Last week I returned from the adventure of a lifetime; a seven city, seven day trek across Europe with my fiance. Other than Milan, each city was a surprise that he revealed to me day by day as we continued our journey.
I was tasked with planning the day in Milan, so I chose to visit a few sites, including Sforza Castle (pictured behind me above) and the Milan Cathedral (pictured below). Although the old world architecture (complete with remnants of old chain hooks still attached to the corners of buildings) made me feel as though I was in an episode of Game of Thrones, I was really impressed with the preservation of detail in the architecture and the grandeur of the structures.
There was a city-wide food expo taking place that was to feature food from hundreds of countries, so I planned for us to have dinner there after touring the city. Because the expo was large enough to occupy several different exhibit sites in the city, we spent the majority of our day wandering in search of it and we never quite made it to the highly-anticipated Senegalese food exhibit. Although most people spoke English, there were many things lost in translation and we didn't figure out exactly where to go until the exhibit was closed.
We did stroll through the historic Piazza del Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world's oldest shopping malls. I found the people in Italy to be extremely approachable and friendly. Several people stopped what they were doing to give us directions, explain a menu or tell us where to get the best rate on currency exchange (always remember to buy currency from your bank before you leave home).
The food that we eventually found was nothing short of amazing. Everyone has had Italian food before but the seasoning of the food in Milan was totally different. The sauces were robust but also very fresh and light. The meat was tender and thoroughly seasoned but not salty. You could tell that everything was made with care.
Another thing that I was impressed with was how vibrant people were at every stage of life. As we roamed through the streets at night making one final effort to find the food exhibit there were well-dressed older women and men seated out on patios enjoying board games and wine. One lady shouted "I love your dress!" as if she'd wear something just as colorful tomorrow. In the U.S., we have the silliest notions about age, that life starts or stops at certain numbers, that beauty grows or fades at other numbers, and that your ability to enjoy it all will be gone if you let other numbers pass you by. These concepts seemed totally absent from Italian life, as I watched people who appeared to be my grandmother's age mates enjoy themselves late into the night.
I took pictures of an advertisement in the airport that seemed to capture the effervescence of Italians at various stages of life. Dolce & Gabbana's "Viva La Mama" ad campaign celebrates motherhood at every stage, showing pregnant young women and sassy grandmas and various women in between, elegantly dressed in the brand's designs. In my view, the ad represented what I observed as the Italian approach to life; the presence of beauty, style and opportunities to indulge at every stage of life.