Back From Vacation

Posted on Friday, September 3rd, 2010 by Mike Manchester

The fall 2010 semester is about to begin.    For me, this is one of the most exciting moments of the year.   We’ve done all the preparation work and now it’s time to put ourselves to the test.  The same goes for the students who arrive in just a couple of days.  Once they’re here, there’s no turning back.   Luckily we’ll all be here for each other when the going gets tough.

This semester we’ll have students from all over the U.S.  We’d like to welcome all new students and in particular, our first student from Portland State University who’ll be coming through IPSL (www.ipsl.org).  We have a few new activities for our orientation this year that will hopefully put our students in contacts with the city of Siena faster and on a more personal level (more to come on this after we do the activities).

It’s going to take a lot of work, but before we know it we will have made it through another life-changing semester together.   Ready… breathe deep… and here we go!


P.S. The pictures for this installment are of all of us here at SIS enjoying ourselves on vacation.

Marianna fishing for salmon in Alaska

Roni, Monsie, and Arianna on the Oregon coast

Mike tasting glacial ice in Alaska (btw.. don't do this! Apparently glacial ice can be host to 1000-year-old bacteria.)

Lavinia, Prof. Jim Grant (Lewis and Clark), and Antonio at the Columbia River Gorge

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Grazie a tutti, e ci vediamo presto!

Posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 by Mike Manchester

This is the last blog entry for the summer before we all head off in our own directions for much-needed respite.  The summer session has flown by as it was packed with classes, excursions, food, and of course the Palio festivities.  Most of the SIS staff will be parting ways for vacation from Portland, Oregon.  Why Portland?  Well, other than being a lovely city, IPSL is hosting a conference and as an active program in IPSL we have an important role to play.

Here are few pictures from this summer.  The first three are the winners from our Palio photo contest.  Congratulations to Heather, Dan, and Julie.  The fourth picture is was taken at a local hot springs where we had our official final dinner last week.

Thanks to all who participated this summer, and for those who are planning to join us in the fall…. We can’t wait to meet you!


#1 Heather Lear

#2 Dan Giglio

#3 Julie Lindberg

Ahhhhh... le terme!

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Tutti In Piazza

Posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 by Mike Manchester

It’s officially Palio time, here in Siena. Explaining the Palio in all of its entirety is too tall of an order in this humble, weekly blog so here are a few links to some sites that can more profoundly widen your knowledge on Siena’s, and maybe the world’s, most famous horse race.





In my opinion after 10 years of living in Siena, the best way to understand the event is to actually live it. Our current students are lucky enough to do just that (although don’t despair as there WILL be an “next time” for those of you who can’t be here now. The race has been happening for centuries!). This morning we took everyone into the Piazza Del Campo to see the batterie where 33 horses were tested and then after Italian class we headed back into the Piazza to see the emotional tratta, where 10 of the 33 horses from the morning were then assigned by lottery to the 10 contradas (neighborhoods) who are running this year. Like every year, there is a lot of speculation as to who will win, but no one will know for sure who the victor is until Friday evening.

Plenty of emotion and livelihood awaits us all as well as plenty of work. Even though the Palio is dominant this week, we still have a full class schedule. By Saturday, we’ll all be ready for a free weekend.

I’d also like to say arrivederci to our five students Jen Hamilton, Melinda Harrison, Melissa Harbison, Dan Lisoski, and Patrick Masseo who left this past weekend after one month of being with us. I’m sure they’ll tell you that their month flew by, but that it was jam packed with new experiences. Grazie ragazzi!

La Tratta photo by Christina Angelilli

La Tratta photo by Christina Angelilli

Jen, Patrick, Dan, Melissa and Melinda photo by Christina Angelilli

Jen, Patrick, Dan, Melissa and Melinda photo by Christina Angelilli

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Pienza, Montepulciano, and The Rain

Posted on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 by Mike Manchester

Ciao a tutti from underneath the Tuscan clouds!  It has been unseasonably cool and rainy this past week, but looking at things from the positive side, at least it’s not boiling hot like June and July tend to be.  Another good thing is that all of this moisture is seeping into the ground where our garden is growing.  This year, like the past 2 years, we will be donating a number of products from our own organic garden to the local soup kitchen where students volunteer.

Last weekend we took a trip on Saturday to Pienza and Montepulciano.  Pienza is a small town about 40 minutes to the south of Siena that was the birthplace of  Pope  Pius II who built the city up to be a renaissance utopia.  Today, the art and architecture is still standing for all to see and Pienza is home Tuscany’s most important producers of pecorino cheese.

Of course, cheese tasting should be accompanied by a good glass of wine.  So it was off to Montepulciano home to Il Vino Nobile and Rosso di Montepulciano.   Tuscany is full of wine producers and the Nobile is one f the most important types of wine from the area.  We had a great tour of the Contucci wine cellars led by one of the owner

Looking towards Mt. Amiata from Pienza

Looking towards Mt. Amiata from Pienza

/producers.  The Contucci family has been producing wine in Montepulciano for over 1000 years!

That’s all for now.  We’re all hoping for the sun because next week, Palio celebrations begin!


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To The Beach, and Back

Posted on Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 by Mike Manchester

It’s a sunny Wednesday morning here and our Ohio State students along with one student from Geneseo and another from The U. of Gerogia arrived yesterday. As for everyone else they are still looking well-rested and tanned after this weekend’s trip to the coast. Our trip started with a tour of ancient mines originally excavated by the Etruscans (the pre-Roman civilization here in the Tuscan region) and used all the way through the 1960’s. Our guide explained that the area just inland from today’s popular beach town of Follonica is very rich with mineral deposits that are coveted for their metal-making qualities. While in the mines, we also had a close encounter with a bat! Luckily the bat wanted less to do with us that we wanted with it, and after buzzing the group from above, the animal quickly retreated.
After the mines, we headed to the beach for our first installment of relaxation at Torre Mozza. It should be noted that our volleyball skills as a group need some serious coaching.
We stayed the night in the town of Massa Marittima, a Sienese stronghold during medieval times and a place of refuge for Sienese nobility during attacks from Florence. Nowadays, with city-state wars a part of history, it’s a quiet, little town on the top a hill about 30 km. inland from Follonica and the coast. We ate some local cuisine including a spectacular meat dish of wild boar, a local tradition. As soon as we were done eating many of the students ran as quickly as they could to the closest television to watch the USA play England in the World Cup. The 1-1 tie was accepted with a sigh of relief as the mighty England had many worried. Saturday’s match was just a pre-curser Monday’s Italy-Paraguay game. It’s safe to say that at 8:30 PM Siena time, everyone (students, host families, staff, etc…) here at SIS was rooting for the home team and after another 1-1 tie we’re eager for more action.
Forza Italia!

In the ancient mine

In the ancient mine

On the beach

On the beach

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