Today was finally the day I had been impatiently anticipating for months: departure day! Our travel plans ended up taking two hours longer than expected thanks to some unanticipated, projectile vomit on the airplane. Luckily, it was no one in our Italy group who had gotten sick! Although our group’s travel plans were a bit sidetracked, our Milan crew arrived tired, but happily, in one piece. As we groggily walked out of the airport to our bus, I was struck by the ominous beauty of the towering mountains in the background. During the many times Italy had crossed my mind in the proceeding months, I had never given much thought that there were mountains to admire. I took my seat on the bus while musing over the other possible, unexpected scenery to come. At first glance on our bus ride back, the scenery did not look too different than it would have looked in Pittsburgh. There were similar looking shrubbery and roads. However, the first big contrast I noticed were the type of cars I tended to see the Italians drive. There were a myriad of little cars speeding through the roads, and some tight merging situations. I was in awe of how I would see three, fancy, designer cars in a line; I had never seen such a clump of designer cars in the United States. It was made obvious to me that Milan is a wealthy area. As my group continued to stroll around the neighborhood, I was struck by the beauty of the architecture. I was particularly impressed by a fort we explored that gave off a Shrek vibe. The fort was rumored to have helped been designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. I was excited to have been given the chance to visit a real life piece of Italy’s military history. The United States is not nearly as old as Italy, so we lack the archaic, yet beautiful, buildings that make up Milan such as the fort I explored. Another thing that popped out to me on my stroll was the intricate graffiti placed around Milan. The dichotomy of having wealthy area covered with street art was surprising to me. Apparently, in Italy graffiti is not frowned upon like it is in the United States. Rather, graffiti is actually seen as a display of artistic talent and intuition. What is even more interesting is how a great deal of the graffiti had english sayings and jokes incorporated into it. One of my favorite pieces of graffiti work was a fish that seemed to have a smug smile on its face, I have attached the photo below for your enjoyment.
Even though I had a lovely day in Italy, I was confronted with one of the biggest culture shocks I have ever encountered: lunch. Thats right, I had no idea that when I sat down for lunch that what I thought would be a simple meal would turn into a four course extravagance. In the United States, lunch would seldom be over a half an hour, let alone a two hour venture. However, this was not a bad thing as I found the Italian food much more delicious than the Italian food offered in the United States. Another striking difference was the portion size of sweet treats; the gelato I got in Italy was much smaller than the ice cream size I would have gotten back in the United States. This proves to me that while Italians enjoy their indulges, but everything is in moderation. Although the Italians take their meals very seriously, they all seem to be very fit. As I was walking around with my friends, I saw many Italians on jogs and bike rides. The Italians seem to make use of bike riding much more than we do in the United States. I also noticed the contrast between how Italians dress and how Americans typically dress. Even on the airplane, while my group was clad in leggings and sweats, the Italians were dressed in sophisticated outfits with their makeup and hair done. I also noticed how the young children were dressed very fashionably. When I was three I had a bowl cut, yet the Italian toddlers were sporting very trendy outfits. Despite my persistent jet lag, I had an amazing first day in both Italy and Europe and I cannot contain my excitement over the days to come.