I dreamed of visiting Italy and potentially retiring there ever since 1997, the year I started studying the language in grade 10. My Italian teacher made the class enjoyable and brought Italy to life in a way that held my interest where my old French teacher (the reason I ditched) could not.
Cut to 2008, I was working full time and was chosen by my employers to participate in a 6 week youth exchange to Senegal. That was exciting enough until I learned that we would be connecting through Milan on a 10 hour stopover. Not only was I going to Africa but also Europe, both for the first time.
Ten hours is nothing, not even a drop in the bucket but Christine (my co-worker) and I refused to wait around in the airport. We had flown from Toronto with another person who was flying on to Ghana, but he only had 7 hours stopover and with a 50 minute journey into the city he wanted to play it safe.
C and I wanted to explore what we could of Milan even in that short amount of time. After getting the train into the city we grabbed a map, gave it a look over then tucked it away and started walking. We had breakfast – la prima colazione – at one the few open places. We realised that on Mondays barely anything opened until 2:00 pm.
We window shopped a lot as that was all we really could do. Then had lunch, and once stores opened we delved inside. I bought boots which I absolutely loved. Alas they are long gone but my addiction to Italian shoes was born.
Milan had a really chilled out vibe that I liked. Not sure if that was due to few stores being open and the city being really quiet but I instantly liked the city. I was happy to confirm that my far away love of Italy held up once I actually visited.
This really is one of the best ways to discover a city, roaming around aimlessly. I’ve been doing that a lot more in my recent travels and it feels much more rewarding. As a planner and someone who likes to have some structure to things I’m pretty impressed that I’ve been able to transition to this way of travel fairly seamlessly.
When we realised that the time we allowed ourself in the city was coming to an end we had to quickly figure how to get back to the train station. After trying to figure out a route to walk back we realised we had made our way far far away from the station. In semi panic mode we decided to grab a cab. As the driver took us to another station than the one we arrived we passed this church – picture was taken from the cab. We got back to the airport with no further troubles and were primed for the adventure before us in Senegal.
Do you have any short travel tales? What is the shortest amount of time you’ve had to explore some place new?