Ah Italia! I have traveled there a few times as a kid, and two years ago Matt and I ventured to Rome and Florence. But anyone who has visited Italy knows there is so much to see, it could take a year all on its own (and even then you would probably miss some things)! Originally we planned to skip Italy and save it for another trip when we would have more time. But lo and behold, we found ourselves traveling through Italy on our way to Eastern Europe!
We started in Milan, which was meant to be a quick stopover. We finally got to stay at the first hostel of our trip, called Madama. It was a hip place with free breakfast and aperitivo (which to us is dinner), so we couldn’t pass it up! We were greeted with a free beer and food which is exactly what we needed after a long hot day. Two guys from California named Travis and Casey shared our dorm, and we all instantly clicked. Over the next couple of days we shared stories about our travels over a few hostel beers, and heard a lot about their recent trip to Switzerland.
While in Milan, we decided to do a day of sightseeing. We started with the famous Duomo square and quickly realized we’d seen enough. I’m not sure if maybe we’ve been traveling too much in Europe, but many things are beginning to look the same. And while we are still tourists (I prefer the term backpackers or nomads), we try to avoid unnecessary tourist attractions as much as possible. And the Milan Duomo felt like the definition of touristy. Surrounded by cheap souvenirs, men selling neon helicopters and selfie sticks, and overpriced food. We snapped a few photos, and decided to roam.
Near the financial district, we found a statue of a middle finger. We previously saw it on a city map, and thought it was just being cheeky. We were later informed that the statue actually existed, and that it was constructed as a nice “F*** you!” to big money in Italy. As this is also a symbol of Matt and mine’s love for each other, we knew we couldn’t miss an opportunity to see it!
Next we went to Monumental Cemetery, and monumental it was! It must be a resting place for only the wealthy or royal because every single gravestone was spectacular! Ranging from ornate headstones, to full size statues and huge mausoleums, the amount of decoration was almost overwhelming to look at. Some were modern with glass and asymmetric lines, some were designed after Egyptian pyramids or Roman buildings. Others were just wacky, such as one gravestone that had a sculpture resembling the Death star on it.
Of course there was a fair amount of pizza, gelato, and a computer purchase (?) to round out our stay. Fast forward nine days, interrupted by an awesome yet expensive foray into Switzerland (great salesmanship by Travis and Casey), and we’re back.
For one night we stayed at an Airbnb with a lovely girl named Erica. She was a world traveler and had a job as a flight attendant. When we arrived, honestly, we looked like homeless people. We were sweaty, exhausted from sleeping in a small tent in the rain, and hungry because we couldn’t afford much food with Switzerland’s outrageous prices. But Erica greeted us warmly, gave us a small tour and chatted with us for a bit. Our conversation came easily, and I knew if this wasn’t a one night stay, we would have been great friends! She offered us food and Prosecco, and left us for an early night. We immediately showered, ate, and enjoyed a great night of sleep. The next day she left us free breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, which we happily enjoyed. Erica is one of those people you meet travelling that really uplifts your soul and keep you going. She must know how it feels to be a long-term traveler, and really helped us when we needed it. I know what she did is probably trivial, but to us, it really made our day!