So it seems that once again I have reached the month milestone. However despite only being here a month, one thing has become crystal clear, Santiago de Chile is definitely A LOT different to Siena…a lot. For one thing, whilst the mayhem of Santiago’s metro has been replaced by the uneven cobbles of Siena’s historic streets; the organisation and structure of South America’s so called ‘top’ university has been the replaced with a truly chaotic one, and the Chilean “po” has been replaced by the Italian “boh”…

In fact over the last four weeks, life as an Erasmus student in Siena has in general involved a lot of this…

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…Well one a day at least…yes he drew a flower on it, how cute.

CAFFÈ: A mere €1.20 will get you a truly authentic cappuccino whilst for €1, a quick espresso shot is just what is needed to get you through those lengthy 2 hour Italian lectures.

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Dinner at La Prosciutteria…oh Italy you really are doing nothing for my waistline…

ANTIPASTI: The traditional Italian “before the meal” course which as you can see here can suffice as a meal itself. This often involves a platter of various cured meats, various cheeses, olives, pickled meats, vegetables in oil or vinegar, mushrooms, bread and much more food to die for.

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Live music at Cacio e Pere; definitely a favourite amongst us when it comes to aperitivos. This I should add, is closely followed by La Favorita purely due to the sheer quantity of food offered for aperitivo. Seafood risotto, pasta dishes, pizza…you name it, they have it.

APERITIVO: Quite possibly the best daily ritual the Italians have come up with. A cheeky 7-9pm aperol spritz or other drink of your choice for around €5 will normally get you an additional plastic fork and plate to stash up on as much food as is socially acceptable to take from a complimentary and normally pretty extensive and delicious buffet…no dinner needed!

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Gelato or lectures…hmm…

GELATO: Pretty self-explanatory I think…you can’t beat the Italian when it comes to their gelato. Pistachio and lemon all the way, just saying.

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A cheeky 5 hour visit to Florence’s Uffizi Gallery

ART: It’s no secret that this part of the world is an art enthusiast’s paradise (quite possibly may have been the main reason for wanting to come to Siena so badly) particularly when it comes to Renaissance art…

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Sandro Botticelli, ‘The Birth of Venus’ (1483-85)

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A rather interesting sculptural piece discovered whilst walking the streets of Florence at dusk.

MENSA: Literally translated as ‘canteen’, the university of Siena as I have already mentioned before has numerous canteens dotted within and outside the city walls. It may sound a bit naff at first but not only does it save on a lot of washing up and lugging of food shopping up three flights of steep of historic stairs, but you can get a delicious and nutritious THREE course meal, with endless drinks, and a piece of fruit for just €4!! Yes, you heard right. In fact with the exchange rate as it is, that’s approximately £2.90…it’s a joke right?! For lunch, or dinner, to eat in or to take away, I’m not surprised that the majority of Italian students opt for Mensa rather than cooking at home…I know I do!

Oh and I also experienced the Italian doctors for the first time…

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Waiting my turn

Yes this was a feather ‘fun’ experience…well not really in the slightest, but again very different to the Chilean system. Seemingly unable to walk more than 10 minutes without horrific pains shooting through my knee, and fed up of hobbling around for nearly a month now, I had to visit the doctors. After arriving at the surgery (completely hidden away in some historic building I have been passing every day for the last month none the wiser), and being told what doctor to see, I was instructed to pick up a number and wait my turn. After an hour of waiting, and after an ensuing debate amongst ourselves in the waiting room as to what order we all were (naturally as expected in Italy, the numbered cards had not been stacked in order) it was finally my turn. After explaining to the doctor my problem, I was told that unless I wanted to go on a 5 month waiting list to see a specialist, considering the truly chaotic nature of the Italian medical system as she put it, she advised me to see Dottore Paolo Pasquetti; a specialista in Reumatologia (whatever that may be) for an ultra-scan at what she considered to be a relatively reasonable fee. Taking her advice, I duly followed her out of her office, through the mass of patients who subsequently began greeting her and asking about her family as she passed like some sort of celebrity, to another area where I was told to wait. At this point I had absolutely no idea as to what was going on and was therefore very surprised to hear my name called shortly after by this infamous Dottore Pasquetti. Cut a very long story short, it turns out that I had I had in fact pulled (or done something) to the ligament in my knee as well as possibly dislodging my knee cap at some point. I must also add at this point that my knowledge of Italian medical terminology isn’t that fantastic, but I think I got the general gist of what had happened to my knee and the doctor’s orders for its recovery…

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…If anyone can actually read that…

Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that despite only being in Italy for just over 5 weeks, I have already managed to put on just shy of half a stone…yes I think I seem to have let myself go a little, therefore despite the knee, to the palestra I go…EVERY DAY.

Yes in actual fact last week I made the rather spontaneous decision to come home for a week.

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En route home – an hour in Pisa with a very quick visit to the Leaning Tower before continuing to the airport…well I had to see it didn’t I?! And I can now officially confirm that yes, it really is very wonky!!

With Easter approaching, lectures becoming sparser, and nearly all my Italian flatmates going home to their families, I too came home for a week to spend some much needed time with mamma Lussana and to feast myself on her delicious home cooking. This is without a doubt the thing I miss most whenever away from home…yes even in Italy. So after a much needed week of exercise, healthy eating and all the veg in the world (I kid you not, I think the other night I single-handedly got through a whole broccoli to myself), back to Siena I come where I am determined to no longer fall victim to those Tuscan temptations.

Note to self: unlike Chile, being in Italy sadly does not involve weekly volcano climbs, national park hiking or sand boarding to keep oneself from piling on the pounds.

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Those views though!