Today began with a traditional Italian breakfast of a croissant and an espresso. I enjoyed the lightness of this meal versus our heavier breakfasts in the States. Following breakfast, the group convened for a crash course in Italian with a native Pittsburgher who now lives in Milan. This lesson was very helpful later in the day for simple communication with Italians on the streets and at restaurants.
After learning some basic Italian, I ate lunch with fellow students at a small cafe around the corner from our hotel. We forwent the Italian tradition of a large lunch and ordered panini (sandwiches), which were very good and surprisingly cheap. After lunch, I went out on my own to explore Giardini Publica Indro Montanelli, the park located right next to our hotel, and the surrounding neighborhood of Porto Venezia.
I returned from my walk around Porto Venezia to embark on a walking tour of Milan with the whole group. It was during this tour that I began to feel like I’d officially arrived in Italy. Our hotel’s neighborhood and even Porto Venezia are not radically different from U.S. cities. It was only when we passed through the modern neighborhood of Porto Nuova into the much more traditionally Italian neighborhood of Brera and further into the city center, eventually finding our way to Duomo and the Galleria that I got a sense of being in a different country.
Milan has an interesting dichotomy of being a modern metropolitan city that also has an incredible history and tradition. Walking down Corso Como from Porto Nuovo to Brera (see picture) really illustrates this as you leave behind gleaming steel and glass building and walk past apartments built hundreds of years ago on a road just as old flanked by both traditional Italian restaurants and cutting-edge concept stores. I ended the day embracing this as I enjoyed a delicious tiramisu on the ultra-modern rooftop at Il Bar gazing over the incredibly intricate spires and statues of the Duomo, which began construction in 1386.