This trip is special for a number of reasons. It's special because it's my first time going to Europe. It's special because it celebrates my brother's graduation from high school and my graduation from college. Lastly, it's special because it's been a few years since I've taken an international trip with my entire family. I was so excited the night before leaving that I couldn't sleep!
I packed a large yellow duffel bag with most of my things and then packed my electronics in my sturdy Côte & Ciel backpack (finally putting it to the ultimate test). Per the instructions of my outdoorsy father, all my clothes were meticulously folded to fit into several dry bags. It definitely created a lot of space for more things. We woke up extra early (around 3 AM) and made our way over to the LAX airport. A few hours of sleep later, we had a layover at the Newark Airport. It was really cool seeing the hazy New York cityscape from across the river. We had time to grab a bite to eat in NJ and then once again we boarded our plane to.... Milan!!!
Arriving in Milan
After a long journey, we finally arrived at the Malpensa Airport in Milan. The humidity hit us as soon as we stepped out of the terminal (yay). Our train adventures began right away once we boarded a bullet train towards the heart of the city. It was fun to see all the interesting travelers that boarded the train at the same time as us. People carried bags and suitcases of all shapes, designs, colors, and sizes.
I smiled when my dad pulled out his map and the itinerary as soon as we settled into our seats. Always such a navigator and planner. The train was modern, very clean, and comfortable. As our train darted out of the dark tunnel, we had a few hours of greenery as our passing landscape. I think we slept for most of the way to the central station.
Milano Centrale is gorgeous. It's located at the northern end of central Milan and (as you can tell by the name) is the main railway station of Milan. It's not just the tall ceilings, archways, and architectural choices that make it lovely, but it's the lighting. Ugh! Yes. The way the glowing natural light illuminates the station. So beautiful.
From the station, we switched to the regular subway train. We got off at the right stop near our hotel, but struggled to find its exact location for about 30 minutes. The weather was hot, humid, and we were sweating like there was no tomorrow. Just as we were about to collapse from dehydration, we found our hotel tucked away next to some old local businesses. We checked in, took showers, and basked in the cool air conditioned room for a bit before heading out.
Duomo di Milano
Our first official stop on our trip was at the Milan Cathedral (known as the Duomo di Milano). There was a lot to absorb and take in as soon as we came up from the steps underground of our subway stop. The sky was clear and the sun shined extremely bright. Flocks of tourists paced the large central grounds. The cathedral stands majestically at the end of it.
Before we could even get near the duomo, my brother and I were ambushed by a group of men with rainbow bracelets. (Hahaha) Okay, ambushed is a strong word... but that's how we felt. As soon as we came up the steps, a tall man came up behind me and tied the bracelet onto my wrist before I could do anything. Another man did the same thing to my brother. They smiled and seemed a little too friendly. He asked me if I liked my bracelet and I said, "Um..." Then (of course) he said, "Okay, now pay me for the gift." !!!??? I laughed in disbelief. Should've known.
He badgered me for a few seconds until I finally said, "Look. You tied this without asking me. I don't want it and it's very hard to untie and take off my wrist. I don't need to pay you for something I didn't ask for." Annoyed, he walked away. I started walking towards the cathedral when I noticed my brother was missing. I looked around and saw about three men surrounding my brother, demanding him for money. My brother and I just told them we literally didn't have a single cent on us anyway. It was a great lesson to begin our trip – always be aware and don't let others take advantage of you just because you're a visitor.
A second lesson – you can't enter any cathedrals wearing short shorts and tank tops. I should've known better, but it was just so hot and humid it slipped my mind when I was choosing my outfit. My dad and brother went inside the cathedral while my mom and I went up onto the roof. I wasn't too bummed about not going inside. The view from the roof was charming in its own way.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Adjacent to the cathedral stands one of the world's most oldest shopping malls – the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Named after the first king of Italy, the mall houses many luxury brands that uphold a consistent aesthetic of clean classic store fronts.
The first that catches the eye is the beautiful ceiling (reminded me of the central station) that allows the sun to naturally light the inside of the mall. My family and I walked around, admiring the store fronts, until we got hungry (hahaha). We stopped for our first gelato in Italy and followed it with some pizza. Doing it right. Dessert first, food second.
By this point of the day, the sun was already setting quickly and we were all exhausted from all the flying and walking around. Ivan was pretty dazed with food coma and dehydration. Knowing it'd be better to get a full night's rest, we headed back to our hotel after meandering around a bit.
Milan is beautiful
We spent most of our first day just soaking our unfamiliar surroundings in and familiarizing ourselves with how the subway system worked. Although the weather wasn't very pleasant, there were some lovely moments towards the late afternoon that I appreciated. It made me feel like this was going to be a memorable trip indeed.
I loved seeing my parents in a foreign environment. I felt like I saw them more as their own individuals that just as my parents. After wandering a bit, I found my mom sitting on some steps and writing a poem. I always wondered who I got my love for writing from.
I'm not sure what I think about the food here yet. I'm not a huge foodie, but I do think that Milan definitely has the aesthetic charm that it's so known for...
I noticed a lot of the Italians wore a lot of white and walked around with lots of grace and slowness. Makes sense with how sluggish the weather over here makes a person feel. Then again, it seems like time and life is much slower here than back home in the United States in general... and I'm from California! Says a lot about Italy I think.