If you want that Italian experience, come and stay a day where I live in Milan. Next door to me is a pizzeria, run by the affable, moustached old man named Mario. While neither of us can speak each other’s languages properly, we engage regularly in disjointed and funny half English, half Italian and mostly Google translated conversations. For me and my room-mate Will, Mario has really provided and truly heightened our exchange experience. Not only does Mario entertain us with his hospitality but also his pizzeria provides the goods. Between 10-13 euros (approximately $18 Australian) Will and I often purchase Pizzas with a diameter of over 1 metre! If that wasn’t enough, Mario will often slip in some extra slices that he has as take-away, free of charge. We will on average visit Mario twice a week and during times we have had guests almost everyday. Truly a beautiful example of Italian symbiosis at work, he feeds our bellies and we in turn gladly feed his pockets.
Leaving our next-door champion Mario, you only have to walk two shops down and you come across an extremely well rated gelato store. If you crave Messina in Sydney, this place will make it run for its money and plus it is cheaper. Another shop further along is a focaccia bakery and then on every block you will find cheap pizza, bakeries and gelato stores. Walking along Milan’s cobblestone streets you have to be wary of the Italian drivers that really have zero disregard for road rules and life. But that is part of the experience. A thirty-minute walk from our apartment you can arrive in the Piazza del Duomo. Here is the amazing iconic Duomo di Milano, the third largest cathedral in the world and which took over 600 years to build (see feature image). Around the square is people bustling, a mixture of baroque and fascist buildings from the Mussolini era and in true Italian fashion, plenty of pigeons.
While Milan shares much in common with Italy it too has its vast differences. The city a driving force of the Italian economy, is much more progressive and forward with a strong economic and international cultural identify and ambition. It makes the city a lot more enjoyable, functioning and a vibrant liveable city compared to the other Italian cities, which are nice, but seem regressive, clinging to their ancient buildings and artefacts for tourism. Milan is creating a separate identity from this. Hosting the International Fashion and Design weeks, which I was luckily enough to experience, it is a hub for innovation and international collaboration. Owing largely to its central European location and past history of trade, it is a mix of different European influences and as a result I have been able to make a lot of different European friends and been able to travel easily to an ample number of European cities and areas. Highlights include Budapest, Berlin, Istanbul and the French Riviera.
Though while I am at the stage of planning many more trips abroad as my exchange rapidly approaches its end, everyday I become more eager to explore Milan. It is a very underrated and beautiful city and has much more to be discovered and hopefully before the end I will be able to see it all and try every pizza off Mario’s menu!
Erik Jorgensen, 11983780, DAB