Now for the amazing stuff that I referenced in my last post… the fun stuff, haha. My first few nights brought me down to an area of Milan known as the Navigli. To give you a setting to imagine, the Navigli lies along 2 long canals that are perpendicular to one another, forming an L of water in the middle of the very busy city. So this nice canal and the surrounding areas have a diversity like no other, as they create a street fair with things for sale during the day, but then transform into a local hangout and boardwalk-esque area at night for people of all ages to come and enjoy. The bars set out tents with tables and chairs next to the canal, so on a nice early autumn night, the Navigli are filled with Italians and foreigners alike all coming for the atmosphere, beautiful views, and most of all, for appertivo.
All Americans, listen up… we need appertivo back in the states right away. For around 6 or 7 euros (roughly 10 dollars) you receive a free drink of any kind from the bar, plus access to an all-you-can-eat buffet (and since I’m in Italy, clearly the food is awesome). So at any bar in all of Milan from the hours of 6pm to 10pm, you can sit, relax, and have a drink, eating as much or as little as you desire, for as long as you wish. Then afterwards, especially in the Navigli, you can get a gelato (I like Nociiola or Baccio, but they are all insanely good, even the fruit ones like Pina Colada or Wild Cherry) and walk around enjoying a nice night.
After getting more acquainted with the school and my fellow peers, I went to a couple of get-togethers for exchange students hosted by the University at various night clubs known here as discos (but no Saturday Night Fever). The parties were a great way to meet people in a less formal atmosphere and let me get to know some of my new friends on a more personal level. This is where I had my conversation with my friend from Barcelona that I mentioned in my previous post. The parties regularly go from 11pm til almost 4am, but I was home in bed or on a Skype date by 2am on most of those nights.
Finally, to cap off my week of stress and transition, came my journey to one of the most peaceful and relaxing places in all of Italy and probably the entire world: Lake Como. It is no wonder international celebrities like George Clooney and Richard Branson gladly drop 40 million for villas near the amazing lake. Just stepping off the train, you are greeted with views of a lifetime, surrounded by mountains all covered with houses extending as far as the eye can see. After a nice walk through a quaint and– dare I say without sounding too girly– cute city, you reach the crème de la crème, a lake that extends throughout these mountains, touching the Alps and covering the area with beauty. Just walking around the lake is a full and relaxing day for almost anyone, with the stunning views that, believe me, pictures cannot do justice.
But in order to truly make our trip momentous, my friends and I decided to be a little more adventurous. After climbing a hidden path we found halfway up the mountain, we noticed a small recreational beach for locals down by the lake. Very curious, as well as hot and sweaty, we decided it was most definitely worth exploring. So after speaking Italian to get our way in, we changed into bathing suits and made a dash for the lake. Our thirst for adventure and our heat exhaustion persuaded us to overlook the signs warning against swimming in the beautiful but polluted lake, with my friend justifying our decision by saying:
“I see fish in there. If they can survive it, so can we.”
In retrospect, that was not the wisest advice to take, but was advice that proved to be valuable nonetheless. After jumping into the perfectly refreshing water, we swam out to a nearby dock, climbed onto it, and saw Como from a view that normally only fish can see. In awe of my surroundings and this perfectly serene moment, I succumbed to the beauty of the world and became content with simply being a spectator of the world around me.
With open eyes and an open mind, this adventure, while only the first of many, will certainly be hard to top.
I can’t wait to go back there with my loving family and amazing girlfriend on November 12th… I’m counting the days.