Day 1: 32 Hours and Counting

After a long day of traveling: waking up early so that both Plus3 Costa Rica and Plus3 Italy could take the bus to the airport (at 7:00 AM), an 11:00 AM flight to Newark airport from Pittsburgh, a six hour layover in the Newark airport, and an eight hour flight from Newark to Milan, we finally arrived in Milan! We were at least an hour behind schedule due the flight delay out of Newark, but we all got our luggage, met our ISA agents – Diego and Luca,  and began the bus drive from the airport to where we would be staying.  I knew I was going to be up for over twenty-four hours since I couldn’t sleep on the plane, but despite being extremely bleary-eyed, I was just as excited to begin the adventure and try to keep my eyes open wide enough to compare and contrast Italy and the United States with regards to the infrastructure of roads and architecture, as well as fashion and food.

Looking out the bus window, I was surprised by how similar the landscape/greenery was to our region of the United States.  However, I did catch a beautiful view of the mountaintops when we were leaving the airport.  On the way to the hotel, I noticed quite a few gas stations where the price of gas was about 1.50 euros per liter.  When considering the infrastructure of the city, the roads and bridges were well constructed and at times seemed more modern and almost futuristic looking compared to the ones in the Pittsburgh region of United States.  There were many different shapes of traffic signs, many of which were triangular and provided depictions of warning information for drivers.  Electronic traffic signs were on display to show where there was a merging lane or construction up ahead. I did however notice that the highway exit lanes were fairly narrow and curved, which was interesting since the cars were moving at a relatively high rate of speed on a three-lane highway.  Similar to toll roads in the United States, these exits were equipped with toll booths for the vehicles to move through.  I have also never seen so many Fiats in one place in my life! Despite the public transportation options of subways and trolleys there are a large number of cars in the metropolitan area that are used by residents in the city.  This is easily confirmed by the large number of cars seen parked on the streets surrounding the buildings around the hotel. Bicycles and Vespas are more prevalent in Milan as well, though there are an increasing number of bicyclists in urban areas in the United States, as can be seen in Pittsburgh with the new installation of bicycle lanes.

The architecture is very interesting because the residential housing units are of many different colors and physical designs, but the majority of them are multi-storied buildings with balconies that have greenery entangled within the spindles. The majority of these buildings have orange/red terracotta tiled roofs which also add to their charm. This is very different compared to the US, because although we have “high-rise” apartment buildings, they aren’t as unique nor do they have the same allure. Diego, our tour guide, said you will not find townhouses here because there is not enough physical room for that kind of living in a city.

When it came to the culture and people, I was excited to practice the little Italian I know on the customs security guard with whom I could try out my “Ciao” and “Grazie” on. Hearing so many native Italian speakers made me even more excited to start our trip.

On our way to lunch I noticed how well the Italians dressed.  The first thing I noticed was that none of them were wearing activewear as casual attire (unless they were actually jogging or working out). The females in the restaurant dressed in layers (shirt, jacket, scarf) and looked to be dressed in what I would consider to be more a more tailored look than we would see in the United States. Many of the males were wearing sweater vests, or colored shirts with a pair of jeans or slacks. I did not see any athletic wear- not even a golf shirt on any of them.

We had lunch at Quaranta Pizza E Cucina. The first course was a plate of appetizers which were delicious (bruschetta- toasts with caramelized onions and ground calamari olives). Then we were served a pasta dish of rigatoni with a beef sauce and a bread basket. All of it was delicious! The meal was served at a leisurely pace and was definitely a longer, yet more enjoyable experience than the “hurried service” of restaurants back home.  Italians seem to take their time to enjoy their meals and the company they are enjoying them with.

After lunch, we went on a walking tour of Milan and were shown where the nearest ATM, subway system, and grocery store were located. I wanted to go to the grocery store today, but in Italy many of the stores open and close during the day so that workers can take a break and relax. A store’s hours may be especially limited on Sundays.

After our tour, we came back to the hotel and had a Health and Safety Orientation, where we discussed stereotypes of the Italian culture and some of the cultural differences that we might find to be uncomfortable as Americans. For example, we discussed how Italians tend to use many more hand gestures, physical contact when communicating with someone, and often times will kiss someone on both cheeks when they meet up with them. While in the US, we tend to maintain a “respect for personal space” and get upset when people encroach upon it.

I am excited to see more of Milan tomorrow! But now I am ready to get rid of my jetlag!

|| Alaina All’Estero – “Alaina Abroad” ||

Leave a Reply