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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Study Abroad Stories: Around the table in Siena

When I stepped off the plane in Florence almost three months ago I knew one Italian phrase. “A che ora passa il prossimo autobus a Siena?” What time is the next bus to Siena?At dinner my first night in Siena, I quickly learned my second, “basta.” It means stop, or enough. It is very important when having a meal with an Italian family – otherwise you end up with more food on your plate than one person could possibly consume.

Dinner in an Italian household is quite the affair, usually with two or three plates on any given night. We begin with pasta, then meat or fish and vegetables, then fruit or another type of dessert. Luigia is insistent when it comes to taking seconds. My host dad, Franco, just sits there smiling as I try to assure her that I really am “piena,” full.

Some mornings I wake up and still feel surprised to be here. Life in Siena is sometimes a bit of a culture shock. But most of the time it feels normal to wake up and push open my green shutters.

This evening I am sitting on my tiny bed conjugating Italian verbs in the imperfecto form when a familiar hand knocks and the words “a tavola” permeate through the wood. Back home, I would be in the kitchen helping while my brother and father waited impatiently in the next room.

I slip on my shoes and try to pretend I have not been counting down the minutes until this moment. Dinner. To the table for dinner, finally. There are eight of us in total: my host parents, my host sisters, Virginia and Lucrezia, their boyfriends, Frederico and Josef, and my roommate Claire (Oosterhoudt ’11) and I.

Luigia brings out the first plate, farfalla pasta with cheese sauce and zucchini, and spoons it on to everyone’s plate, beginning with Franco. Virginia and Lucrezia still have not made it to the table and Franco shouts for them.

Claire and I stare at our plates in anticipation. Despite having lived here for almost three months, we still have not adjusted to the much later dinner time.

Franco sighs, “Buon appetito,” our signal to begin. Immediately an argument breaks out between Virginia and Lucrezia. They speak too quickly for me to understand exactly who is upset about what. Franco sighs again and says he has been feeling tired lately. He thinks he should take vitamins. Luigia insists that all he needs are new shoes. She then notices that Josef is not eating his zucchini.

“Non mi piacee verdura,” he says and smiles with a shrug. Luigia raises both hands, exclaiming something about having to please everyone. Josef just laughs. Luigia laughs too. Most arguments here end in laughter.

The second plate is brought out. It is quiet for a few moments as we all begin to eat, but Lucrezia soon bursts into laughter. Virginia and Frederico just shake their heads. Claire and I accept that this is just the way of 15-year-old girls. Italian or American, we all acted this way.

After dinner Claire and I collapse in our beds.

“Food coma?” she asks.

“Food coma,” I say. I finish up my Italian homework and go to brush my teeth. Franco is snoring on the couch with the television on. Some things here are not so different than back home.

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