It’s the last month of summer and I already want to be back in June and start it all over again! Time sure does fly when you’re having fun and that’s exactly what I have been doing since being done with school last month.
I recently took a trip to Italy that I ultimately had not planned for but after some quick phone calls, airline ticket searches and one very convincing Whatsapp audio note to my friend Mary, I had a flight booked and accommodation set in Milan where Mary and her friend Voi would join me this time last week.
Italy is permanently etched in my mind as one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. I visited two cities, Milan where I was staying and Rome and the five days there were nothing but bellissimo!
I landed at the airport at around 1:30 in the afternoon and was immediately hit by the 30 degree heat wave which I welcomed gladly after the semi-summer I left back in London. By the way, anyone going to Milan, please fly into the Linate airport, it’s much closer to the city and a lot more convenient than the Malpensa airport which locals have referred to as a ‘cathedral in the desert’ aka too far. A shuttle from the airport to the main train station in Milan (Milan Centrale) is just 5 euros and once you are there you can get around easily using the subway, the buses or tram system.
Milan is a very historic looking city. As one of the fashion capitals of the world I was expecting high flying sky scrapers a la New York City but no… Just beautifully designed and colourful buildings lining up the streets and being Italy’s main financial and industrial centre, it was abuzz with activity everywhere I went. Mary & Co and I were staying in an area called Crescenzago, a nice neighbourhood with a church right across the backyard of my friend’s apartment. When you live near a church anywhere in Italy, you will never need an alarm clock to wake you up thanks to the constant ringing of bells every other hour to mark the beginning of mass. Mary wasn’t too happy about that but I loved it, I don’t know why but something about hearing church bells just makes me feel quite at peace.
Day 1 was spent being typical tourists, hitting up all the famous places such as Duomo di Milano (The Milan Cathedral), Sforza Castle and fervently searching for authentic Italian pasta and gelato. The Cathedral remains my favourite thing to see in Milan, it’s a magnificent structure built over six centuries can you believe it? The gothic architecture give it such a majestic feel and if we had the energy to stand in the long queue to get to the top, I’m sure the view would have been incredible. Right next to the cathedral is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a grand shopping mall with all the name brands Milan is famous for such as Prada, Versace, Louis Vuitton etc., basically a place I can only window shop at haha. Still fabulous nonetheless.
Day 2, being the weekend, we relaxed a bit on following the itinerary mostly because no one wanted to be walking around in the hot sun during the day. This was actually a good thing because the events that followed that evening and into the night, we definitely needed to rest up for all that. So that evening we were introduced to a nice little Milano custom called aperitivo. Not sure if this is strictly only done in Milan or in all of Italy but kudos to a friend of mine based in Milan, Wanja, for teaching us how it’s done. So aperitivo is kind of like a universal happy hour throughout the city. All the bars, restaurants, probably even residential homes host it and you simply buy one drink and get to enjoy an all you can eat buffet of finger foods from 6 to 8pm. And yes, people still have dinner after this. Italy is a country after my own foodie heart I tell you.
After stuffing our faces with mini pizzas, cous cous and a few drinks (gelato for me), we were ready to paint the town red. Our host in Milan, Steve took us to an area by the Navigli canals where Milan nightlife really came alive. There were silent movies being shown on a large screen on one end of the river, while the other end had series of outdoor bars, lounges and restaurants, loud music, kids playing by the water, boats floating along the river, street vendors selling sun glasses and fedoras and the hum of the tram going up and down the street completed the multi-faceted feel of this place.
Suffice it to say we had a really fun night but I had to turn in before the sun rose because I had a 7am train to catch to rome the next day. Milan you were amazing, thank you.
One thing I really love about Europe is how efficient the transport system is. I have a new found love for rail transport that I never did before. In fact I think if all trains could be as comfortable and easy going as the ones in Europe, I’d never board another plane. The trip to Rome from Milan took three hours but I barely felt it because 1- I was asleep through most of the trip and 2 -the train moves quite fast you barely notice the duration.
I arrived in the Eternal city at around 11am and was greeted by even hotter weather than what I left in Milan – 34 degrees guys. I love the sun but goodness it was way too hot. The transport in Rome works just as well as Milan, but costs slightly more. In Milan a 24hr transport pass cost 4 euros while in Rome the same thing cost 7 euros but it still gets you unlimited access to subways, buses and trams throughout the system so it’s still better than what we have going on in London.
I have always dreamed about visiting Rome since my days in Kianda in Miss Mikui’s CRE class (Kianda primary class of 2003, I know ya’ll know what I’m talking about). She would tell us such great stories about Rome and I told myself one day I’ll make it there and I finally did. The very first place I went to was St Peter’s basilica.
Can I just say how amazing Rome is? The Vatican to be exact is a work of art. St Peter’s church is massive in stature but what caught my eye was the grandiose pillars all around and the intricate sculptures of the 12 apostles along the dome… The architects of the 15th century were no joke. The heat searing on my back and my face didn’t stop me from taking in all I could from one of the holiest Catholic shrines on earth. I wanted to get in for a tour but the Vatican are very strict on the dresscode required to enter the church. Me and my shorts plus exposed shoulders were not going to be allowed in for sure, so take note guys – you must be covered up if you want to get into St Peter’s Cathedral. Also try not go on a Sunday, the line is ridiculously long and would probably be shorter on a weekday.
Next stop was the Trevi fountain and lastly the ruins at the Colosseum. My pictures below can tell you all you want to know about how exquisite these historical landmarks are. Funfact: Did you know the colosseum was built in just eight years? Yep, a far cry from the 600 years it took to complete the Milan cathedral. 10km of walking, about three litres of water downed, one pizza and of course yet another serving of gelato and my day in Rome came to a gradual end. I learnt so much thanks to the tour guides and my new found friend Mariana who I met on a bus believe it or not – solo travellers unite! I had to catch the last train back to Milan but Rome is definitely a place I need to come back to fully explore and experience, one day is just not enough.
Italy you have been the best almost never happened vacation I have taken and so glad it panned out perfectly. The pizza, pasta and gelato diet will not be missed though, I don’t think I could live here and stick to my diet with all those temptations. Thank you Mary and Voi for taking this trip with me, Steve for hosting us and Wanja for making time to hang out even if just for a little while. Like I said before, Italy has my heart and I hope I get to visit again soon for a much longer time. Another country checked off my travel bucketlist, where to next I wonder?
Have a great rest of the summer!