Months of planning have passed by and I am finally in Italy testing my family’s reaction to gauge whether my love and passion for this diverse land is one-sided or not. I initially referred to them as guinea pigs and they were most offended. My cousin’s doctor hubby suggested that I refer to them as petri dishes (and they are good bacteria :-))who are assisting me to culture the perfect itinerary for my first shopping and fashion tour. Over 48 hours in and I do think that they are thoroughly enjoying the trip thus far even though all the stark differences between Europe and Africa are highlighted and just cannot be missed. Milan is indeed a pleasant culture shock and even an eye-opener as to just how much room for improvement there is back home in Joburg. We checked into the Grand Visconti Palace Hotel in Milan after a tiring 14 hour flight transiting through Dubai. We could hardly sleep on the plane surrounded by rowdy passengers and freezing air, so we were eagerly awaiting the comfort of our lavish rooms where we could rest horizontally – without electric blankets – for just a few hours before kicking off our sightseeing and splurging excursion. The rooms at the hotel offer a relaxing view of the garden while the lobby displays a fascination with Marilyn Monroe artwork. On the whole, it’s a fabulous four-star hotel with a great location only four metro stops away from the city centre.
I planned this trip starting off with Milan; a city which I navigate easily without a map, a city which has hidden architectural and artistic treasures waiting to be discovered and a city which acts as a marvelous first stop for tourists allowing the following Italian cities to amaze even further as we go along. From Milan, the journey can only become more impressive Under the hot Mediterranean sun, braving the harsh rays without a hat and sunglasses, I attended the Larusmiani presentation of their winter 2013 collection and then introduced my family to Milan with the city’s most breathtaking sight, the magnificent Duomo; a gothic marble wonder that is so intricately carved – it even sports a scenario of a gruesome beheading. We walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan’s four floor arcade of designer stores through to Piazza Alla Scala where Leonardo Da Vinci’s statue stands. We then went to Brera for seafood pizza and natural gelato at Amorino. And our dose of shopping was administered on Via MonteNapoleone where my cousin, Yasmeen, added this gorgeous two-toned pair of wedged sandals from Bruno Magli to her shoe collection – a first of several more irresistible purchases to come
After a long day, with the sun still shining beautifully at 8:30 in the evening, we gathered to drink tea and I noted their first impressions of Italy’s economic hub.
Family feedback after Day 1:
The Italian men are beautifully chiselled as if sculptured by Da Vinci himself
A two-day transport ticket costs R80 and can be used for unlimited trips – excellent value for money
Efficiency of the public transport system is fascinating because it’s so safe, clean and reliable
Salespeople are very helpful in Milan and workmen are very courteous
The atmosphere and safety of night time strolls along the streets are surreal
The city is calm even though it’s constantly bustling
Italians place a lot of emphasis on aesthetic appeal even when renovating buildings by hiding the building work with artistic canvas – very clever
Taxi drivers are so calm (they hardly curse) even though roads are busy and Italians drive pretty crazily