September 09, 2014

Milan experience: September 2014. My first week in Italy was...

Milan, ItalyThis is the story that tells the Exciting, Warm, Learning emotions of Mitesh Karwa, from India, and the Exploring, Gelato, Quiet (ghostcity) emotions of John Andre Storebø, from Norway.

But...who are they??

1. They come from...
Mitesh was born and grew up in the Himalayan town of Mirik, India (Cit. "Which has a beautiful lake just like Como and is situated in the lap of nature.")
John was born in Bergen, Norway
2. They study...
Mitesh studied engineering at Allahabad, worked for a couple of years with India’s automotive giant Tata Motors before joining business school. He's currently pursuing the post-graduate programme in management at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
John is doing a master degree in Strategic Marketing Management at Norwegian Business School BI in Oslo.
Exchange student
Exchange student
Okay, so, what's their story?

Both landed in Milan, Italy, only few days ago to start their exchange programme at Bocconi University.
Mitesh arrived in Italy on 1st of September night, but by the time he reached the apartment he had booked before hand, it was already past 2am on 2nd of September.
John arrived in Milan some days before, the 21st of August.
For both it's the first time in Italy...

4. During their first week in Italy they...
Day 1
Mitesh arranged the house and went to the supermarket after a long sleep to compensate for the tiring journey the day before. He also went with friends to the Bocconi University campus to register themselves and then explored the area around the campus, marking the food joints, book store, mobile connections, etc.
John, well... John can't really remember, everything has already become one big blur. But something like this: arrived together with his friend Eiren (24 year old girl from Stavanger in Norway). Found the hotel, walked around for hours just to have a look around and try to figure out the city. Had some troubles understanding the metro-system, and very helpful, though not english-speaking, Italians tried to explain them!
Day 2
Mitesh, after attending the Orientation session where the professors introduced students to the course pedagogy at Bocconi and introduced the Milan student identity card (M-ID card), took an official tour of the campus with the senior students of Bocconi University. He also went to the Navigli canal and then took a metro to the Gae Audentia area near Garibaldi.
John walked down Buenos Aires street for shopping, visited the Duomo, had lunch at a tourist trap... that is an overpriced restaurant in down-town.
Milan, Italy

Day 3
Mitesh had his first visit to the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. He walked past the galleria to Leonardo’s statue and until he reached Piazza San Babila. Stopped listening to musicians playing instruments on the streets in many places.
Milan, Italy

John rented a bike, and peddled through a large part of the city. Ate a nice gelato and had dinner at a nice restaurant in the northern part of the city. He learned the lesson!
Day 4
Mitesh, after attending a helpful session organized by the university to fill the Permit of Stay form, visited the Sforzesco Castle and Sempione Park, but the visit was cut short due to rains.
Milan, Italy

John spent most of the day in a park, with Eiren and another friend arrived from Norway to visit them. They saw a couple castles and museums, from the outside...
Sforzesco castle, Milan

Day 5
Mitesh went for the second time to the Duomo. Why? "I strongly believe that its architecture is so compelling that you can visit it several times, each time exploring something new and exciting!". He walked through the Piazza Sant'Ambrogio upto the Sforzesco Castle and it was a very beautiful walk indeed!
Duomo of Milan, Italy

John received 2 more friends from Norway, they found a new hotel and made plans for what to do in the next days. Decided to go to Cinque Terre, so they started renting car and hotels.
Day 6
Mitesh went to Como (which has a beautiful lake, just like the Himalayan town of Mirik!! - I'm joking!). He saw the Duomo, the old Roman city, the Volta’s monument and went with the funicular up to the lighthouse. The view from the lighthouse of the whole town of Como and the lake was beautiful and worth the trek.
lake Como, Italy

John went to Genoa by car and then to Cinque Terre with friends. They spent the day at the beach and eating good food, getting drunk and playing cards (maybe here is when previous days become one big blur - Joking again!).
Day 7
Mitesh started classes at Bocconi University, from 8:45 in the morning to 18:00 in the evening.
John walked through the five small cities in Cinque Terre, enjoyed the beautiful nature, buildings and atmosphere. They planned how to drop off Eiren's friend at a bus in Genova (she went back to Norway), and booked new hotels close to Pisa and Florence for the next days, to keep traveling.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre

3. They said their first impression about Italy and Milan was...
Mitesh: "The people here are very warm. They greet you every time you meet them. The city is not very different from a typical Indian town: lots of people who pride in the rich historical legacy, passion for food and music, relaxed way of doing work etc. However, it’s difficult to communicate since most people don’t understand English, even in supermarkets. Although many people tell me that Milan is an economical city in Italy, it is still at least 2-3 times more expensive than India. That apart, the people are very fashionable here (as expected), as if going to a party every day. Even the policemen are dressed very smartly."
John"Italy is sunny and nice. Very few people speak english. Some people are insanely helpful, to the degree they will let you live at their house, even though they do not understand what you're saying. Others don't even want to look at you..."

5. They had to face big issues...
Mitesh's biggest problem has been the language, since most people speak only in Italian and even the signs at major places are in Italian only. Right from locating items in the supermarkets to paying bills to filling forms, language comes as an impediment everywhere. He started understanding a few words now and he’s more comfortable but far from solving the problem yet. To read signs and to locate items in supermarkets, he’s installed an app called Word Lens which scans the Italian words and gives the English translation. It works offline, so he's not using data pack. he also started learning some Italian through a language course.
John's biggest issue was finding an apartment. he's in a group of 4 friends travelling, and they were determined to live together. Renting for 4 people (4+ single bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms, living room, kitchen, etc) is very very hard, and even more so when you can only stay for a shorter period of time. They got help from an Italian (friend of a friend) to find an apartment and arrange a deal, but had a huge problem with this for a very long period.

6. But they also discovered delighting things...
Mitesh really enjoyed the brilliant assortment of pizzas in the city. Particularly for a vegetarian, food is a big problem in a new city, but he has not faced any problems yet. The pizzas are very good to taste, very fulfilling and good value for money. When he's not cooking, he goes around with friends to find a new pizzeria and try out new varieties of vegetarian pizzas.  
John fell in love with awesome Cinque Terre. The beach was nice, the cities were better, and walking in the landscape between them indescribable.

7. And they already have been traveling around Italy, discovering gorgeous places...
Mitesh already explored a lot of Milan and went to see the Como lake. 
He's planning to go around the rest of Italy, Switzerland and San Marino in the first and second weeks of October.
John has already been to Lake Como, Genoa, Cinque Terre, Pisa and Floence. Not bad for the first two weeks!
Florence, Italy
View of Florence
Thanks a lot to John and Mitesh for sharing their story with Gadders Blog!

And if you are planning a trip to Milan soon,  click here to start looking for a cheap accommodation!

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