After a long day and night of traveling, a delay due to projectile vomiting, and a time difference of 6 hours, we finally made it to Milan!! Even though it was raining when we boarded the bus to Milano Centro, everyone was clearly excited for the day ahead because today was our first encounter with the beautiful country that is Italy. My first impressions left me excited for the adventure ahead and noticing some similarities and differences between Milan and Pittsburgh.
Back home, the roads are especially hard to navigate. Driving into Oakland requires some skill as there are numerous lane changes and unclearly marked roads. However, during our bus ride today, we were on a road similar to the Turnpike, but everything was labeled and the signs gave drivers enough time to adjust their lanes if need be. This made the ride so smooth that I almost fell asleep! But when we entered Milan, the situation changed and the roads resembled those of Oakland (with a few roundabouts).
Another reason for the difficulties of driving in the United States is the size of the cars. When driving down the road, you can see pick-up trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles on any occasion. But in Milan, I noticed that all of the cars were tiny for our standards back home. This would make navigating through a crowded city easier.
Because we were driving in on a Sunday morning, we saw hundreds of people gathered outside for a church service. The atmosphere was much more formal then my church at home. The men were in suit coats and the women were in dresses. The children even had on their best outfits. Based on this, I drew the conclusion that the culture in Italy is probably much more formal then the culture in the United States. I am interested to see if my observations on the rest of the trip will confirm this.
At the hotel, we checked into our rooms and dropped our luggage off before lunch. The accommodations were very different from hotels at home. It took me awhile to figure out how to turn on the lights! I learned that I need to put my room key into the slot by the switch. I was very interested by this feature, because I had never encountered it before, but it is a great way to save energy.
After leaving the hotel, we walked to lunch. I was surprised by how much the streets resembled Forbes or Fifth Avenue in Oakland. As seen in the picture, the businesses are on the street level and apartments with terraces overlooking the street are on top. However, one major difference is that on any given day, Oakland streets are booming with people, but in Milan, a majority of the businesses were closed because it was Sunday.
The restaurant that we ate at was very intimate and when we sat down, we were immediately served bread with various toppings such as tomatoes, caramelized onions, and an olive mixture. My favorite was the tomatoes. Next, we were served pasta. The noodles were really thick and obviously homemade and the sauce was very fresh. Even though we were full after the pasta, the food kept coming! Next, we were served a giant plate of various meats, as seen in the picture. There were ribs, chicken, kielbasa, and fillet. The fillet was my favorite, but I was so full that I could only eat little bit of each. For dessert, we were served cappuccino or espresso. I got cappuccino, but our tour guide, Diego, told me after that it is taboo to order cappuccino after 12 pm. I guess I won’t be making that mistake again!
Based on my restaurant experience, I learned that dining in Italy is meant to be enjoyed and not to be rushed like in the United States. We sat down to eat at 1 pm and did not leave until 3 pm. I liked this because it gave the group time to wind down from the last day’s travels and eat some amazing food!
Finally, Diego and Luca took us on a brief walking tour to see the supermarket, pharmacy, and ATM. These places will come in handy in the next few days. When we returned to the hotel, we had a health and safety discussion in which we were informed of important protocols and procedures in case something were to go wrong during the trip.
Although I am ending the day early and exhausted, I am beyond excited to see what Italy has in store for the next 2 weeks! Ciao until tomorrow!