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Letter from Italy

BY MICHELE RAYMER | FEBRUARY 08, 2012 7:20 AM

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Editor's note: The following is a post from uiabroad.com, a collection of stories from University of Iowa students studying abroad. UI junior Michele Raymer is studying in Florence, Italy, this semester.

Running on three hours of sleep, we joined our group on a bus to Siena, Italy, which is easily one of the prettiest places I've ever seen. In order to kill time, Erica, Colleen, Lindsay, and I played 20 questions and categories like 5-year-olds. We all have the attention span of babies, so that lasted about one round.

When we got to Siena, the first stop of the tour was a beautiful church. It had exquisite paintings and sculptures that were breathtaking. However, everyone on our group was being so loud and disrespectful we got yelled at at least 30 times and the church manager (or whatever his title was) hated us. We left there because our group was getting a little rowdy and continued on with our tour. There is a point in the city where there is a division into three smaller cities within Siena. Each of these cities is then divided into around 19 smaller districts.

The guide brought us to the main town square, which was so pretty. All these apartments and restaurants surrounded this brick area, in which a huge horse race is held. We had lunch in a quaint little restaurant that looked out over the brick area and the huge church in the background. It was really picturesque. We split three pizzas: margarita, garlic and herb, and gorgonzola and mozzarella. It was to die for.

Then, at the end of the meal, the waiter gave us green little drinks called Limoncello. Italians believe it cleanses one's palette after eating. We, being the Americans that we are, took it as a shot, which was definitely wrong. You're supposed to sip it. You live and learn, I guess. The ride home was good, because we all passed out and got a little nap. Time here goes so fast, and there is really no time to sleep.

I made a new goal for myself. I decided to collect postcards from every city I go to. Thus far I have all of … two. As of now, we have a trip to Amsterdam, a trip to Interlaken, Switzerland, and a trip to Rome all planned. That's more countries in month than I have ever been to in my life.

We had the best dinner of my life tonight at a restaurant called Cantina Della Giostra. I am definitely eating well these days. They gave us free sparkling wine and a free appetizer with bruschetta, spinach balls, salami, and some other meat thing. We all ordered three dishes to split, and the waiter literally laughed in our faces. Apparently, Italians eat five-course meals every time, and pasta is a small dish served after appetizers and before meat dishes. I don't get how people in Italy aren't obese. So we all changed our orders, and I got pear ravioli, which had been highly recommended to me. I legitimately almost licked the plate clean it was so good. Even Amanda, who is the pickiest eater ever, walked out of there satisfied after she had some honey chicken thing.

After dinner, we all had major food coma, so we all just wanted to go home and sleep after such a long day. Amanda and I ventured off on our own to get home and got so lost but eventually found our way. If you can find the Duomo, you should be able to find your way home no matter what.

Note to self: I need to stop telling people I know where I am going when I clearly have no idea.

Fun fact: The Italian word "Prego" can be used for almost anything. To say you're welcome, to tell someone to go away, etc., etc.


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