My first day off studying abroad in Siena, I spent about six hours wandering around the city alone. I had no agenda, no plan for where I was headed or what I was looking for, but when, somewhere outside the walls of the city, I stumbled across a crumbling fence and weather-beaten bench overlooking the Tuscan landscape, I knew I’d found it. I stayed there, reading and gazing, until the distant hills turned blue.
Of course, given that I’d been pretty much totally lost that first day, finding the bench again took a lot of studying maps and badgering locals and wandering around aimlessly in the hope of recreating the original circumstances of discovery. I swear I’m not just trying to be clever when I say that I didn’t find it again until I’d basically stopped looking. But that second time, I deliberately memorized every step back to familiar ground.
I spent a lot of time on that bench over the next few months. Sometimes I brought other people, but mostly I went there to read and do homework and stare into space for ridiculously long periods without worrying about anyone asking me what I was doing. It remains one of the best places I’ve found in all my years of place hunting, and if I’m in Siena again (please please), I’m taking my book and making a beeline back. I’m pretty sure I could find it.