Letters to Home: Siena, Italy

My Dear CMC, Oh CMC, how thrilled I am to return to you in the fall! I can only hope that all of you back on campus have had a stellar spring semester—I certainly have. As my time abroad wraps up I have become prone to random bouts of contemplation, the fruits of which are the following.

I have been in Siena—a medieval town in the heart of Tuscany—for four glorious months, and I know it will be heart wrenching to leave. Upon our arrival, we were debriefed on the emotional stages of a typical ‘study abroad’ period, of which I have experienced one: the romantic stage. Sure, I’ve missed family, friends and In-N-Out Burger, but there is simply too much to love in Siena to spend any time pining for the comforts of home. Home will always be there, but my time abroad is fleeting. And so I have compiled a list of the things that have grown dearest to my heart here, the things I will undoubtedly miss most when I return to the States.

I have found many testaments to the Italian affinity for beauty. The percentage of Italy, of places, things and people that are just beautiful is ridiculous. There is a value of the aesthetic here in almost every facet of life.  In terms of art and architecture, Italy is unrivaled in both beauty and plentitude. From Siena’s magnificent striped Duomo to the incredible Uffizi and Accademia galleries of Firenze, there are stunning churches, paintings, sculptures and buildings in every single Italian city. The amount of splendor to be absorbed in this country is astonishing, from the fading crimson of an ancient fresco to the strikingly lifelike form of a statue, transformed from marble block by the human hand.


Fashion is one of the most celebrated ways in which the Italians express a zeal for all things beautiful. Sleek, sophisticated Armani suits and painstakingly crafted Ferragamo heels are on the more upscale side of Italy’s sartorial offerings, but there is even a kind of beauty in more ‘Eurotrash’ style.  Garish patterns, cheap fabrics, strange color combinations and confused lines that encompass the ‘Eurotrash’ look could only be scorned by a total snob.  An undeniable type of beauty is in these ensembles.  Of course the ultimate beauty of Italian fashion, tasteful or outrageous, lies in the incredible ability of its wearers to pull just about any outfit off. I feel at once perplexed and impressed by the inexplicable capacity of Italians to wear things I would undoubtedly look and feel ludicrous in: a fabulous cream pantsuit, a pair of baggy grey sweats tapered at the ankle, or even a jacket tied around the waist.  I can only aspire to gain that Italian sensibility on some level before I leave.

And the cuisine encapsulates an elemental, irresistibly alluring kind of beauty. That fleeting, hedonistic beauty all foodies find in the fragrance of perfectly aged cheese, a cone of cloudlike gelato, or the brightness of fresh, green basil atop a mound of spaghetti al pomodoro.

But here the most beauty can be found in the simplest of things: the gleam of green shutters in the afternoon sun, the scent wafting into the street from a pizzeria, or basking for hours in Piazza del Campo with a six-pack of Birra Morretti. Of course the unapologetic pleasure so many Italians take in all these things, the immense joy with which they lead their lives and take their world in, makes every day all the more beautiful. And it is the beauty in the every day that I will miss most when I leave here and that I will try most to keep in my heart when I am gone. My friends at home may need to prepare themselves for a slightly more bold, indulgent, spirited version of me- or at least the me they know well, striving to be just a little bit more Italian.

This passage is the first of many entries on my blog, http://lifeinbauteworld.tumblr.com/. Grazie a tutti!


Jennifer Baute