Food: the first thing we all probably think of when we have some down time at an airport. What else are we going to do with our spare time but eat? When I saw the prices at the Newark airport dessert bar, I was a little bit shocked and resistant to pay nearly five dollars for a chocolate croissant. Yet when I arrived at the Milan airport, I was informed that a nutella-
filled croissant cost less than two euro! I’m not sure I can explain the cause of this difference in price, but I cannot complain. Beyond the difference in price of food I encountered, I also witnessed a difference in taste of food at our first lunch. For one, all the food was distributed in courses and the total duration of the four course lunch was about two hours which is about four times the duration of a lunch in the US. Now with the taste of the food, I have to say that everything seemed richly soaked in olive oil, which is quite different than American food. Bruschetta in America seems quite dry to the bruschetta we were served today. Also, the pasta we ate today was cooked al dente, and most pasta is cooked much softer in the states. The sauce we had today was homemade, fresh, and much thinner than in the states. Also, the pasta in Italy had no cheese on it, the only cheese you ate with it was the parmesan you added on the side; in America it seems like every pasta dish is already loaded with tons of cheese. After our pasta dish I was surprised by another course of food- meat! For every two people at our table there was a giant plate of various meats served– we could barely finish a fourth of it though because we were so full from all the other food! Usually meat in the US is dressed with some sort of sauce–whether it’s BBQ, ranch, or ketchup. At the Italian restaurant, the meat was served fairly plain. After the meat, we were brought cafes and cappuccinos which cost only 1-2 Euro; (at Starbucks they would go for around $5!)
Beyond food, I saw large differences in the infrastructure of Italy. Because the Milan airport was in the countryside about 50 minutes from the city, I saw a lot of grassland, deciduous forest, and sheep on our drive down the highway, and speaking of the highway, I found the lanes to be much narrower than those in the states. Also, gas stations were positioned very conveniently for the drivers on the highway, as there were no exits for them; you simply pull in a gas station right off the highway if you want gas. Often times during traffic I caught buses and cars miss hitting each other by what seemed like a few centimeters, drivers seeming riskier than I would say in the states. When driving and walking down the city streets (which I found much narrower than in the states), I could not help but notice the mixture of traditional and modern architecture. It seemed like most of the apartments and small businesses were positioned in traditional, European-styled buildings while corporate/business buildings tended to look extremely modern and chic. Perhaps that is because Milan is considered a very modern, business-oriented city in Italy. I think that American architecture does contain a bit of European inspiration, but much more modern inspiration. I did not expect as much graffiti as I saw in the neighborhoods we walked in. I thought graffiti was just an American thing, but I was wrong. While walking down the streets, I had to laugh at some of the graffiti script, mainly the one that said “UTAH.” I wonder if an American wrote that or not and found the word very peculiar to be written in Europe let alone at all. I noticed a LOT of bicycles and motorbikes in Milan, which doesn’t surprise me since it is so expensive to live here and the city does not take too long to get around. In America I feel like it is much rarer to see people riding motorbikes, bicycles, and even Smart Car and Fiat automobiles.
As for fashion, I didn’t see any extreme differences in the Italian outfits yet, but one thing that stood out to me particularly was the frequency of men wearing scarves. It seems like a scarf is a necessary accessory for an Italian man. Since today is Sunday, not many people were out, so I didn’t get to observe much fashion. Tomorrow I am ready for more interactions and observations of the Italian people and culture. Ciao!