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Experiencing Siena

Music by J.Lang / CC BY 3.0 

Before You Leave

If you don’t already have one, get a passport. If you already have a passport, make sure it will not expire while you are overseas studying. As a precaution, it should be valid for at least six months after your travel. You should seriously consider scanning a copy of your passport and emailing it to yourself as well as someone who will NOT be traveling with you.

Students are responsible for all travel arrangements. You should buy your plane ticket as early as possible to ensure the best price. We recommend researching a few travel search engines to find the best price. You can see the program’s Facebook group to try to coordinate with other students if you so choose. 

What to Pack

Power and Computers

Laptop As you probably know, voltage and outlets are different in Europe (220 Volts). You will therefore need the proper adapter to use electronics (including laptops, camera/phone chargers, shavers, etc.). If your device can run at the higher voltage (the back of the power supply will tell you how many volts it can withstand), you can use just a plug adapter; otherwise, you will need a voltage converter (sometimes called a transformer). Either can be bought at electronics or travel stores in the US or online, or at electrical and hardware stores in Europe. Carefully consider your needs for appliances when you travel in Europe, however, especially the high wattage ones. Hair dryers are a special case, as their power requirements are enormous. If you want to be a good citizen, consider leaving all hair appliances at home. Also, there is the possibility that they may get fried if you are not careful. If you can't, make sure you buy a heavy-duty converter that will handle as much as 2000 watts (2 kilowatts).

It is advisable to determine which countries you'll be traveling in and then choose the plug adapters you'll need for those specific countries.

Although it is not necessary to bring a computer for your classes, most students do. Do not have your computer shipped to you. It will be seized by customs, and then sent back after much delay and expense. Most modern laptops will automatically sense voltage changes and adapt; you may only need a plug adapter--check your owner's manual or the back of your computer or charger. Otherwise, you will need to bring an adaptor or converter, if necessary.That is applicable to all other electronic devices that you transport with you as well (cell phones and camera chargers, etc.)

Please also note that Tulane does not offer any printing for study abroad program participants. Should you decide you need to print your outlines, notes, etc. you will have to find printing facilities at local copy shops, etc. Also note that not all rooms at the housing facilities have internet, depending on the location of the room.

Telephones

cellphoneIf you want to bring a mobile phone, you should make sure it is equipped to operate on European frequencies. This is not recommended, as is it the most expensive way to communicate with the States. Ask your US phone provider what the international charges are, and carefully consider whether using your US phone in Siena is an appropriate expense.

You may also consider purchasing a prepaid SIM card in Siena to insert in your phone from the States. The main mobile phone networks in Italy, all with either monthly subscription or pay-as-you-go systems, are: TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile); Omnitel Vodafone (comprehensive site in English); Wind; and, H3G.

Clothing

clothing June is a great month to visit Siena; the temperature ranges from 70°F to 80°F. Days are usually temperate and nights can get chilly. Be prepared for rain, even if the sun is out when you start your day. We suggest that you plan for nice weather most of the time, but pack a few warmer items as well.

Considering the previous information, the most important things to pack are: (1) a good pair of walking shoes (Siena is both very hilly and very interesting to discover walking). That said, flip-flops are great for the beach, but be warned -- they don't offer much support or protection on Siena’s unevenly paved streets), (2) a sweater or sweatshirt, (3) an umbrella, and (4) a lightweight jacket (and it won't hurt if it's waterproof).

All your clothes should be breathable. On hot days it will keep you cool, on wet days, you'll dry out faster!

Money

money You are advised not to bring travelers checks. Your ATM card should work in the ATM in the city, and Visa and MasterCard are accepted almost everywhere. Check with your bank to see what sort of foreign transaction fees, if any, are charged so you can plan accordingly. If your card does not have a “chip,” you may also want to ask your bank to replace it with one that does, as this is a common added security measure and some European card readers are only equipped to read this type of card. Please be advised that, as a security measure, you should call your credit card provider or ATM issuer to inform them of your summer itinerary.

If possible, try to travel with 50€ ‘emergency’ cash as a backup to pay for trains fares to get to the city, food in the airport, etc.

Language

language 1 Italian language skills are not required for program participation (since courses will be taught in English and guest lectures by Italians will be translated into English when necessary). However, in order to enhance the cultural immersion experience, students are encouraged to enroll in any optional Italian language classes available through the program, and to take advantage of opportunities in their home institution or elsewhere to acquire basic Italian language skills before arriving in Siena.

Things You Might Not Expect

 

Although you can walk the walled city in twenty minutes, Siena has 66 museums. It keeps one of the rarest and richest world’s heritages, which is expressed in its architecture, frescos, paintings and sculptures.

It is likely that you will be doing much more walking than is normal in the United States. Siena is very hilly, and many of the hills are rather steep. Be sure to pack appropriate shoes to walk in its streets.

Food in Siena is pretty amazing! It has 5 original DOCG wines (Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti classico, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Chianti di colli senesi), 3 original extra-virgin olive oil types (Terre di Siena and Chianti classico); and also tasty cured pork meats of Cinta Senese to eat together with the wine.

Although service is included at most places, people usually do leave a small tip (round up to the next euro).

The historic center of Siena (within the walls) is closed to private cars, although there still is some traffic to watch out for (mainly scooters and taxis). There are various car-parks outside the walls and on the outskirts of the city. Siena is divided into 17 'contrade' meaning 'little boroughs', which have their own traditions, colors and emblems. They have fierce rivalry with each other, especially during the Palio season.

If you want to take the bus from Siena to Rome, you'll use the "Sena" bus line; the trip takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes and drops you off at the Tiburtina train station (not the main station downtown). From there it’s about 40 mins to Leonardo da Vinci Airport.

Differences between Siena and a U.S. City

 

Air conditioning is not that common in Italy. Thus, it may be warm inside. Moreover, most of the housing facilities do not have A/C nor is there A/C in public transportation and most businesses. Nights are usually cool in Siena though.

Like Rome, Siena was built over hills; therefore it has as steep a terrain as San Francisco. We are not joking; you will be shocked by the number of hills, so please bring comfortable shoes!!!

Elevators are not common in less than three story buildings. If there is an elevator, expect it to be tiny compared to American standards.

Once You Arrive

Transportation

From the Airport to the City Center

Because Siena only has a small airport (mostly for private planes) you should plan to fly into Florence, Pisa, Rome or Bologna. The nearest international airports to Siena are Peretola Airport in Florence and Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa. Rome is the largest of these nearby airports. The city can be reached by train or bus. Siena’s train station is located at the bottom of a long hill outside of the town walls, so you should plan to take a taxi ride should only be about €15, as it is a 20 minute uphill walk (about 1.5 kms) to the city center which may be difficult with heavy bags.

Rome: Fiumicino Airport (FCO)

The main airport, Leonardo da Vinci (also known as Fiumicino), is located 26km (15 miles) southwest of the city center. Siena can be reached by train or bus from Rome, although bus is a little bit easier since you do not have to transfer.

From the Rome airport, take the train from the airport to the Tiburtina bus/train station; trains (and buses) leave every 20 minutes or so, and the ride is 45 minutes to an hour. Be sure to take the local train and NOT the express train to Termini, which is the main station in Rome—Tiburtina is a secondary station. When you come out of the Tiburtina train station, go under the highway overpass and there will be a large piazza with a lot of buses in front of you. There is also a night bus from the airport to the train station in Tiburtina. From Tiburtina, take a direct bus, called "Sena", to Siena. Please see the website for timetables. There are 7 trips a day from Monday to Saturday and 5 trips on Sundays. Travel time is about 3hrs. You can either buy tickets from inside the station on the left hand side, not the main ticket office in the front of the station, but inside where the buses pull up, or the "Piccarozzi agency" in Via Guido Mazzoni, 12 close to "Autostazione Tiburtina (Tiburtina Station)", or just ask for a ticket to Siena and people will be able to direct you. You can also buy your ticket in advance on the SENA website, but it may be a little hard to estimate which bus you will be able to catch. The cost of a 1-way ticket is: €22. For bus information Rome-Siena, you can also call: 800-930960.

By train, you can go from the airport train station changing at Rome Central (Termini), and Chiusi (takes about 3 hours) to Siena, although trains are less frequent. For more information on trains, see Trenitalia. The train from the airport to Termini operates every 30 minutes between the hours of 5:52 am and 10:52 pm. The trip takes 30 minutes and costs 9.50 euros. There is also a train that runs every 15 minutes between 5:06 am and 10:36 pm from the airport to the local Rome stations of Trastevere, Ostiense and Tiburtina and costs about 5.00 euros

Florence: Aeroporto Amerigo Vespucci (FLR)

From the Florence Airport, walk out the doors, turn right, pass the taxi stand and there will be a bus stop for the shuttle that will take you to Santa Maria Novella Train/Bus Station. The easiest bus from Florence is either the bus or the TRA-IN bus that can be picked at the same station. The Bus Station is located kitty-corner to the "Santa Maria Novella" railway station. A TRAIN bus departs from there every hour until 7 pm (the corse rapide, express services, bus is 75 min, the slower one (diretta or accelerate) are slower than their names would suggest, and take about 90 min) and drop you at Siena's Piazza San Domenico or Piazza Gramsci, within the walls of the city and close to the city center (Tip: Avoid traveling on Sunday, when buses don't run as often and are likely to be crowded).

Trains from Florence to Siena are frequent and take about an hour and forty-five minutes. They depart every hour until 9 pm from the Santa Maria Novella Station, which you can get to from the airport on a shuttle departing from outside on the right if you are looking out the front doors.

Pisa: Galileo Galilei (PSA)

Of all European regional airports Pisa’s Galileo Galilei is the one that is closest to a railway terminal (less than 40 metres of covered walkway). At the Airport, you can buy your railway ticket at the information office in the arrivals hall. The railway terminal is located just outside the departures hall. Direct railway lines connect the Pisa Airport to Pisa Central Station and to Florence. From Pisa, you can get to Siena from the airport station, changing trains in Empoli or Florence (takes about 2 hours). To take the TRA-IN bus, you can also buy your ticket at the information office in the arrivals hall and the bus stop is located just outside the Airport Arrivals area. The main bus stops on way are: Pisa Airport - Poggibonsi - Siena (P. Gramsci).

*Note: Remember to buy your ticket beforehand and validate it when you step in or in the boarding area. 

Transportation around Italy

Bus

One of the fastest ways to travel from Siena to Rome (about 2 and a half hours) or Florence (about an hour), or Milan (four and a half hours) is by bus. Some of the bus companies in Siena are:

  • TRA-IN 
  • Siena Mobilita 
  • SENA 
  • Train

    The train takes about an hour and a half from Florence to Siena and runs frequently every day. If you're coming from Pisa you may have to change trains at Empoli. The train from Rome is a bit more awkward and not as frequent, and you have to change trains in Chiusi. The Siena train station is a bit far from the historic center of the city. The walk is pretty much all uphill, so you will want to take a bus or a taxi.You can order your tickets online, pay by credit card and pick them up at electronic ticket machines in the larger cities such as Rome, Milan and Florence. For more information visit the Railway web site.

    Cab and Car Rentals (Taxi e Noleggio Auto)
    Radio Taxi
    Tel. +39 0577 49222 
    Europcar Siena Car Rental
    Viale Europa 23/25
    T +39 0577 288938; F +39 0577 279521
    3.3 km from Piazza del Campo
    Donatella Nonni
    Cell. +39 328 7491580 - Fax +39 0577 270089
    info@winetourintuscany.com  
    Agenzia Avis
    Via Simone Martini, 36
    Tel. +39 0577 270305
    950 m from Piazza del Campo
    Sixt Car Rental Siena
    Strada Cassia Sud, 97
    Tel. +39 0577 378944
    4.1 km from Piazza del Campo
    Ricci Autonoleggi
    Piazza Mestri del Lavoro, 12
    Tel. +39 0577 226068 - Fax +39 0577 219634
    info@riccibus.com  
    Agenzia Hertz
    Viale Sardegna, 37
    T +39 0577 45085; Fx +39 0577 249508
    1.5 km from Piazza del Campo
    Nuova Intercar srl
    Via Mentana, 108
    Tel +39 0577 41148 - Fax +39 0577 41196
    info@nuovaintercar.it  
    Cooperativa Interservices Valdelsa
    Viale Europa 21
    Tel. +39 0577 530169 - Fax +39 0577 531815
    info@civaldelsa.com  

    If you rent a car in Siena, you may want to book it in advance from the U.S. as it will be cheaper (try Orbitz or Kayak). Booking a car for the entire program is not recommended as public parking in the city is very expensive and the center of the city is closed to cars (except for permanent residents).

    Important Phone Numbers

    City Authorities
    City Police: 0577 292550
    Carabinieri: 112 or 0577 42356
    Fire Brigade: 115 or 0577 248911
    State Policy Emergency Unit: 113 or 0577 288561
    Emergency Medicine
    Ambulance and Emergency Room Doctor 118
    Emergency Room 0577 585807-8
    Hospital "Le Scotte" 0577 585111 
    Police station: 0577 201111
    Traffic police: 0577 292550
    Municipality of Siena: 0577 292111
    Public relations office of the Municipality of Siena: 0577 292230
    Prefect: 0577 201111
    Tourist Information and Assistance
    Tourism Promotion Company 0577 280551
    Association of Tour Guides 0577 43273

    Culture

    Siena’s Historic Centre was named a World Heritage Site in 1995. As previously stated, it is a beautiful city full of museums and site seeing spots that make it always amazing to walk around. In Siena, food and wine are parts of the culture, so make sure you enjoy it. There are also interesting street markets and wine tours that are definitely a must once you are in Tuscany

    Things to Do

     

    Exploring Tuscany: the countryside in Tuscany is beautiful and June is one of the best periods of the year to be there. Compared to American standards, everything is very close and definitely worth seeing. You may want to rent a car or, even better, participate in a guided tour (so that you will be able to taste the delicious wine you’ll find on the way!) to admire the beautiful landscape, stop by a ‘Trattoria’ and taste a good Fiorentina (the Italian t-bone steak), porcini mushrooms, handmade pasta, and good wine, then visit one of the other beautiful Tuscany cities, like Florence, Pisa, San. Gimignano, and Volterra.

     

    A day at the beach: Tuscany is popular for its beautiful coasts; you may want to visit one of the most popular cities facing the Mediterranean Sea, like Forte dei Marmi, Viareggio or the Cinque Terre area. There you can enjoy the warm and usually very calm sea, the hilly and green coastline, the bars and restaurants on the beaches and the designer stores along the beaches and in town

    Shopping: Italy is popular for its designers and brands and Tuscany is the place where most of their factories are! So go and visit the outlets for stores like Prada, Gucci and Fendi. If you are a fashion addict, you may also want to visit the big outlet village at Barberino del Mugello, just a 15 minute-drive north-east of Florence, where you can find almost every Italian brand and much more at discounted prices.

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