From the first step into the airport it was evident that there are many ways Milan is different from home. The cars are of different makes, the road signs in metric and yet, it isn’t completely different in this sense either. It is Milan’s unique feel that truly sets it apart. Milan is a vibrant city with its own culture. I only caught a glimpse of this culture today, but it became clear that from the roads and architecture to the clothing and food that Milan is a world of its own.
Looking out the airport window in Milan I saw a typical tarmac filled with planes, an airport just like home, but then I looked further toward the Horizon and saw the towering mountains beyond. At first I didn’t understand what the mountains were, but it was later explained to me that those were the Swiss Alps towering in the background. These mountains mark the close proximity of Milano the the border of Italy and the rest of Europe. Due to this Milan is seen as the most European of the Italian cities and is the gateway between Italy and the rest of Europe.
This lends itself to the diverse culture Milan features. Walking through the city of Milan on our way to lunch we passed many diverse restaurants. I had expected to see mainly Italian food with other options sprinkled in, but here were streets of Thai, Chinese, and Indian restaurants of many varieties, and this was only one neighborhood! The restaurant we ended up in was traditionally Italian. It was unlike any Italian food I had in the states. We started off with a decadent platter of bruschetta. I’d had bruschetta back home, but I didn’t realize it could be made with more than just tomatoes. There was also bruschetta of olives and of pickled onions. Our main course was a delicious pasta with a sausage garlic sauce, at least I thought it was our main course. I was overwhelmed and amazed when I remembered that lunch tends to be the largest meal in Italy. Three trays heaping with meat were hefted onto our table of ten, yet we had just eaten delicious pasta! The Italian eating culture was something that had slipped my mind from our pre travel studies and pleasantly stunned me when witnessed with my own eyes.
After lunch we went out to the streets of Milan to find the grocery, bank, and metro for future reference. Walking around the streets of Milan it was impossible not to note the contrast of traditional and modern buildings. Additionally it seemed as though every apartment window or balcony was teeming with greenery. This gave the tall apartments a pleasant contrasts to the memories I have of the bland apartment buildings in the states. The older looking buildings were painted bright colors that gave the streets a sunny disposition. Yet for a large collection of apartments and storefronts, the streets were unusually empty. In fact, the majority of storefronts were closed. This was due to two reasons. One, most stores in Italy close down for lunch, and two, it was a Sunday afternoon and Italy is still a very religious country. It was also very unique seeing the graffiti that covered much of the buildings. It was explained that graffiti became popular in Italian youths, but was never given the negative connotation it carries in the states. I found this very interesting because it seemed to represent the laid back air Milan carried. Despite the city bustling in the metro area, it still didn’t carry the same rushed air of large cities in the states. This is what really made Milan feel unique and different from anything I had known in the United States.
I know that today was only a glimpse of the culture in both Milan and Italy. Milan felt more familiar than expected, maybe due to its cosmopolitan style. Despite this, Milan carried its own unique culture and pulse. It ran efficiently, but at its own pace. It’s a city of which I have only seen a fractions of its wonders. I know that this is also true for Italy as a whole. As we explore more of the country we will continue to see more and more wonderous things. I believe that though visiting more of Italy I will better understand its culture and see many things that are very different from home.