All right fair reader, let me tell you something: if you're ever in Milan, there are two things you must do. 1) Visit the Duomo. That's a must. And don't just look at it... go inside. It won't bite, I promise. 2) Go to PRINCI and try a bit of everything. I kid you not--everything. But wait, what's Princi, you ask? Don't worry, I've gotcha covered:
I know, I know, I know. Yum. And you wanna know the best part? It didn't just look incredible, it tasted incredible too. But see, my stomach wasn't the only happy-camper that day. No, not at all.
Did you know it's my "not-so-secret-fantasy" to own a European bakery one day? Oh, if only I were kidding...
So while the food was great and my tummy was happy, it really was my soul that was smiling that day. Because in my book, there's really nothing better than sitting in a bakery. There's just something sexy about the stillness. The savory smells. The soft sweets. Oh gosh, it really is my favorite pastime.
The dog was an added plus.
But on a more serious note, I really do love the atmosphere of European bakeries. The beautiful languages spoken. The quality of the ingredients. The presentation of the food. The array of people. All of it. Absolutely all of it.
But enough from my bakery brain; you wanna hear about my 5th weekend abroad. Right, sorry, lets expLaur :)
All right, so week 5. Oh boy week 5...
In hindsight, the motto for the weekend should have been "expect the unexpected." At the time, however, I went for the good ol' fashion "yolo"
With that being said, let me start out with a little piece of advice for anyone studying abroad.
Go to a concert; be spontaneous. Trust me, do it.
Seeing artists perform live is a blast-- even at home. But there's just something to be said about seeing a show abroad. You really get a feel for the culture.
And, it's strange. You make this weird connection. You start to see that even though you're a thousand miles from home and surrounded by strangers who don't speak your language.... there you both are, singing the same songs and dancing to the same beat. It's quite a universal experience, but at the same time a very cultural one as well. And that's what I love most about traveling. Those types of epiphanies right there.
So yeah, week 5 let me cross an event off my bucket list. I saw a concert abroad; I ventured out to Turin for a surprise concert and saw the Chainsmokers. Who would've thought I'd ever do that?
What a thrill, what a thrill.
But to be honest, my weekend didn't start out all that thrilling. Actually, by the time the end of the school-week rolled around, I was ready to just... take it easy.
And hey, all of my friends were going to places I'd already been. So, I decided to just stay home-- alone. I don't mind being alone, I really don't. I actually quite enjoy it sometimes.
I'd explore Verona. Catch up on some sleep. Relax. Write. You know, chill. Find a few bakeries and just be still. I was actually kind of excited for my weekend alone...
But then this guy decided to crash my party.
If you couldn't tell from the awkward picture of him covering up the extra "e"... that's Michel. And don't worry. He's not some random Italian I picked off the street; we were in school together. Anyway, he decided his friends' plans didn't quite appeal to him that weekend either. So we ended up making our own plans instead.
We'd take some day trips we agreed. Milan one day, maybe Padua. Lake Garda or Parma even. Nothing too crazy, just casually touring nearby towns. And hey, it would be nice to get to know someone else on the program outside of my immediate group of girl friends.
So after more an hour of planning, we had our weekend mapped out. It was going to be another great weekend, and I was excited to just...take it easy.
So I got under my thin, coarse covers, happy and content with the plan. As my eyes were shutting following a long day, I got a text. It was Michel; he had a new idea.
"Change of plans. The Chainsmokers are playing in Turin Saturday night...you in?" he asked with an excitement that bled through the phone. A link to the music festival followed. And just like that, my calm, relaxing weekend turned into something quite different. But I'm oh so glad it did.
To my delight, however, the weekend began pretty calm and relaxing. It was Friday (school ends Thursday!!!!!), and we decided to splurge on the 9 euro bus fare to go to Lake Garda. Not Lake Como (thanks George Clooney for confusing my readers...) but Lake Garda. It's quite similar to Lake Como, but apparently even more beautiful, or so say the locals in Verona.
Here, take a look:
It was only about an hour away, so we figured, why not?
Plus, we had heard so many great things from other people who had been there. Now it was our turn.
The two of us strolled around with nothing planned. No sights to see, really. No prior knowledge about much. No restaurants looked up. Nothing. Just the two of us and our feet, taking us along the beautiful ,crystal-clear coastline.
Oh, and my four different cameras. Michel made fun of me. But, I didn't care. He'd thank me later. The pictures would be well worth the awkward lengths taken to get them. Or so I hoped.
And so we roamed and expLaured the town.
It was an overcast day, but for some reason that made it all the more beautiful. The sky was dramatic and bright. It almost looked like sunset, but ah, the sky lies. It was only midday.
The ocean was clear and clean. Pink rocks lined the shore. I made Michel look for heart shaped ones for about 15 minutes. Really, I did, ask him. And though he'd never admit it, I think he kind of enjoyed it too. I found two cuties and slipped them in my pocket. I'd find them a few weeks later and smile.
But actually though, the two of us had a great time there, strolling around at a leisurely pace, the sea breeze flying through our long hair, just you know, getting acquainted. Learning each other's life story. And you know what? Turns out we had a lot more in common than you'd think.
Well, for one thing, we both love indulging in deep conversation. So you can imagine we had some fun. And we did. We hummed and sang some random songs; one of us would start a verse, the other would finish. We'd talk about our past, present, and future. Stuff like that. I'd found a wonderful friend, I thought. Speaking of wonderful friend, when Michel and I decided to go further up the coast and go to Malcesine, we met this friend on the bus:
His name is Pietro, and yes, he is Italian. He actually lives not too far away from where we planned on going. He enticed us to visit his town rather than Malcesine, for he spoke of his home town's natural beauty. And who's to argue with an Italian? So we did it. When the driver stopped at Malcesine, we kept riding along, off to Riva. And we didn't even mind...it was quite the beautiful journey.
And a short 15 minutes later we had arrived.
Drop-dead gorgeous. I know.
But when we hopped off the bus, Pietro wasn't looking around like Michel and I were. (It's kind of funny how you become numb to your surroundings, you know?) Instead, he noticed Michel's shoes... grey vans. Or maybe super dirty white ones. Who knows.
"Daaaaaaaaamn Daniel, back at it again with the white vans!" Pietro said with a smile.
...What? What did he just say?? Oh. My. God. I know. It was that viral video that everyone was watching in class the other day. How the hell did this Italian guy know it? Gosh, the world really is small, isn't it? And oh so connected. Thanks, YouTube, you sure are fabulous. Almost as fabulous as this town.
And, thank you Pietro, for teaching Michel how to be thee most annoying human being on the planet with his new favorite catchphrase; yup, you guessed it...daaaaaamn daniel.
(just for reference.... here's the video )
Every few steps that's all I heard. "Damn Daniel...... daaaaaaaaamn Daniel. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamnnn Daniel! Back at it again with the white vans!!!"
Oh boy. This is going to be a long weekend, I thought to myself. So I jokingly rolled my eyes, laughed, and kept walking. He's lucky we already bonded, or I might have strangled him. But even I'll admit, sometimes it was pretty funny.
Once we got to the city center, we said our thanks and goodbyes with Pietro and agreed to meet up back in Verona, where he happens to go to school too. Small world indeed.
And then it was just Michel and me, expLauren another little town. And boy, was Pietro right. Natural beauty might be an understatement.
Here, take a look.
So, we walked around in amazement of the world's natural beauty. And stopped for gelato too, of course.
After a few hours of aimless roaming, we rode back on one of the most ghetto busses you might ever find. Inappropriate etchings on all the seat backs. Graffiti-like scratches on the windows. Torn fabric with exposed foam puffing out of the seats. Young Italian boys, being well, young, loud Italian boys. But we, or at least I, somehow managed to nap almost the whole way home.
It was just about dinner time when we got back to Verona. We stopped at good ol' Signorvino for some wine and made our way back to the residence. On the menu for dinner: pesto pasta. Made by yours truly. Oh and Michel too.
We sat down, ate our fancy feast, clinked our wine glasses and did what we do best: talk.
Next morning was an early one. I honestly don't even remember how early, I just remember I didn't like it. But we were going to Milan, so there wasn't much to complain about.... I mean...
Oh, and did I mention Michel is Catholic? I mean like really Catholic. So it was nice to have him around; teach my little Jewish self some Catholicism. We looked around in wonderment at the Duomo and all her glory. She really was divine.
Then I indulged in a little Milano tradition.
Don't ask me why this is a thing. It just is. European towns have too many strange, strange traditions. Like groping Juliet's boob in Verona, for instance. Same deal. Except this is circling around the bull's balls...
Like I said, don't ask me.
Then of course, it was time for food. YAY PRINCI.
Then, well, we were in Milan. Fashion capital of the world. So what did we do? Yes, we went shopping. Oh, and did I mention it was Fashion Week?
Yeah, so that was fun.
Then it was time. The moment had arrived. Turin was calling.
I may or may not have slipped whilst I was running to catch the train (what is it with me and running to trains?!) and Michel may or may not have laughed at me, but it was all good. We made our train and were off to our concert.
A few pitstops and a change of clothes later, we made it.
Then it was concert time. And it was fabulous.
The next morning, we went to a little coffee shop our Airbnb host recommended to us called Al Bicerin.
CUTEST. COFFEE SHOP. EVER.
I MEAN EVER. JUST LOOK AT IT IN ALL ITS GLORY.
How adorable?! And get this: it's from the 1700s.
I know I went a little nuts too. It's okay.
The place is known for its "hot drink- a mixture of espresso, chocolate ( the process is a well-guarded secret) and fresh cream," a historic Turin classic they say.
Everything was just so darling, I couldn't stop taking pictures...
Bottom line is, if you're ever in Turin, I'd get your butt over to this quaint n' cute cafe. Well worth it.
So after that piece of perfection, we toured the town. A town that was never really on our radar, but definitely should have been; it was beautiful, even in the rain. Perhaps the rain made it all the more beautiful anyway.
With the dome outlining the city's skyline peaking out of the heavy, grey clouds, it was quite beautiful. It's no wonder the Olympics were held there in 2006.
Then it was back to Milan.
Before we left, we made a gelato pitstop. Because, well, you just have to.
It was well worth it too. Pure bliss.
Oh, and somewhere along, the way we ended up in China Town and ate there and saw a herd of baby french bulldog puppies, and the two of us almost keeled over from cuteness. Ugh, I wish I had a picture of that moment... it really was wonderful.
And then, just like that, it was back to reality.... if you can even call Verona reality.....
Your Italian little expLaurer