Milan! It’s not the first city that pops into mind when someone says Italy nor is it the quintessential Italian tourist experience. But, boy, does this city embrace the traditional stereotypes of Italian culture: people taking their sweet time to do absolutely, positively nothing.
With just over 31 hours in the city, Jen and I had to make the most of it, which meant staying awake for 26 of them. So what is Milan, fashion capital of the world, like? Picture this. We’re told Navigli is the night life central of the city, so off to Navigli Jen and I go. There are hole-in-the-wall bars, terraced cafes, and hordes of locals out for a drink, enjoying a warm fall evening. A nice evening it is, indeed, and the cozy neighborhood is full of welcoming restaurants. All of this overlooks the wonderful, delightful canals running parallel with the streets. Waterless canals, that is. Milan!
Ok, picture this. You’re 100 feet in the air on top of the elaborate Duomo.
You’re surrounded by an army of more than 2000 statues and more than 100 spires. Truly a sight. But you get up close and you see that things are not as grand as they seem. Some of the spires are cleaned and some are not. There’s neither rhyme nor reason to which parts have been cleaned. So it ends up looking kind of like a small child used legos of different colors to build it. Milan!
All in all, Jen and I had a blast. I may or may not have had to stalk a group of delinquent-looking teenagers to find my way to a train/subway station while Jen was at the EACTS conference and Jen and I may or may not have received directions from a crazy-probably-a-cat-loving-wearing-only-half-her-jacket-eating-a-lollipop-lady-in-her-60s, but hey, when in Milan…
Side note: there are some things about Switzerland that I absolutely love yet never realized until I left the country. First off, there aren’t any beggars in Switzerland! (At least, I haven’t encountered any in Lausanne, though Jen says she has in Geneva.) I wonder if it’s because there’s an effective government program that takes care of people who aren’t able to provide for themselves or if it’s because there’s an effective government program to prevent beggars from openly begging on the streets. Secondly, all of CH is just so clean. I don’t know how to describe it, but trust me, going from Lausanne to Milan, you can definitely feel the difference.
Side note 2: In some areas of CH, the train announcements are only broadcast in German (e.g. Brig–>Visp–>Leuk). At Sierre/Siders (the train station sign has both spellings), the announcements are broadcast in both French and German. Finally, after Sierre/Siders (e.g. Sion–>everything past Sion), the announcements are only broadcast in French. Things sure can get complicated in Switzerland. One issue up for debate is the teaching of languages in school. Cedric mentioned at lunch today that some of the German cantons want to start teaching English before French, as English is supposedly more useful. Some people argue that it is more important to be able to communicate with one’s fellow countryman (aka teach French first). How does a country balance the preservation of identity and culture vs. the practicalities of living in a global environment where language seems to be converging on English? I’m not sure and neither is Switzerland.