When I was planning a trip around Europe with a former friend of mine, we agreed that each of us will choose two cities to visit out of four. It was fair, but it broke my heart because as my options were London, UK and Paris, France, I had to give up to Rome, Italy.
This year I had the opportunity to visit two different cities in Italy. Milan and Syracuse. Even though I have not been able to visit Rome, these two trips have exceeded my expectations about it. I am thrilled about Italy!
First, I think it is important to state that I used to be a person who will want to travel for the sake of just chilling, taking some photos to share on my social media, buy some ‘local gifts’ and that was all. What I wanted was travel just to check them in on Facebook. Nonetheless, the last three years, I have been changing as a person. I learnt to love other cultures, embrace them and be more interested in new experiences, such as being able to see through others’ perspective about their countries and their culture, their food and their ideologies and know how they see me and how they perceive my ideologies. It is beautiful to share my knowledge between different nationalities, different religions, ideologies, cultures and traditions. I have learnt more from my former classmates and all the amazing people that I have met here in the UK than from any education course.
Now, with respect to my trip to Milan and Syracuse, when I found out that I will be able to visit that country that intrigued me so much, I was a new person, ready for discovering and learning a little bit about Italian culture. I must admit that I am delighted with everything that I learnt and saw.
I went there because Angelo and one of his colleagues, Riccardo, had a business trip. Riccardo is Italian, so it was a plus for us. During the first two days, I had to go and explore on my own. It was scary because I am not good at interacting and asking for help. However, people from Milan were incredibly friendly and helpful, I used English as the language to communicate, but then I realised that using a bit of Spanish (My mother tongue) would help me too! Italians will help you as much as they can, especially when you get lost. Of course, I visited the ‘must see’ places in both cities and I am adding some photos at the end of the post. But what I wanted to share first is how amazing Italians are.
As a Latin American person, I am used to be surrounded by very friendly, open, extremely personable people. And you know what? Although I am not like that at all, I love what characterises our people, I secretly get excited when people say to me: ‘I love Mexicans, they are so friendly!’ as soon as they find out that I am Mexican. In the UK, people are incredibly helpful and polite, but they will not talk to you, let’s say on the train during your commuting or while queuing at the bank, apart from a few people of course. In Mexico, that will definitely happen and it is part of our way of living. When I finally visited Italy, I felt transported back Mexico as soon as I put a foot on that land.
Italians are amazing, friendly, happy people. You can see it and you CAN feel it. One of my favourite things to do when I was there, was going out for lunch and dinner. Italians have this amazing and amusing strong tradition of taking lunch and dinner time as a ritual. They do not look at their phone when they are eating, you will not see many Italians having lunch or dinner on their own. Families, group of friends, couples and all of them together gathering for lunch, sharing their days and telling jokes to the whole table. It was beautiful!
I am a person that will stay quiet during a meeting but when I am with my friends of family there is nothing that makes me happier than listening to them and talking. So, when I was in Italy for me was like a ‘déjà vu’ I was able to feel like at these lovely reunions with my loved ones. Italians inspire you, being there and having these beautiful dishes, made with a lot of love, passion and pride while you are listening to the laughs and you can feel the happiness surrounding you. It is just priceless.
I found out that we, and I am talking on the behalf of Mexicans, tend to underestimate Italian food. Pineapple in pizza? LOTS of extra cheese and cream and meatballs in the spaghetti? Italians feel in the same way that we feel about taco bell when we cook their lovely food in such way. (Note: Nothing wrong with eating spaghetti in the way you like, but let’s be honest, as Mexican, I feel a bit disappointed when someone says they love taco bell)
Italians are very proud of their food and, to be fair, they have reasons to be. Their food is just gorgeous. The pizza, the original pizza, with no extra fat but lots of flavours is just fantastic. Riccardo, Angelo’s colleague, was explaining to us that in some parts of the countryside they still eat homemade pasta (He is from a small town where you can eat pasta from scratch). He also took us to a traditional restaurant where I had the most delicious risotto and a tiramisu that I will always keep on my mind and heart.
Another experience was when, during the first day, I went to visit a couple of museums. As I was on my own and with the horrendously bad sense of direction of mine, I ended up, well, I still do not know where I was but I was definitely lost. I was in the middle of the debate of how the hell approach a person (Yes, I can easily spend up to 20 minutes JUST thinking about what I am going to say to someone that I do not know) when a lovely lady came to me and asked me if I was ok, or at least that was what I understood, I replied in English and she told that she did not understand English, at that time I thought I was definitely screwed, but then she pointed to a street map and started to ask me, or at least what I understood, where I wanted to go. I just shown to her the name that I had written in my diary and she pointed the place and then with a very slow speaking and clear voice, supporting her instructions with her hands’ gestures told me which direction I needed to take and where I needed to turn. I am so happy about her helping me out when she saw me with my anxious face.
Another beautiful memory was back in Syracuse. We found a vegan/vegetarian restaurant near to our hotel. We ate there most of the days we stayed. The last day we were in Syracuse, we arrived just forty minutes before they were about to close. They let us come in, they served us food and the most interesting bit was that, because their place was empty apart from us being there, the family (Dad, Mum and three kids) sat with us on the same table and started to talk to us. As they have seen us a few days before, they felt comfortable and made us feel comfortable too. They shared with us how they started their business, introduced themselves and one of the little girls practised her Spanish with us. The girl also told us that she was learning English, Spanish and French after school. It felt so natural, I am not a very open person and for me, talking to strangers can be stressful, but having a casual chat with them felt just right. It was this feeling of welcoming that you can feel in Italy or at least in Milan and Syracuse.
Have you ever been in Italy? Are you Italian? Do you agree with me? I will love to know if someone felt the same way regarding Italy and its culture. Thank you for reading! X
Here are some photos:
Museo del Duomo
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Sforzesco Castle-Castello Sforzesco
Sempione Park-Parco Sempione
La Vigna di Leonardo-Leonardo da Vinci’s vineyard
Nutella & Tiramisu gelatos
Duomo di Siracusa
and some random photos that I took!