After lots of hours spent traveling, I got my first look at Italy from the plane window this morning, and the second I saw it I was amazed. There were fields upon fields dotted with little clusters of red tile-roofed homes, and it was flat as flat could be right up until the giant Alps with their snowy peaks rose up suddenly. Even though it was so different from the tree covered hills I love seeing at home, it was beautiful. On the 50 minute ride from the airport to Milan, I was able to get a more up-close look at northern Italy’s landscape. There were many trees along the highway, and for the most part, they looked the same as the ones back in Pennsylvania. The majority of the buildings we passed were villa style houses with tile roofs and plaster walls. Hardly any buildings in Pennsylvania are this style, but when I visited Miami many of them looked similar. The highway itself was pretty standard, and the road signs, while different than the ones in the United States, still got the same point across. Once we drove into Milan, I saw the kind of architecture I was imagining in my head- lots of really old, ornately beautiful apartment buildings, homes, and churches, with some cobblestone streets. However, I was surprised by the extremely modern, tall, glass covered buildings that were right next to some of the more historical ones, even though it makes sense for an old city to have built new buildings. Almost every old apartment has a balcony with various flowers and plants on them, there were trees that could be seen on rooftops, and even tall buildings almost covered in plants. Most cities in America are trying to incorporate more greenery into them, but Milan has more plants than I’ve seen anywhere else.
By the time we got checked into the hotel I was starving, so it was good to hear that the first thing we were going to do was our introductory lunch. We ate at a place called Quaranta Pizza e Cucina, and it was an amazing way to kick off the trip. The meal started out with lots of bread with different toppings, and then everyone was brought out a plate of some really good pasta. Being used to eating in America, I thought that the meal was over, but I was very wrong. I was full from everything else when we were brought multiple plates piled high with meats of all kinds. Everything I tried was so good I was able to find a little extra room for it. Apparently a lot of meals in Italy consist of appetizers plus two full courses. I had a much-needed cappuccino before we took a short walk so our one guide Luca could point out a few places like a supermarket and park near our hotel. We then stopped at an ATM and I got to hold my first euros! They are different sizes from dollars and much more colorful.
After that, we returned to the hotel for a short lecture on health and safety before we were set free to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the night. Olivia, Sami, Matt Fletcher and I went to go for a walk through the park that was pointed out to us earlier. The park was bigger than I expected, it had multiple playgrounds, a carousel, bumper cars, a drum circle of little kids, and lots of people. In this park I discovered that people in Italy love dogs just like Americans do. There were almost as many dogs as there were people and many of them weren’t on leashes so they could play around, and I even got to pet one. Once we had walked through the whole park we decided to just walk the streets of Milan because it was such a beautiful day. We just picked a direction and went, admiring our surroundings. I could get a much closer look at all of the amazing architecture, look at what was on display in store windows, and observe the people around us. Most people were dressed nicer than Americans generally do especially on Sundays when many people don’t have work. We ended up walking to the Castello Sforzesco which was a really big fort. In the now empty and grassy moat we saw quite a few stray cats. I guess Italian cats like moats because that was the first time I had seen any. We looked around the Castello for a bit before making our way back to the hotel for an early night to catch up on some sleep. I loved everything about my first day here in Milan and I can’t wait to discover more tomorrow!