So much has happened in the past few weeks I don’t even know where to begin!!
First off, I am still loving being in Milan. Everyday, still, I find myself walking down the street in the morning saying to myself “I AM IN ITALY!” It still has not hit me that this is actually real life right now. After a month of being here, I really feel is if I can say: I LIVE IN MILAN! Here is a map of the city. The A is where I am living.
My First Milanese Aperitivo.
Italy, especially Milan, is known for its aperitivos. The concept of an aperitivo is really cool! I had heard about them but still had not found a real good one to go to. My friend, John (from England) told me that he knew of some places that were worth going to experience a real Milanese aperitivo. I agreed, we spread the word to some people in the residence, made a reservation and headed out for a night to remember. In Milan, most aperitivos take place at a bar during happy hour and you pay 10 euros for a drink and an all you can eat buffet of appetizer type food (pizza, bread, cheese, salad, pasta, bruschetta and so on). It is a really great deal for college kids like myself looking to have a drink, some inexpensive (all you can eat) yummy food, and go out with some friends. About ten of us from the residence went and we all represented many different parts of the world … from Germany, England, Turkey, Armenia, Brazil, Italy, United States. I think that my favorite part of being here is meeting so many different people from all over the world and being able to share the experience of being in a different country (most of us not able to speak Italian).
So you can get the idea, here a few pictures of the aperitivo.
One of the girls, Laura, had met an Italian boy, Fabio, on her first day here and so she invited him to the aperitivo with us. He was from Milan and also studying at Statale like the rest of us. He decided to come with us and boy are we all glad he did! After we finished eating we were planning on visiting a part of Milan called Colonia where students sit all over the street and drink and hang out. When we were getting ready to head that way, Fabio said that he was actually on his way to a party and that we should come with him. We all said “no no we are not dressed for a party” and he said “trust me, this is not fashion Milano, you all look fine, please come!” Wanting to really experience Milano life, we said “Si, andiamo!” (yes, let’s go!) without any hesitation. He led us to the tram and the real adventure began!
First off, let me tell you about the trams and the public transportation here. In quick summary…I MISS MY CAR!!!!! No no… public transportation is a really great thing, it is just something that I am really getting used to. This is my experience: Everyday, I take a tram and then a bus to go to the hospital for work. Everyday, I also run after the tram in order to not wait 10 minutes for the next one AND THEN I run even faster from the tram to the bus. I think sometimes running to the bus is unnecessary because most of the time we sit at the stop for 3 minutes before leaving but seriously EVERYONE does it! Maybe if the bus driver doesn’t think you’re hurrying, he will leave???… I’m not quite sure but sometimes I am literally sweating and out of breath by the time I get to work (SO TO MY TENNIS TEAM AT HOME: you can tell Jack that I AM working out and conditioning while I am here!)
Anyway, we took the tram to the outskirts of Milan. After about 30 minutes on the tram we finally asked Fabio where we were actually going and he informed us that we were really going to the very last stop of the tram. It took us so long to get there, not only because it was far away but because the Milan Transportation Workers (ATM) were actually patrolling the trams. A few of us did not have our passes yet and did not buy a ticket so occasionally we were missing a person or two because they got off the tram to avoid being checked. If the ATM people catch you without a ticket it is a 30 euro fine!! My plan of action was to tell them I was an American and that I had just arrived today and did not know where to buy a ticket (in English) and hope that they didn’t understand and let me go. My backup plan was to run as fast as I could because I hardly doubt that the fat old ATM men were going to chase me for 30 euros. (Don’t worry mom, I now have my ATM pass and I never had to lie or run from the Milano transportation men!).
When we finally arrived at the “party”, Fabio was right… it was definitely NOT fashion Milano. We were at an old farm that had no running water, but had a stage where people were performing and draft beer for 3 euros! Fabio was the only Italian in our group so we were trusting him that this was a safe place for us to be. We cautiously walked in looking at each other in complete shock! I’m not quite sure exactly what we expected but I don’t think this was anything close! There were old people and families eating and drinking beer and there was a live band (like with horns and all) playing on the stage! It was really cool!! We met many nice locals and were told that we were the first international people to EVER be there. REALLY NEAT!
It is a terrible photo, but at least you’ll get the idea of where we were:
The weekend after Verona, I decided to stayed in Milan. I definitely have the travel bug and want to go EVERYWHERE but I think that it important that I become involved in life here and stick around every now and then to meet some new people and to make some good friends.
A friend that I made during my first weeks here, Valerie, went with me to the local market. A colleague of mine at the hospital told me to go there if I want to find cheap boots and bags. Every girl in Milan is wearing chic leather boots now that it is fall. I have been trying to look for a pair but everything is so expensive! I am predicting now… that when I go to pack and come home, some things are not going to fit in my suitcase so spending 100 euros on boots that I will probably wear out while I am here probably isn’t the best idea. So the Market was a great. They had everything from food to toiletries to shoes to bags. You name it, they had it… for a decent price too. I bought a leather (let’s pretend that it is “real” Italian leather”) bag and some super cute boots all for 50 euros. I am guessing that with these prices, staying in Milan on Saturdays and going to the market could be dangerous for me. ;) My next mission is to buy a new scarf.
My First Night Out in Milano.
So I finally experienced my first real night out in Milan! No offense to my BW party goers, but theses people know how to party!
The night started off as an Erasmus student orientation (ENS). We went to the University, had a funny presentation about Milan and about the ways of life and met a lot of interesting people from all over the world. I think there was probably 200 exchange students there. They then took us to an aperitivo. It was probably the best one I have been to. Part of the restaurant was on a boat docked at the canal. We stayed there for awhile (the Italians take their time eating) and ate and ate and ate.
THEN Part 2 of the night: They took us to a bar called King’s Pub where they were offering Erasmus students long islands and a shot for 4 euros. (Ha, not too bad!) By this time it was already close to midnight (oh yeah, and it was a Thursday). We stayed there for awhile, had some drinks, and again met a lot of people from all over the world.
THEN Part 3 of the night. They took us to a discotheque. One thing I learned here in Italy… there is a BIG difference between a disco and a night club. I once saw a sign for a night club that said “Free lap dances.” Get my point??? So we went to a diso called The Club. It was 10 euros for entrance and for 2 drinks. The drinks were great, the music was fun, and the dancing was awesome! They played all the same songs that we listen to in the US but they also played some old songs (remixed by the DJ). I almost died laughing when I heard ACDC! The DJ mixed it well but I think the only time I have ever been out and heard ACDC at home is when I am out with my dad to an old man’s bar! About 4am, we figured we should probably call it a night, considering that some of us had to work in the morning… The only problem was that it was actually a Thursday so the night buses were not running, nor the trams. So we called a taxi. There was 6 of us and I could not believe that we could not find a taxi that would allow for all of us to squeeze in just for a few miles! NO WAY! They ALL said no. Maybe I’m wrong but from my experiences in the US, taxis usually try to fit as many people in as they can??? So we took 2 taxis back to our residence which ended up being about 15 euros each. Not too bad I guess. Let’s just say… Friday was one LONG day for all of us :)
I woke up Friday morning not really in the mood to go to work (I can’t image why!). I had been working a lot lately and I knew that my supervisor would be fine if I didn’t come in and work. She is very laid back as long as I get my work done and as long as I let her know my plans. So it took a lot, but I convinced myself that if I took a long train ride somewhere that I could get a lot of work done on the train. I figured 7 hours would be a good amount of time to accomplish a lot… so in other words, I spontaneously took the train to PARIS for the weekend! The WONDERFUL thing about Europe is that you can go last minute to the train station, tell them where you want to go, and most likely can buy your ticket 5 minutes before the train leaves. So that is what I did! I left Milan at 4 and arrived in Paris around 11. You can imagine that I was very productive on the train ride…. SLEEPING! I basically slept the whole way to make up for the night before. Train travel is so easy though. It is more comfortable than a plane, you don’t have to go through security, sometimes they don’t even look at your ticket, and you can go pretty cheap! Since I waited until the last minute my train ticket was a little more expensive this time but 130 euros compared to what I usually pay to go to Paris.. It is basically nothing! Alex picked me up from the train station and I stayed at his apartment with him and his family. Did I mention that I love Paris?!
The next day, my friend Jamie is who is studying in London for the semester took the train and met me in Paris. It was her first time taking the train but I promised her that we would be right there to get her when she got off the train (we may have been a few minutes late!!!) But everything worked out and we found each other. We enjoyed a wonderful weekend in the romantic city.
So some other things going on in my life:
- My research is going GREAT! I have decided to begin an independent study also while I am here. More on that later!
- Alex moved here this week! We found an awesome apartment for him about 40 minutes from where I live and not too far away from where he works. It is fully furnished and in a very nice location. I have been staying with him a lot because first, it is so nice to be able to be with him! It has been a LONG time since we have actually lived in the same country, let alone the same city. I also like staying there because it really feels homey. My apartment is bare, I hardly have cooking utensils, and sometimes I feel like I am living in a jail cell. The people here are all very nice but the rules are strict! I understand, rules are rules for a reason but I was not expecting the rules to be stricter than BW, especially in Europe. We can only have visitors from 8-12 (so no overnight guests) and when we leave for the night we must sign out and give them our card that we use to scan into the building. Ok, not really that bad I guess…. but!! Now that Alex is here and that I have been staying with him a lot, they are not very happy with me here. Some of the nights I don’t plan on staying out so I don’t sign out when I leave for work in the morning. I end up at his place for dinner after work and I stay there. I don’t go back and sign out because It just doesn’t make since for me to travel almost an hour by public transportation just to sign a paper at the front desk to note that I am not sleeping there. I really don’t want any trouble so I am going to try and to explain the situation to them (in English!). Alex being here is going to be great for us! We can actually be a couple and see how things go for us. I am very excited and happy to have him here. Here are a few pictures from our first weekend:
- My dad arrived yesterday :) I went on a city tour with him and then had breakfast with him today. It is a very cool thing to be able to show him around a foreign city and say “hey dad this is where I live!”. Usually he is the one showing me around when we travel. It is very different to be a tourist and to actually live somewhere.
- Friday Alex and I are meeting my dad and Aunt Carolyn in Rome. We will join my dad’s group for the weekend and then we are heading off to Cinque Terre and Venice for a week. I am so excited!!!
- I start my Italian class tonight. It is 3 times a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday) from 5-7:15. Not quite sure how many Friday classes I will make it to since I usually leave Friday afternoons to travel, but its ok! I will be able to practice my Italian in other parts of Italy.
There is so much more that I could write about! I love being in Milan and I am enjoying every minute of this cultural experience. I am growing as a student, as a young “twenty something” year old adult, as an independent, as a young lover, and as a world traveler. I love my flatmate, I have made some awesome friends, I have my boyfriend finally with me, I am traveling to some unique places, I am learning another language, and I am conducting some exciting research. I think that I will really have a difficult time giving this up in January and going back to “real life.”
Stay posted for another blog and pictures from my trip around Italy with my dad and Aunt!
As they say in Italian “a dopo” (see you after)!