in a postcard, but it was entirely too long.

* * * *

December, 2005

My Italian wine professor once said “Tuscany is the heart of Italy– and Siena is the heart of Tuscany.” It is the place where the purest Italian dialect is spoken. Some would even say it is the heart of the Italian language. I once read (from a source I can no longer recall) that there are two kinds of people on this earth: those who love Florence and those who love Siena. These two cities within Tuscany have one of the biggest rivalries in all of Italy. For the past millenium, their wars and politics have shaped each other’s histories. Their rivalry can still be seen in evident soccer matches today.

Ultimately though, it was Florence that became victorious. Sometime in the 14th Century, their wealth and dominance fostered artists and intellects like Brunelleschi and Michaelangelo. Their inspirational works, along with many others, helped usher in the Renaissance and changed the course of European and world history. This movement has given Florence all of the glory.

But even with Florentine prestige, it is Siena that has won me over. Although I don’t, and may never, fully understand it; there is an entire world in Siena that is greater than Florence. I see it in the Palio horse races and the festivals and pride in from all of the neighborhoods known as Contradas. I see it in their tireless traditions and endless parades and the sense of belonging it bestows on them. While Florence may have all the glory and the arts, Siena has all the heart.

It’s cold here now, the tourists are gone. Festive lights hang across the buildings just above the narrow streets. Soon it will be dark and the crowds will come out. I’ll walk the streets, the lights will turn on, and I heart Siena.



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