Well I have finally arrived in Milan after four long months of waiting. However, when landing in Milan after the long flight from Newark, I started to feel a sense of nostalgia. I remembered the approach and the airport from my previous trip to Milan, when I was only four years old. This was just the beginning of an experience that showed me the distinct sentimental value of the culture of Italy as a whole.
On the drive back to the airport, I began to try to discover cultural differences between Milan and my hometown of Pittsburgh. I was shocked at the similarity of the paving of the roads and the greenery surrounding it to that of Pittsburgh. I realized that if it weren’t for the road signs, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference from a road in Pittsburgh. This alone shows the development in a country like Italy to keep up with other modern superpowers. In the people, however, I began to see a major contrast, as I would look out my window and see people living in the countryside airing out their laundry to be dried by the sun, and taking control of gardening. This impressed me because I could see how a modern, developed country can also keep traditional household practices alive.
After arriving at our hotel and walking around the surrounding neighborhood, an aspect of Milan that was completely different from anything I’ve seen in Pittsburgh was the architecture. Every building around the hotel looks like it could have been built in an earlier century and each building had it’s own charm, unlike in the United States where most buildings mass-produced to look similar.
The aspect of Italian culture that I looked forward to the most was the food. We went to a delicious traditional Italian restaurant for our first lunch and I was extremely excited to see the differences between what we call pasta vs what the Italians call pasta. We were initially served an appetizer which was like a bruschetta which consisted of tomatoes on bread, olives on bread, and onions on bread. We were given little description of what we were about to eat so I decided to let my taste buds do the talking. I was surprised to find everything much more rich than food served in the US, and realized that the food we are served in the US often gets simplified due to sensitive taste buds not being exposed to rich foods. In Italy, people have been given such rich foods since a young age, therefore they are able to handle food like this on a regular basis. Our next course was a plate of rigatoni pasta in a meat sauce. I found this to be delicious and quite similar to pasta in the US, however it had a more natural texture, and it was easy to tell that the chef put time into it. The delicious pasta was followed by a large platter of meat full of anything an American could imagine from cuts of beef, to ribs, to chicken, to sausage. Everything on this platter was delicious, however we were given three of them between eight of us students, and it was impossible to even put a dent in them after we were full from the pasta. The waiter was very friendly about this, and he was still very happy to see that we at least enjoyed the meat that we ate. The waiters attitude is one of my favorite things about Italy so far, as he was able to stay enthusiastic after we couldn’t finish the food, and then gave us delicious cappuccino’s to cap off the meal.
When walking around Milan I began to think about some of the pre-trip activities and the clothes worn by people around Italy. I expected to see exclusively designer Italian clothes, however I was surprised to find that the youth often dressed like modern day Americans. This just shows that the fashion revolution in Italy to become more westernized, which I’ve seen from my previous travels, is occurring all over the world.
In the evening, me and a few friends went to see a soccer match of AC Milan taking on AS Roma in the San Siro Stadio in Milan. This was not only a privilege because I loved soccer, but it was a privilege to see how soccer is a huge part of the Italian culture. The stadium was almost packed to 80,000 people and the Milan crowd sang the entire game even though the team ended losing 4-1. After the tough loss, the crowd still clapped for the effort that AC Milan put in. I was surprised because in the US, the home team would likely be booed after a major loss. This just shows the extreme value that Italians put into the game of soccer, and the sportsmanship of the Italian people. For them it’s not as much about winning as it is a lifestyle to support a soccer club.
To summarize the experiences of my first day in Italy, my experience lacked culture shock and I was able to make many connections between the culture of Italy and the culture of the US. On the drive home I was able to see the modern day development similar to the US, mixed in with traditional Italian household practices. In the first lunch, I was able to see how Italians value food and the delicacy of cooking it compared to the rush of the United States, and the sweet touch of hospitality that the waiters add to each meal. In the clothing, I was able to sense a revolution, as the youth dress extremely similar to the youth of the United States. All in all, it was an amazing first day, and I am extremely excited to see more of this beautiful country. Stay tuned!