My first week in Italy was so particular that I will never forget it. It have been decided to send me to Milano to present my last design project, that was the first time such big trip wasn’t planed by me, I regret it…
My University had chosen some of my classmate to represent the school and especially our Master to the design fair. I was at the beginning not included but due to some organisational problem – already – it has been offered to me the opportunity to go to Italy to solve it. It even seemed that I would be the lucky one when I negotiated a little more free time than the others. We were presenting a project I did, kind of pushbike that can also be ride on the snow. The place of exhibition was situated outside Milano, between the cities of Rho and Fiera Milano, approximately 20 minutes from Milano by subway.
Our place of accommodation was out of Milano as well, situated on the lake coast of Major Lago that city is a charming place and the view great by nice weather: I can saw the mountains, the lake, and some Italian villages on the other side.
Epic arrival and first contact with local Italians
After a full morning totally improvised for which I had to run to center to down-town to repair other Estonian mistakes (from students) and pass on exam in a record time, I could went to the airport Lennujaam. I didn’t wait for anything and everything was actually pretty fast giving me some time to get bored before having the possibility to get boarding.
German airline company
Lufthansa is a German company that I have never used, preferring low cost flight. I was kindly surprise by the service: food and unlimited free drinks! Not that I miss it when I fly between France and Lithuania, but I just needed a snack and the hostesses brought to me The whole flight have been without problem, I will just complain about the Frankfurt airport: I know they have the right to make goods prices according to whatever, but they are really too much expensive, I can’t even have word for what I saw… Smallest pot of Nutella for almost 7 euros! Seriously these guys should came back to the ground.
Bergamo airport and my first contact with Italian
Things got more complicated after when I arrived in Italy. Firstly Bergamo airport is far from Stresa. Secondly arrival terminal looks worse than the Zilina train station. I had to take a car my University rented for me. It have been super funny after 5 hours in a plane and no sleep to fight with a stupid asshole of this company. I couldn’t took the keys before the « informative » time of the reservation, and I had to pay for about 400 euros of deposit and insurance, money I didn’t have. When I say 400 euros I should mention it was the reduced price and I should have paid 1500 euros… as the Polish guy before me did.
When I finally got the keys the clock shown 23:00 and I knew that I had to drive for at least two more hours, but became more funny when 1) I didn’t had GPS, 2) the guy didn’t tell me correctly where the car was, 3) I was tired. So here I was, running with my heavy bag and large package outside the airport on the immense parking in the night under the rain. I needed 30 minutes to find the car, helped by local worker.
Long drive to Stresa
Once the car found I – just – had to find my way to Stresa in the Italian countryside. I though to reach Milano and book a room but decided to be a little nuts and drive to Stresa without any indication, not to mention that Stresa weren’t on any road signs! I only followed my instinct and highway in direction of Switzerland. Because I don’t trust myself so much that night I preferred to stopped and asked my way at a gas station. There an Italian guy nicer than those I met before explain me the way quite accurately and with his advices I found my final point! Then it have been a pleasure to search for my hotel. I only knew the name and at 2am I could difficultly find someone to show me the way. Friends on phone tried to explain but I can’t understood them. My lucky star was a police man who didn’t speak any word of English. He gently led me to my hotel’s street where my classmate were! I parked the car and join them for late drinking before my working day.
Driving to Fiera Milano
After my hard night my mates let me slept until 10am and had good breakfast in the fourth star hotel (what should have expected?). I met there the two Estonian organizers and talked. We arranged to go together to the fair with me driving. I liked to drive by the lake, the first day was pretty shiny and I haven’t driven for a while. I haven’t though about one thing: nobody knew where Fiera Milano was… and as Stresa it is not marked on road signs.
One afternoon at the booth in which I met two of my international classmate, I didn’t visit the whole exposition because it was really big, like a little city! Many people were interested in our projects and I enjoyed to talk to so many people From 13:00 to 19:00we stay stood up because nobody though about given us a chairs… In a fair of indoor furniture we looked quite ridiculous on that point…
We left and stopped in McDonald’s and super market: in Stresa shops are close very early. On the way back we even took time to admire the lake by night, calm and nice. In the evening we had a dinner in a restaurant, I tried different meals and drink, all were tasty!
Sky is grey
For my second day in Italy I had a full free day to spend with my friends. Milano is the fashion city and countless of tourists came the to enjoy the sun. Thee city itself is not ugly but crowed and I felt something I don‘t like, the same impression that I have with Paris or Vienna, those big cities are not in my heart.
Our train arrived in Garibaldi station after a two hours journey during which I did my home task for school. The weather was a little cold and very cloudy, the rain even came at the end. None of us had idea of what to see and the map wasn’t super informative, then we walked from a street to another without so much expectation. We have seen the center of the old town starting with the main interests: The Duomo square, its Cathedral and black sellers (there I really felt like in Paris), the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the Leonardo statue, the Teatra… We also walked to the Sforza Castle situated at the end of the high street Dante with in the its middle the equestrian statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi. This castle can be among my favouritism by its look: classy and authentic. Behind it is a large park, in which we took rest and fresh air in the trees shadow, that leads to the Sempione square where a arch stands.
We continued to Cadorna station and took a metro to San Basila. We saw there a fountain and the church of Saint Babila. Later when the rain fell we decided to take a train at Centrales and not in Garibaldi to come earlier to Stresa, we have saved 30min!
Returning to Lago Maggiore
It was my last day with the car and I proposed to drive to Verbania, the largest city around the lake. The weather turnt rapidly into fully cloudy and rainy came fast. Verbania seems empty city but I guess it was due to the bad weather. Almost no restaurant were opened and we found one after have walked by the lake for sometime. Interesting thing was the Dom Saint Giuseppe and the War Memorial. Our restaurant made good pizzas but forced us to tip each 1,5 euros… very nice.
Why did I have a car…
The funniest part of the day appeared in the late evening when we wanted to refill the car in gas. I learnt how Italians gas stations work and I hate it now. It have been a nightmare trip who screwed our night and my next day as well. We first got lost on the way and try to refill at a station on a wrong way, we before tried three other station but never ever our credit cards were accepted. In the last the machine was joking with us, keeping our 50e banknote and telling us to come back in next days from 6am to be money returned! If I wanted to save time for tomorrow the situation turned to be even worse than I could have imagine, because I had to return the car in the early morning in another city far from here…
Pissed off we spend our last night in hotel together with a bottle of Whisky watching old photos and talking about our incredible semester until 2am…
The most exhausting day of the week
Driver the morning and pedestrian the afternoon
After a short night (4 hours) from 5:30am I drove Kirill to the airport of Malpensa which is at 1h30 from Stresa. I saw that road signs are just jokes in Italy: the airport or city isn’t written on main signs but sometime shown on very little paper on the floor! After I let him for its plane I had to drive back to Gravalona to find the so famous gas station: without no maps it was terribly hard! I also refilled the car there and paid more than 50 euros. After I drove back again to Malpensa to bring the car to the car renting office… It made me loose more than two hours.
From the airport took a train to Milano. I was asking for a ticket to Rho-Fieramilano, office guy was probably another Italian asshole because he asked me to pay 11 euros for the ticket. I was surprise when I compare with what train cost from Stresa: 7,5 euros. I had only 10 euros cash that I showed him, and I took my credit card to pay the eleven. He immediately said me that „ten is ok“ and give me quickly an already printed ticket for 10 euros. On it was written 10 euros value. That was the proof that he only wanted to get money for himself. I jump in the train at the platform he told me „to Fiera Milano“. The driver reminded people that it was direct train to Milano and thinking that I was in the wrong one I left it. Actually there are only train going to Milano, none stopped in Rho/Fieramilano… again here it‘s „pay and shut up“.
Once in Milano Centrales I took metro to Fiera, very crowed and hot. I arrived at the fair with my new „free entrance“ ticket but can’t enter: ticket was valid for the periods of before and after I was actually in Fiera this week… totally useless because I don‘t want to come back at the fair on my free days. Others classmate had their free entrance for the days they were attending the fair, just saying.
Second day at the design fair
I met Ender who stayed all morning, I was supposed to help him for the whole day. The afternoon was quite, not so many people then I spend some time with the Japanese from Osaka who had a booth in front of us with comfortable chairs.
Italians on strike
When the day finished we packed and went to train station where we met our Chinese classmate. We learnt that Italians were on strike and that had huge incidence on the traffic: all trains had delay if not cancelled. I talked with a cool Italian who didn’t speak English but French with Italian words, interesting discussion I had
No direct train were going to Stresa and we had to take one to Gallarate. It arrived with 40min delay. It stopped in that city, mental picture of a bad suburb city I saw so far. We searched for a restaurant but all were close since 20:00, even the station cafeteria have closed at 21:00. Chen found a Chinese food market and brought us some dishes, I liked the gesture but not the food 😀 We arrived at the hotel around 23:00 and I went straight to my bed.
Warm day and special company
Meeting my lovely Erasmus friend
When I heard that I could probably go to Milano I informed one of my old Erasmus friend who lives there. She didn’t manage to came to Tallinn with a common friend few weeks ago, but we arranged a day to meet Milano and explore the city together. That was my fourth day in Italy and the first when I can enjoy a truly warm weather.
I over slept and read a message from Marta « We can meet at 11:30 in Loreto station! ». I took a quick shower and went to the station after my heavy breakfast. Because only few trains are leaving from Stresa to Milano couldn’t miss one. I was really happy to see her after such a long time, almost two years have flown since the end of our Erasmus…
Long walk to the center
We walked from Loreto to Duomo, crossing the Caselli Daziari di Porta Venezia and the park Giardini Pubblici where water games were installed and children were playing, later on the way we met the Monumento a Sandro Pertini that she called « Quadrilatero della Moda » referring to Milano’s quarter. After she brought me to a restaurant on the side to the Cathedral, I was expecting two things: a banal tourist place serving expensive food. But it was not! She ordered pasta and me a pizza, both were delicious! Moreover the pizza was pretty cheap! For seven euros my mouth has enjoyed a lot.
After the good meal we crossed the Gallery and she explained me what people were doing on a bull’s mosaic. People put their feet on its genital and turn three time to get luck in their life. Not sure if it actually works but the fact is that the mosaic is severely damaged.
Exploring the southern Milano
We walked to the castle where we made a break by the fountain which gave us some freshness. The route continued to the Cardona station, the colourful monument I have seen last day is a noddle and symbolizes the Milano fashion style! Qué bene! Near it is a ice cream restaurant where I got for 3 euros an impressive and tasty three-savours ice cream: chocolate, vanilla and stracciatella! I don’t know how I managed to not drop it on the floor!
She showed me three good other places: the Universita Catolica, the church of Saint Ambrogio and the square of Saint Lorenzo. I liked the style of the University with to gardens and corridors surrounding nice little square with trees in the middle. The church also looks good, especially from its courtyard. But sincerely for me the best sightsee was the basilica of Saint Lorenzo and the old Roman columns and statue of Constantine the First. We had a last drink in a café before she had to leave me for the day. She went search to her car and I went search for my classmate. We promised to keep in touch and to try to arrange another meeting before my departure.
Channels and tourist places
When I saw that Milano has several channels I ask Marta if it was worst to see, she advice me to go because the area is pretty animated. I walked in direction to the channels and saw the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio. Milano has three important channels all located on the southern part of the city. The main is along Alzaia Naviglio Grande starting from the Piazza XXIV Maggio were a large arch stands, and has countless restaurant and pubs. Beside that the place is nothing special: channels are not particularly beautiful.
It is where I met Ender and one of his friends. We talked at a terrace for sometime before I moved back to the city center. I walked to the church of Saint Maria de Grazie and used the metro to Duomo. Hungry I wanted to have a dinner but it was too late and I couldn’t miss the last train to Stresa. I really hate the location of this city that obliged us to depend of the train. It made impossible to enjoy the city in a fresh evening. So I took my train at Centralne where I met Ender again and we have been lucky to have a fast train! It took just one hour! Later I spent my night to pack my bags to bring to a different hotel…
Fieromilano‘s fair is finish
Not surprising morning troubles
Sunday morning started good when I realized that trains had different schedules that day. Forget the 7:51 train, I had to use the 8:29. I didn’t had time to have breakfast because I woke up to late for it, just enough time to do the check-out. I wanted to do it quickly but the hotel didn‘t let me do it so fast. Firstly I had to wait for hotel guy to take off stuffs from breakfast tables, there were enough free table and a woman was actually working on that task..Secondly he asked me to pay 5 euros for the „Tassa di Segiorna“… Thing that none of my friends had to pay, that I realized later.
With the little time I had to catch the train of 7:51 I ran, reached the station and be informed that no train are going at that time on Sunday. I was proposed to take either 8:14 or 8:29. I logically waited for the first one. But I remembered that I was in Italy and everything can happen! I looked at the time schedule and was – not – surprised to see that 8:14 train arrived in Rho almost one hour after the train of 8:29! Off course when I realised it was too late to came back to hotel for breakfast. Instead I walked a bit by the lake with my heavy bag for a last time. The sky was really good and I enjoy the view on the mountain.
Disassembling the booth
Once in the train I texted my team mates… that were also late but because they overslept. For them seemed no problem with that. Whatever. I would prefer them to not come when I saw how the day was going: me standing alone and they visiting all building for 5 hours. When they came back I was really tired and we still had to break and pack the booth. Everything must be sent to Estonia the morning after. Off course I will go alone while they will enjoy their full last day together in Milano.
I left them (they went to Stresa) after and went to metro station were I was supposed to find a way to my hotel. For my two last nights Estonian have planed to change my hotel location. Instead of Stresa I should have slept in a city in the South of Milano. I had my reservation document and called the hotel to know how to reach them. Answer was pretty funny: « take metro until the last station and then a bus, but tonight buses have stopped going 10 minutes ago, better take a taxi which will cost 30-40 euros ». What could I done? I was exhausted, without money and my phone was running out of battery… I texted friends to know what hotel was cheap in Milano, I got answer and decided to reach it to save money (for me and my school). Hostel never answer my calls and I was lucky that they still had one bed free. It cost me 20e (that later my school didn’t wanted to pay, despite they shitted the organisation).
Hotel California was the name. Remember it because it is the worse hostel I have ever been. Worse than what people usually think about Eastern Europe statements! I won’t be exhaustive but; dirty, crowed, no plugs, no WiFi, three showers and three WC for 80 people, reception not especially friendly… I even had an argument with one.
In addition to all what happened I didn’t find time for lunch. I left hostel to search for a pizzeria at 22:00, tired and sad. Only kebabs were working in this special district. There again restaurant force me to tip…
« Are you kidding me?! » day
No more responsibility
After a surprising good night in a bad place I woke up and find a free shower. I prepared my big bag and tried to dress comfortable: outside it was warm andI had to deal with a jacket that cannot fit in my bag. The plan was to go to Fieramilano to meet a delivery man who will take all our material with him. To be short: I needed 40 minutes of metro, 15min of walk to reach my building, and wait there for one more hour. When the man came it took him 2 minutes to take everything and leave me alone. Then I have again 1h ride to Milano. Very effective and useful. I didn’t know how to use that time better. The good point was that after I was exempt from managerial task. The rest of my stay can be dedicated to myself… what I though…
I managed to enjoy the city somehow
My first task for the rest of the day was to leave my bag and jacket somehow. The day was incredibly hot for me and I couldn’t survived with my stuff. I read that in the central train station are lockers for luggages. Usually in the city I have needed it (Vienna, Krakow, Warsaw and even Tallinn) the service is fast: you can either have access to boxes or have guys that take your bag quickly. In Milano is nothing of that. It took me 45 minutes! People are waiting in a long line. The reason is that – like in an airport – all bags are scanned in X-Ray, it came in addition to very unfriendly security guys. When you left your bag you agreed to some funny rules such « they are free to open the bag » and « if something is missing it is not the responsibility of the service » Also you pay for one item, not for a space in a box. I had to forget my idea to put my jacket and my bag together, but had to put the jacket in the overfull bag. One tourist even joked with me saying that my bag will explode.. I kept my small backpack with me, in which I fit a pullover (perfectly useless) and my camera bag.
I left the station and started my long visit. On my luggage ticket was written that I paid for a 5 hours services, and I decided to not spend more time in the center. I will pick my bag before the deadline and go to the hotel for a long sleep…
The central station look really cool from the outside with massive statues on the roof and large esplanade in front of the main entrance. I followed the Vittor Pisani avenue that led me to the large park Marta brought me two days ago. I have been to the Universita Statale and the tower Velasca, the whole surround is nice and many students were sunbathing in this quarter. Some ruins can be found near the church of Saint Alexander such the remains of the apse of San Giovanni in Conca. When I have reach the Cathedral square I took time to search for souvenir to bring to friends, and had an delicious chocolate ice cream which was melting fastly! I finish it when I was on the Via Mercanti.
After that I walked to the church of Saint Lorenzo, maybe the nicest church and square of Milano, and ended in the metro station called Saint Ambrogio. It is a station from the green line and that I had to take to go to Centrale for my luggage. When I was in the main train station I enjoy to loose my mind with the metro ticket, paying twice for a simple way because my brain wasn’t thinking enough. I bought a special ticket valid for the metro and for the bus that I must took to find my new hotel.
Do you want more?
With my valid ticket I used the metro for 40 long minutes in the hotness of the subway. It was very uncomfortable but I have survived worse that week. I left at the right station and search for the bus central station. An young man helped me and shown me were to go, then it was easy to find my bus. It came after few minutes and I needed 30 other minutes to arrived in the destination just before 19:00. With my reservation in my hand I walked in the village searching for my hotel. I found it after have got lost.
Best joke ever
My sleeping place was a 4 stars hotel situated in Binasco, a dorm town which seems to only have high quality hotels. I gave – tired – my reservation and ID card to the receptionist. It haven’t took moe than 2 minutes for him to tell me that my nights have been cancelled! Extremely surprised I asked more informations, he called different people to know more about it. Withing 5 minutes he can told me that Estonians cancelled the two nights one weeks ago, the day after they made the reservation and that I should have been informed by them before. He then tried to find free room in other hotel but the cheapest room cost more than 60 euros.
Angry I called Estonian organizer to know what was going on. Without any regret I was told that they made a mistake and for my convenience they preferred to let me stay more in Stresa. But nobody informed me, even told me anything the last day when I met them before they left to Tallinn. Not a single word. How could I know? The good part of the story is that I had to come back to Stresa somehow because if not all the expense of a night in another hotel will be paid by my own, thing I didn’t wanted. I also had to called Stresa hotel to know if they had cancelled my room or not after I have done the check-out.
Already 20:00 and I have run to not miss the last bus for Milano, to take the metro and buy my train ticket to Stresa! Luckily I haven’t missed the bus. When I was in the Centrale station I had almost one hour to have dinner and went once more in McDonalds. I finally arrived in my hotel at 23:00 with the last train. I am thinking what would have happened if I didn’t decided to go early to Binasco. I would have been stuck in that expensive city… In the hotel the receptionist told me with a smile that he was happy to see me back. Why didn’t he tell me before that I had two more night there?
By the way, despite all its hotels, Binasco seems a little charming with small streets, the Parish Of Binasco and a castle next to it. Napoleon burnt down the whole city in the year 1796.
Tuesday was my last day in Italy. I have spend one week there and had to deal with many problems and unexpected surprises. It was also my last night in the Stresa’s hotel. I enjoyed the lazy morning and free breakfast. I did the check out again and was asked to pay 1 euro of city tax, what I refused. Owner didn’t made troubles and let me go catch my train. I slept a bit more in the train on the way to Garibaldi. The day was very warm again and I knew that I will have to carry my jacket and bags.
Cimetero Monumentale, grandma said
Before going to Italy my grand mother told me to visit the biggest cemetery of Milano. I didn’t really understood why, cemetery aren’t especially nice. When I left the Garibaldi station I saw on the map that the cemetery was the only thing to look around. With two hours to kill I chose to check it: it was worst to do. The place is just incredible! A huge park having thousand of giant grave decorated with superb monuments and statues! The entrance is made from the Famedio, a building which looks like a church but which is not. All constructions are unique and can be either Greek, Roman or Gothic.
Going to the airport
I took the Milanese metro a last time between the stations of Garibaldi and Centrale. There I found a bus that was going to Bergamo airport for 5 euros. Several companies are carrying people between the center and the three city airports. I bought my ticket at an outside office, girls are standing there all day and try to catch tourists.
In Bergamo the check-in was also pretty fast and I wait an hour in the airport. I didn’t missed my flight and then didn’t need to spend more time in this country. I was really relieved when I landed in Estonian ground. It was synonym of « no problem anymore » and « normal life recovered ».
Conclusion of a very special week in Italy
I have been almost ten days in Italy, between Stresa an Milano. Before I left it seemed to be a pretty fabulous trip but it rapidly became a nightmare due to the bad Estonian organisation. I had three full free days: the first was during a rainy day, the second was spent with my lovely Erasmus friend during a true summer day, and the lasts were the worse because I had to carry all my bags with me and run from hotel to hotel.