After 3 airports, 2 flights, and a 2-hour delay, we have finally made it to Milan! And what a trip it was. The past few days have all been drawn together into what seems like an endless 48-hour blur, but we have reached our destination. The long trip was definitely worth it. The Milan airport is about a 45-minute drive from downtown, like that of the Pittsburgh airport. This bus ride gave us the opportunity to admire the Milanese landscape, preparing for the city to come. Upon our arrival to the city, we got our first taste of Italian food, and words cannot describe the amount or the deliciousness. It seemed like course after course of food kept coming from the kitchen, but then again, I wasn’t complaining. After some housekeeping meetings, I could explore Milan and look for my first impressions (to be discussed next).
My first impression of Milan was in the airport. Right away I noticed the simplicity and sleekness of the terminal, and the modernity of the design. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the design of the airport caught me off guard. When I think of Italy, I automatically assume old ruins and buildings built way back when. But upon seeing the airport, my thoughts changed. Maybe Milan would be a modern take on the Italy that I expected.
There were a few things I noticed on the first day here that I compared to the U.S. The first of these things was the infrastructure. After sitting on the bus traveling to downtown, I began to look around closer at the roads and bridges we were traveling on. The first thing I noticed was the lack of potholes and bumps every quarter mile. This was a vast difference from back home, where it seems like there is a new construction project popping up every other week. Next were the bridges we saw on the way to the city. The designs of the bridges were all very interesting. They weren’t incredibly intricate, but were just a step up from the basic bridges we see over the highways at home. These were really the first two things to catch my eye from my home for the next two weeks.
Upon arriving to the city, I noticed the architecture. The change in my assumption was correct. Milan was a modern version of the Italy I expected. It flawlessly paired new home complexes and skyscrapers with houses built in the forties. They ranged in color, with no two adjacent buildings having the same color or being made of the same material. One of our directors here, Luca, explained to me that this was because Milan was bombed heavily during the World Wars. The Italian government had to quickly build houses for the citizens of Milan, so they used whatever materials were available, skipping aesthetics at the time. However, I feel that this was the perfect way to design the city. The mixture of cobblestone and paved streets added to the hodgepodge of a city we were looking at. Compared to the United States, I feel this is very different. I personally see a race to make the newest and best-looking buildings in our major cities. There are some areas that have an older feel about then, but nowhere near the extent that Milan does.
As I mentioned earlier, the food was amazing on our first day here. The welcome lunch we had was hosted in a small restaurant not far from our hotel. I wasn’t sure what to expect, considering I know very little Italian (if any). There were appetizers waiting for us when we arrived, which included bruschetta and things very similar to it. The waiter then brought out a plate of pasta with red meat sauce, which I assumed was the main course. But upon finishing, the waiter then brings out platters stacked about a foot tall with various meats (I was in heaven). And then no meal is complete without a cappuccino. The amount of food impressed me. That was one thing I did not expect in our first meal. I also was impressed by the time we spent in the restaurant. In Italy, when you eat at a restaurant, the table belongs to you. There is no rush from the waiter to get you out and seat another party. You are there for as long as you want. We ended up spending two hours at our first meal here! This was different from what I typically experience at home, having a meal be at most 90 minutes.
Finally, the clothing and fashion of Italy stuck out to me the most. In fact, it started on the plane. I noticed that the Italian people dress very well, even when they are traveling. Many of the men were wearing nice shirts, jeans, and a scarf. In the U.S., men typically do not wear a scarf as an accessory. It would more be used for when it’s cold instead. I did see, however, many more men wearing scarves when we got to our hotel and in the city as well. When walking around, I also noticed that many children were dressed well, too. Even the ones playing soccer (or football) in the park had sweaters and dress pants on. As much as I like to look good when I go out in public, I could never do it every day, especially to play sports with my friends.
Overall, I am very happy with the experiences I have already gone through in Italy. I know there is so much more to come and I can’t wait. The excitement that has been building up over the last three months has come to a full peak, and the trip is already everything I wished for and more.