We are halfway through the RILA semester! Time has flown by so quickly, especially since we are kept busy with classes and then excursions on the weekends. Spring break was last week, though, so many people traveled on their own or in small groups. Several people went to Paris, while a couple others spent a few days in Barcelona. The Paris cohort visited the Louvre, Notre Dame, and other classic Parisian sights, while the people in Barcelona went to the Sagrada Familia, the Pablo Picasso Museum, and walked around the streets, which are filled with monuments and buildings designed by Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi.
Just after spring break, a few of us took an optional trip to Siena, a charming medieval town in northern Italy. We arrived on Friday afternoon, while Tutor Pihas arrived Saturday morning. On Friday afternoon, we walked around the Piazza del Campo, where we learned that twice a summer, Siena hosts a palio. The Sienese palio is a bareback horse race, in which ten riders, representing ten of the seventeen contrade (neighborhoods), compete for the honor of leaving their contrada flag up all year. There are very few rules governing the palio, and as a result, several injuries and deaths happen yearly.
Once Tutor Pihas arrived, we went into the Palazzo Pubblico, the main building in Piazza del Campo. The Palazzo Pubblico used to function as a type of city hall, and even though the building is a landmark and museum now, the politically charged frescoes are still visible. Perhaps the most famous pieces of art in the Palazzo Pubblico are Albergo Lorenzetti’s frescoes depicting the consequences of good and bad government. His frescoes incorporated the Sienese politics of the 1300s, as well as references to Roman gods and goddesses.
We are upholding Integral’s Don Rag tradition while in Rome, as we completed ours just a few days ago. One of our tutors had never been in a Don Rag before, but she said the experience was interesting, but preferable to letter grades.
As we are coming to the end of our time in Europe, some people are trying to plan last minute weekend trips! There is a strong desire to venture south in Italy, but many also want to go north past the English Channel and into London or other parts of the U.K. A few people are staying in Europe and traveling after the program, so they’re finalizing their plans, too.
The weather is getting better (it only rains five out of the seven days now!), the city is more familiar, and Rome feels like home to pretty much everyone. It’s safe to say that things are going well!