My ID: Train 4:32pm, Friday, 07 June 2002; Stazione Milano Centrale
My Initial Descent into Italy came via the rails, arriving into Milano Centrale after a night’s journey from Munich. Along the way, as the Alps bore down upon me like an intimidating older brother, I saw in the distance countless waterfalls so rugged that man dare not attempt approach. Cutting river valleys that housed rocky streams, and huge mountainside cliffs with trees above. Only water, strong enough to hold the ships of the sea and brave enough to tumble the likes of Niagara and Victoria, could experience these places up close. The Alp lakes were stunning, scattered with islands and vast waterways resting peacefully in the mountains’ pocket.
While I enjoyed my first day walking around Milano, the next few days heading further south in Italy left me with a few impressions, some of which I have subsequently discounted and others with I still hold true today:
- Rome has a lot of bad smells in it!
- I’ve even seen little kids smoking here; everyone smokes!
- Road rules don’t seem to apply to scooters—they are everywhere and do whatever they want!
- Every building has elaborate designs sculpted into it—outside and inside.
- Italian guys are so forward, aggressive and (if you’re a male) unfriendly. Could the stereotypes be true?
- Italian guys wear really, really tight jeans.
- The concept of air conditioning has no meaning in Italy.
- The shoes people wear here look like bowling shoes.
- Many people here have small, prissy dogs…..not the big dogs I’m used to!
- There is no hospitality here. Business owners are rude, and nothing is complimentary.
Over the next several weeks, my impression grew to be that of a stark difference between the North and South of Italy. The further north I got, the more comfortable I felt. This was shaped by a few experiences, such as seeing a brawl break out in a stairwell at Naples’ Central Station within minutes of my arrival there, and some of the shady characters I shared train compartments with in the south.
(Note: Please do not get upset, my Italian friends—this was all taken directly from a journal I kept the first time I was in Italy, and “MyID” is supposed to be an unfiltered, unedited account of first impressions! I know now these aren’t all true :).