To start of our second day in Italy, we had a crash course in Italian lead by an actress to learn a few words and phrases. We did lots of acting exercises where we spoke and followed directions in Italian. We learned a wide range of things from numbers to the word for teleportation. Once we had finished, that we were free to get lunch. The group I went with went to a very small restaurant where I had the opportunity to put my newly learned Italian to use. With the help of some hand gestures and an employee who knew a little bit of English, we were able to figure everything out fairly smoothly.
After lunch, all of us took the metro to the Duomo square, which was incredibly beautiful. There we took lots of pictures and started a walking tour of the Duomo square, the Galleria, and the Ticinese district. We also took a quick walk around the Piazza della Scala where there’s a statue of Leonardo DaVinci and the Teatro alla Scala opera house. The Galleria is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, and definitely the fanciest one I have ever seen in my life. It has a glass dome and ceiling, sculptures and paintings on the walls, and mosaics on the floor. The mosaics have the coat of arms for Milan, Florence, Rome, and Turin. On Turin’s coat of arms there’s a bull, and it is believed that if you place your heel on the balls of the bull and spin three times it will bring you good luck. So many people have done this that there is now an indent a couple of inches deep in that spot.
In addition to being an architecturally beautiful building, the Galleria is also home some cafes, restaurants, and very high-end shops. The original Prada store is housed here, along with a second Prada store that took the place of a McDonalds in 2012. There are also Louis Vitton, Gucci, Armani, and Versace stores. Most people I saw in the Galleria were tourists, but it seemed like there were some Italians there to shop at the luxury stores. In the supply chain, shops like these are mostly distributors where customers can go in and buy the products. Their products are made elsewhere either in the companies’ factories or in other manufacturing facilities.
Once we were done in the area around the Duomo we headed off through the Ticinese district to visit two small shops. While waiting for the first group, I was able to try gelato for the first time, and it was very good. After a short wait, my half of the group was able to go into Travi Borse, a shop where Travi himself (with the help of a couple other people when needed) makes all the leather purses and bags by hand. The shop itself was very small and simple, but it didn’t need to grab attention as the products themselves did that. We didn’t just get to see the store, we got to go into his workshop in the same building where everything is made, and see some of his process for making his products. It was amazing to get a glimpse at all the work that is put into the designing and making of each piece. Customers can even bring in their own ideas for a design and Travi will make it for them. As all of the products are made and sold in the same small shop, Travi Borse is both a manufacturer and distributor that sells directly to customers. Travi gets the leather directly from tanneries and then he does most of the rest himself. The one exception we saw was a bag that looked like it was studded which had to be sent to a factory to achieve that texture. There were a few customers coming in throughout the time we were there and all of them seemed to be Italian, not tourists.
Then we moved on to another store called If Bags. The design of the store was very cute and trendy, with colored walls to match the bags displayed on them, plants, unique lights and interesting signs. It was the kind of store that catches your eye as you pass it on the street. All of the bags were made with Italian leather, and they were made by the same company in their workshop at another location, so the store was just a distributor but the company is also a manufacturer. They are their own brand and don’t make products for other companies. All of the products were very trendy and modern. They have a few different types of bags in various colors. In this shop too I saw what seemed to be Italians and not tourists. Once we were done there we headed over to the canals area and were given the rest of the night to do what we wanted. Some of the other students and I looked in a few of the other stores on the same street as Travi Borse and If Bags. After that we headed back to walk along the canals, which were beautiful, and to have some dinner before heading back to the hotel for the night.