It’s Thursday evening, and I’m on a plane to Italy. The flight is only an hour and fifteen minutes (which, by plane, won’t get you much farther from somewhere like San Diego than spitting-distance north of LA), so I’m not accustomed to how close in proximity major European cities generally are to each other. Geographically speaking, Virginia is equivalent in total land mass to Iceland, and the US as a whole is quite a lot larger than Europe but is inhabited by twice as many people. So there certainly are “empty,” “fly-over” states because everything is packed in pretty tight. But, luckily, this also means that making it to your friend’s house a few countries over for the weekend is completely do-able.
I’m visiting one of my good friends, Elena, in Milan and exploring the city—which is my first European city I will have been to outside France. I was roommates with Elena when she did her exchange at UR and had the pleasure of introducing her to some American cultural dynamics. We had talked about me coming to Milan about a year ago, so it’s a bit surreal that the time has finally come around that I’m visiting her, and I get to learn a bit more about the city she grew up in. After I landed in Milan and walked out into the receiving area, I heard a familiar voice yell “Jess!” and was immediately enveloped in a long-overdue hug.
We first ventured to the Duomo Cathedral, which is one of the largest churches in Europe. I didn’t get a chance to snap any pictures of the interior, but it was nearly incomprehensible in size and just as impressively detailed. There are over three thousand statues situated on the façade surrounding the entirety of the church. If you take a look at some of the statues that are closer to the ground, you can tell that they’re not in the least bit basic but carved with great attention to detail. It’s hard to imagine that a church of this magnitude could be both conceived and constructed so long ago— the construction of the building began in 1386 and took over six decades to complete. It’s a testament not only to how incredible humans are in their capacity to create but also to how powerful human spirituality is in its similar capacity to invoke such realizations of grandeur. There’s nothing like churches or religious monuments that are as architecturally awe-inspiring.
This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about the food. Oh, the food. I met up with a group of six other Italian friends, who had studied abroad at UR the year before with Elena, and tried real pizza for the first time. Unlike American pizza, the crust is thin and the toppings are generally fresh ingredients not piled but sprinkled on. And no need to dab the oil with a napkin; you’re going to want to taste the olive oil drizzled on top. It was an entire operation trying to finish that thing—first you have to cut each individual slice and try your best to grasp and fold the pizza properly lest it falls apart. Although the most difficult pizza I’ve ever eaten, it was in no equal measure one of the best.
Fortunately this is only the first of several trips I’ve planned to go to Italy not only to visit Elena but also to further explore the peninsula as a whole. But fino alla prossima volta (until next time), Milan has a pizza my heart. Sorry—had to do it.
Here are some more photos!
just narrowly missed Milan fashion week, but you can still easily find bold fashion statements–like this (euro) 45,000 jacket thing