Room With a View

A dear friend of mine flew across the Atlantic Ocean last night to begin her summer in Italy. Tonight, she is in Siena.

Nope, not jealous.

No, really! (I’m thinking the more often I repeat that mantra, the sooner I’ll believe it.)

What’s great about having friends who like to travel is that you’re never short of travelling companions. And what I love about this particular friend is how comfortable we both feel at inviting ourselves along when the other is making travel plans. Case in point: when I told her last summer that I had arranged a week-long home exchange in New York City, and then asked her what she was doing the third week of August, she didn’t hesitate.

“It looks like I’m spending the third week of August in New York,” she said.

I’ve never spent a summer in Italy (someday!), but I once spent a week in Siena. I invited myself to visit this same friend (do we see a pattern here?) while she was studying art through the University of Toronto’s Summer Program in Siena.

After spending a sleepless night on a train from Vienna to Florence and a hot day wandering Florence feeling slightly ill, I boarded the bus to Siena and promptly fell asleep. When I woke, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The Tuscan countryside I was looking at through my window was more beautiful than I ever imagined it could be.

I waited for my friend on the steps of the Basilica of San Domenico, which, back in those days, was where the buses from Florence dropped you off. I was far too early, but I happily spent the next few hours relaxing and people-watching in the shade of the cathedral.

My friend showed up at the hour we agreed to meet, and in no time at all we had deposited my bag in her room and were seated at an outside table of the nearest trattoria, sharing a bottle of Chianti and digging into two heaping plates of pasta, Tuscan style. Italian teenagers whizzed by us on scooters. Through the course of the evening, my friend’s classmates, one after the other, joined us at our table. It was the best arrival I’ve ever experienced in a foreign city.

This photo was the view from her room in the student residence of the University of Siena. Can you imagine waking up to that vista every morning for five weeks? I sure can.

Siena Room View

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