Ti AmoFebruary 14 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C
Since stepping on the flight last night everyone has been talking to me in Italian. I've now been in South East Asia for 13 months and been very much used to people not speaking English, but normally from gestures and the situation I've been able to understand what people are generally saying. But here in Italy for some reason I've found it almost impossible to understand anything. You would have thought as Will can't mostly understand and speak Italian that they would speak to him or he would save me from these embarrassing situations but unfortunately not. They always want to speak to me and by the time he's realised he's missed what they are saying. Why they always speak to me I don't know! I've now learnt how to say "I'm sorry, I do not speak Italian", which to be honest seems to complicate the situation further. Haha
It's sooo cold here!!! We've come from 37 degrees to 12 and I honestly don't know how I'm going to cope with it. I'm wearing a coat, thermals, a tshirt, a wooly hat, a scarf, 2 socks and trousers on top of my thermals. Help!!!!
Today's plan is actually quite hectic... As usual! We are going to get up at 7am, leave at 8am. Check into our new airbnb by 9am and then join a walking tour at 10am. Myself and Will were up and ready but we waited for Niranjan to have his breakfast and tea and we didn't get the bus until 8:45am. We checked in by 9:45am but were running very late for the tour. Luckily they had a rough itenary online with timings for each site and were able to catch them up by the second site.
The tour was FANTASTIC!!! The guide was a typical Italian and reminded me of our friend Nello. He was so expressive and gesticulating everywhere. His pronunciation was like that of an actor, you had to be careful not to be too close otherwise you would have lost an eye and been covered in spit. He was hilarious and although shattered he really kept us stimulated. We visited Church of San Nazaro In Brolo, Statale University which used to be an old public hospital. Then we visited the outside of Duomo Cathedral, Vittorio Emmanuel II Gallery and then had a break for lunch where we had Panzerotto at Luini and a huge slice of pizza from Spottini.
Next stop was Theatre and Square Alla Scala. The Scala Theatre was built to replace the previous opera house that was burned down. The rich Milanese were desperate for a replacement, so they funded an immediate reconstruction. The main reason they wanted one built so quickly? The only place they could legally gamble was at the theatre during shows. Often the guests at the shows wouldn't even watch the Opera, they were there simply to gamble! So, far from starting life as a place of culture, the theatre was rather the opposite! However, there fortuitously happened a 40 year period in which several wonderful operas debuted at this theatre, including works by Rossini, Verdi and others. Such a critical mass of notable works couldn't help but change the atmosphere, and soon the theatre had become the centre of opera in Europe and the gambling was forgotten about.
Next was the merchants square. While at merchant's square our guide told us an interesting story. When merchant's ran up too many debts which they were unable to repay, the town would break in half their stall to prevent them from trading any more. In Italian this is known as "banco rotto" (lit. broken desk). Over time this became a single word: bancarotta, from which English gets its word bankrupt. In fact, of all the countries in Europe there are only 5 who don't use a derivation of this word!
Our final stop on the tour was Piazza dei Affari or business square. The reason that Piazza dei Affari is famous is that its the site of the Italian stock exchange Borsa Italia. The second reason its famous is for a 2011 piece of modern art erected in the courtyard directly in front of the stock exchange . This artwork was gifted by the sculptor to the city of Milan. The artwork? A giant hand, with every finger cut off except for the middle finger. As the hand is facing away from the stock exchange towards the onlookers the message is clear: a giant "screw you" from the banks to the little people. After all, when this artwork was erected Milan was right in the middle of the financial crisis and the people of Italy were suffering. Modern art at its finest? You decide.
Finally it was time to sit and get warmed up so we took refuge in a nearby coffee shop. What looking at what to see and do next we found our haven. GROM. If you have never been to GROM when in Europe you have to make it your aim to find one and go. GROM serve the most thick, hot and heavenly dark hot chocolate. So obviously that was our next stop. It was just heaven! I finally felt fully warm. Refreshed and happy to keep going so we then visited San Maurizio Monastero Maggiore which was beautiful hidden gem within the city. The church was covered in beautiful frescos. If you've been to Milan and not seen this church you are missing out. We then went to the Castello Sforzesco which was free to walk round in the early evening and then our final sightseeing for the day was the Sempione Park. It was a really lovely park and really picturesque with the evening light shining on the trees. It was now getting very cold and to be honest it was beginning to get painful. We were joining the Milan Couch surfing hangout but it didn't start till 7:30pm so we still had 2.5 hours to kill. In most countries that would be fine as you would just visit a cheap bakery or cafe or find a shop to take cover in. All the shops were ridiculously expensive so we felt we couldn't even walk in with the attire we were wearing, all the cafes were either crazy expensive or shut and after walking for a while it felt like we were just on barron streets. After over an hour of freezing we finally found a little bakery were we sat and ate a lemon custard croissant and escaped the cold. The croissant and sit down was just what we needed. I began to get a little too comfortable and almost fell off my stool when I nodded off for a second.
It was finally time to go and meet the Couch Surfers at Cafe Ethniko for Aperitivo. I had never had this before. Aperitivo is where you buy a single drink which then gives you access to the buffet food. We spent about 20 mins looking through the menu and trying to translate the cocktails. We finally decided and went to the bar and saw an incredible looking cocktail that
... ordered. I instantly made a new friend and asked what his cocktail was and had a little try. That was the one for me! Will was so jealous that he ordered the same. Honestly the cocktail was the size of a fish bowl and it was soo fresh and fruity. Yum. The evening was really fun. We met lots of other couch surfers either living in Milan or visiting Milan for a weekend break. Will was able to practise his Italian and it was such a lovely evening. By 10pm we were shattered and headed back to the airbnb and honestly I don't even remember going to sleep. I'm pretty sure I just passed out due to exhaustion.Read more