I realized I hadn’t left England since arriving. So I called up my friend Fiona in Spain, and Amanda in Nottingham, and decided we should try Italy. We left in the early hours of the 30th, and I hardly got any sleep from then on. Amanda and I met Fiona at the airport, then took a bus into Milan, where we’d booked a hostel for 2 nights. We checked into the hostel and then went straight into Milan.
I love taking public transportation, especially metros/undergrounds/subways. It makes me feel travel savvy, and independent. Because it makes me feel like a local. So we took the metro, which is always the cheaper alternative in a big city, to the city center. The first place we went to was the Duomo di Milano.
I will say this though: besides the Duomo and maybe a few other things Milan isn’t really the best city to tour. I know The Last Supper is featured in a museum there. There’s apparently a nice lake or something. It’s really a better place to people watch, and shop. Milan is the metropolitan business centre of Italy, and there’s a bunch of expensive shops there. So you can go window-licking. And if you’re into haut-couture? Go to Milan.
Something I’ve only really found outside of England (after having been to France and Italy) is that there are more street peddlers in other areas of Europe than in England. They’ll grab you by the wrist and slap a bracelet on you, or put a keychain in your hand, and urge you to pay for it, and harass you if you refuse. They mainly target tourists of course, so they lurk outside buildings such as the Duomo. If you see a man carrying a slew of bracelets, run away. One Senegalese man got to me, but Fiona spoke Wolof (a language from Senegal) to him and somehow convinced him let me have the bracelet he tied on me for free.
That evening was somewhat of a debacle. I’m not going to explain what happened, but I’ll say that my faith in humanity was restored. People are, in general, kind and willing to help. I met some great Milanese locals that night, so a round of applause for the people of Milan!
We went to bed at probably 2 a.m., and woke up the next morning at 6 to catch our train to Venice at 7. Miraculously we caught the train, then had a nice nap until we arrived in Venice.
Two thirds exhaustion, one third delirium. Here’s Fiona and Amanda looking dapper.
Venice is fantastic. The people were fantastic. The city itself is just beautiful, even the run down bits. There are cute dogs running around everywhere. I urge anyone to go.
Basilica San Marco
There’s a phenomenon in Venice called “acqua alta” which means “high water”. In the fall months Venice is prone to flooding. This year they had the worst flooding in decades. However, by the time we got to Venice the waters had receded a bit, so the only parts that were inconveniently flooded were really just Piazza San Marco, which is the main tourist area of the city. Go figure. It’s got the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica di San Marco. Being in Venice in fall, and during acqua alta, meant that there weren’t many tourists at all. It was so hassle free. Although it is a bit chilly (in the 40s fahrenheit), I’d recommend Venice in the fall. Acqua alta isn’t that much of a nuisance either. There are raised platforms that you can navigate to keep your feet dry, or you can get a pair of rain boots and just trudge through the water. It’s an interesting experience and it’s something that locals deal with every year.
Rialto, a bridge across the Grand Canal, known for its markets. This is a place where you can get Venetian souvenirs. It’s pretty touristy though.
We heard that it was a good idea to wander around Venice, and purposely get lost. A lot of the appeal of Venice is really just in enjoying the city, looking at the buildings, sitting in a random square and watching local kids play soccer. So that’s what we did. We ended up walking around, taking photos, looking at the graffiti.
“Love locks” on a bridge.
We caught the train back to Milan that night. Fiona left for the airport early. Then since Amanda didn’t print her boarding pass for our Ryanair flight back home we wandered around the city at 5 am asking hotels if we could use their “stampa” which is Italian for printer, because our hostel’s printer was broken. After a couple of failed attempts at other hotels, a very apathetic front desk attendant obliged and we printed her ticket and then left for our flight back home. I liked Italy, but it’s good to be back in England. It’s kind of like home now. It’s becoming familiar. I couldn’t image leaving after just one semester.