Having been in Italy for ~52 hours, this is the first moment I feel truly calm.
No exhaustive preparation can minimize the frightful first day or so of being dropped into a foreign land, without a single friend, and without a familiarity of language, geography, or customs. And no connectivity (away from wifi anyway).
I slept a little on the 7.5 hour flight from New York, but dehydration got me so I landed with a terrible headache that pointed me to the nearest bed for a long crash. (For reference, Emirates was a fabulous way to travel, with ample space, generous meals, and fairly relaxed rules. Plus, an awesome selection of movies.)
My savior was Ray Oliver, a friend of a friend who offered me his place in Milan while he is traveling. It is an adorable 1/1 fifth floor flat on Via Fogazzaro, a block from the Tram 9 line along Viale Montenero, which rings the city center.
I slept for nearly 14 hours, and the next day rose only because my supply of Trader Joe’s protein bars was depleted.
Carrefour is a ubiquitous supermarket in Milan that is mostly cramped and crowded with random selections of products, very few of which would pass for healthy in America. Huge sections were dedicated to candy and cookies, with a passing gloss over organic, ethnic, or fresh products.
I walked home with bananas, hummus, multigrain crackers, pistachios, greek yogurt, sparkling water, and tunafish. And chocolate, obviously.
If only that was all I had to deal with.
Aside from cultural differences and the necessity to fumble through many an Italinglish conversation, the quest in America for a D-V and student visa were only the first of many approvals and documents I would have to procure in Italy.
The first is a codice fiscale, one’s national tax ID, which relates directly to your passport identity and ability to apply for just about anything else (permit to stay, health insurance, metro card, apartment lease). That involved going to the Agencia Entrate.
In order to apply for the permesso (permit to stay, within 8 days of arriving), you have to show proof of health insurance. In order to get that, you need to visit a post office and pay them â‚¬151.77, then visit the Regional Health Department to obtain an ID card good for access to just about any doctor. It will have to be renewed in January 2016.
With these things in hand, the permesso can be applied for at only a select few post offices. I intend to visit the Duomo branch tomorrow. This will cost anotherÂ â‚¬153.50 all told.
Next, I will get an appointment to appear at a police station, where I will be fingerprinted and photographed. After another period of days, I will return to get my final permit and national ID card, which is valid for 12 months, upon which I will have to repeat these steps.
Currency exchange: $5o0 at a time only (1x/day) at most banks. Maybe just the Intensa SanPaolo branch I chose…
Italian Bank: can only open account once you have tax ID, which I plan to do tomorrow.
Italian phone: Choose from either TIM, Vodaphone, WIND, or 3. I chose WIND, if only for their orange brand theme. ~â‚¬35/mesa (month) for a Samsung Galaxy Alpha (Europe-only phone?), 2 GB of data, and unlimited calls/texts. 12 month contract.
Apartment: OyÃ©! Talk about a headache. No one responds to e-mails. Everything is done through a broker, so far as I can tell. The school arranged for me a housing consultant, who is understandably consumed with incoming students looking for all variations of accommodation. She made two appointments for me, one at a place that was basically an attic, forÂ â‚¬1100/mo, and another that I never got to see, because I was late, had no phone to contact the landlord, and was sketched out by the neighborhood anyway…
Thus, I have taken to searching myself. A 2-room (bed and living) in the nicer areas is hard to come by for less than â‚¬900/mo, though I am optimistic.
ATM Milano transit pass: must be applied for in person, at one of six “ATM points” with a picture included. An ordinary annual pass for the urban area isÂ â‚¬330, though I may be able to get one cheaper if I somehow prove I am a student at Bocconi.
Despite the circumstances, I think I am adapting well. I love walking and taking public transit. Milan is not a huge metro, so you can cross town easily on foot, via tram, or using the underground heavy metro rail.
I detoured quickly today through the Galleria to glimpse the greatsâ€”Prada, Gucci, Armani, and Versace. It reminds me of a grand cathedral, only the worship is of a more tangible nature.
I don’t doubt that the frustrations will continue, as will the broken conversations. However, and this is a key difference from living in France seven years ago, the Italians are much friendlier and willing to help out a poor Americano. I usually start by saying good morning, do you speak English? in Italian, and then proceeding to butcher their language, with a shy smile. Mostly, the bureaucrats have been happy to help fill in what I’m missing.
With zen calm, wisdom, and self-soothing ability, I will carry forward, and look to the point at which I am settled, the weather cools down, and classes will force a comforting regularity upon me.
When all that happens, I will update Remarqed. Ciao, arrivederci, and buonasera!
Hey babe…just reading your latest post and the new adventure in Milan definitely made my breathing a little erratic…so amazing that you are actually there! I’m planning on living the next year vicariously through you so just keep the blog rolling… love you!!!!!
Alex, best of luck with school and in your new adventure! We will all enjoy your travels vicariously.
It sounds stressful and wonderful all at the same time. Love the self-soothing line. So incredibly excited for you!
You will flourish~ Milan was made for you, Alex English! Deep breaths through the frustrating and scary times, oh brave adventurer! Hugs…
Excited for you! It looks BEAUTIFUL ! Try to have fun!