The best way for me to get to the Cinque Terre was to fly from Marseille, France, to Milan, Italy, and then take a train to the Cinque Terre. The best I could work out was have a full day in Milan, which I was alright with. Sort of, anyway; going to another city I didn’t know much about was something that made me a little anxious.
What made it a little worse is that all I heard from travelers about Milan is that it sucked.
On travel sites it said that “Milan is not known for it’s looks, but I guess you can find some things that are sort of interesting there.”
“Great,” I thought.
After doing some research, though, I found that Milan could actually be a pretty cool place. First of all, it’s Italy, for crying out loud, so there’s all the new culture things I get to learn. Secondly, there’s the Duomo, one of the biggest cathedrals in the world, Di Vinci’s Last Supper, and a lot of cool other things.
Even though I only had about two days in Milan, I quite enjoyed it. When I was waiting for my plane to Milan, one that would land me there at around 11:30 at night, I began talking to a small family who lived in Milan. They were really nice, the three of them—a wife, husband, and thirteen-year-old son. The son was studying English and reading an actual English book, which was more than I can do as a 20-year-old student with three years of Spanish. We got to talking, and I told them that I had to go to a hostel after our flight, for which I expected to catch a bus from the airport. “Oh, it’ll be too late to catch a bus, I’m afraid,” said the wife.
I felt that anxiety rush over me again. I’ve come to really hate that feeling. It’s not like my usual American anxiety when I want to throw up; what happens is that my chest becomes really hot and the heat spreads to my stomach and shoulders and neck and face and arms, until my forehead starts sweating. It’s quite unpleasant.
“We could drive you, though,” said that husband, “Our car is a parked right outside.”
You’d think it would be difficult to keep a healthy anxiety disorder when you have a God that’s so faithful.
So the family drove me home, which ended up taking about an hour. I was so thankful to them and to God for helping me. There was no way I would have made it there on my own. I got up to the hostel, went to my room, and fell asleep in minutes. (It was 1:30 am by that time.)
The next day I decided that I would go and see the city. I really liked it. It was big, and it wasn’t all pretty, but there were parts of it that were just wonderful. I really enjoyed myself. I went to go see the Duomo…
Of course I flew my kite there.
Had some gelato.
The square that the Duomo was in was just charming. Tons of pigeons, tons of people, and cool statues…it was really nice.
I walked around the city for a bit more with my Discover Milan map. Apparently there’s a really old castle in Milan, so I went to go visit that. The castle was okay, but what I really loved was the fountain. First of all, it was huge, but its size and beauty didn’t compare to the experience of watching the people hang out around it.
While in the castle, I met a man from San Diego who was also traveling alone. We walked around the castle together. It was fun. He kept wanting to take pictures for me with my camera, so I let him. He wasn’t very good at it, though.
I had my first experience with Italian pasta. And yes, it is different. They just make the pasta differently here. That’s all I can really say: it’s just different. You’re going to have to take my word for it.
As I was eating, a man from India named Sufred, whom I had met at my hostel, came up to me and started talking. He had lived in the United States for six years, so his English was right on. We had a nice talk and decided that neither of us wanted to take the subway to get home, so we thought that we’d try to use the map and walk.
Not as easy as it sounds.
We walked for an hour or so and got nowhere near the hostel. We had a wonderful time, though, getting lost and joking about differences between cultures. Sufred is probably someone I could become friends with very easily. He’s a good guy.
The next day I tried to book a time to see Di Vinci’s Last Supper for the day I’d be back in Milan (the 13th), but they were booked until the 15th, unfortunately. I was pretty bummed, but then I thought about the wonderful system that they have with showing the mural, which is on the wall of a tiny church somewhere in the middle of Milan. They only let in groups of about twenty at a time, every fifteen minutes, to see the mural. That way one can look at it in peace without being rushed or elbowed to get out of the way (like my experience with the Mona Lisa). But, unfortunately, it requires you to reserve a viewing a few months in advance. So yes, I was sad that I didn’t get to see the Last Supper, but I could respect their system.
And then I took a train to the Cinque Terre. The last big stage of my journey, and the one for which I was the most excited.
This guy was making flowers and fish out of vegetables!! SO COOL!!
This was my first experience with cheap, delicious Italian pizza. I'll tell you more about it in the next post.