The Outsiders

Pisa, Florence, Lucca, San Gimignano, and Siena. All in 10 days. Each city has its own unique charm to it and the region itself is just really gorgeous with truly incredible landscapes. Lucca and Siena are my favorites thus far. Lucca is this quaint old city fortified entirely by medieval walls. It’s an incredible sight to see and such a strange concept to try to wrap your head around. A whole city enclosed by a brick wall in today’s 21st century? Seems so out of place, doesn't it? Siena, meanwhile, is another old city and it once rivaled Florence in terms of power and culture. I loved learning about the Palio di Siena -- their annual horse race. Apparently, Siena is divided into 17 contradas (or neighbourhoods) which compete with one another during this time. You can see the friendly rivalry between these neighbourhoods as you walk through the streets…each contrada showing off its colors, mascots, and flags. 

They're both smaller towns that haven't been overrun by tourists and that's one of the main reasons that I love them so much. We were really able to soak up and immerse ourselves in the local culture, something that I feel a majority of tourists miss out on. It’s one of my favorite parts of traveling, really. Not just witnessing the major historical sights, but observing the local lifestyle, meeting and having conversations (however much of a struggle) with people who actually live there. I think you get the real feel of a city that way...

Found on the streets of Siena. My thoughts exactly.But I have to say, the past few days here in Siena have been a challenge. Barely anyone here speaks English...well, at least among those I encountered. And I'm finding it so difficult to communicate even my most basic questions and thoughts. We're staying at a hostel tonight and it's owned by an old Italian woman who can not speak a word of English. How we managed to work out that arrangement, I'll never know. Consulting my phrasebook every instant makes me look like an idiot and even then, my Italian still doesn't make sense. It's incredibly frustrating.

But alas, it has been quite the experience trying to navigate my way around this beautiful old city. Trying to live like a local but not even being able to communicate. I've never felt like such an outsider before. And it's a terribly odd feeling to know that you don't belong somewhere...

Let's see what Switzerland brings!