Nearly two weeks have passed, but it feels like more. Like a month since I saw Tampa’s flooded streets or the inside of my little Beetle.
It’s like slowly opening your eyes wider and wider, until what you saw at the start looks totally different, given the context of time and experience.
Getting around has become much easier, as has keeping in touch via Whatsapp, a non-SMS messenger service, thanks to a WIND Samsung smartphone. No one here texts in the traditional sense. Unfortunately that means having enough mobile data to sustain hefty usage of all the apps.
I also started to embrace the Italian diet, carb heavy as it is. That means eating gelato nearly every day, and mixing in fresh pasta and delicious brioche for breakfast. Real panino is amazing too. The psychological effects of this change are not to be underestimated.
Best of all, I seem to have reached the end of my to-do list for approvals and official stamps. National Sanitary System health insurance, check. Permit to stay (part one), check. Transit card, check. Appartamento, check. I moved in Friday, and really love it! It is the nicest of the places I saw, with modern touches like powered window tapparelle. The kitchen is also all red gloss and gray from IKEA. Chiccccc…
My friend from Tampa Matt Cullen came down from Zurich last weekend, which was a much-needed distraction. We dined out, toured the Duomo properly, and trekked to the Expo on Sunday. We drank and ate a lot, between brunch and aperitivo, and it felt so right. Matt is an expert with wine, and I like food, so we are a good pairing.
After so many days of diving head-first into the bureaucratic nightmare, I have reached the tail end of an adrenaline rush, and decided to treat myself to a couple days of pure tourism. Today, after getting my hair cut, I went to the Duomo, had lunch, and then wandered around the golden triangle of fashion, before finding myself at Italia Independent on Corso Venezia. It’s a brand of eyewear made in Italy with innovative plastics that are highly resistant to damage. Its sister brand, Care Label, makes denim and cotton trousers, also produced domestically. A friend had recommended it to me to find high-quality, moderately-priced jeans.
After an hour trying on various styles and colors, I was happy to leave with several pair. The best way I can describe the materials, cut, and color treatments of Care Label is Diesel several years back, crossed with Incotex, which is like an Italian upscale Banana Republic, also circa 2000. Soft, slightly stretchy fabric and trim but not embarrassingly tight lines.
That kind of experience is what living in Italy should be about—finding unique and not necessarily well-known brands that are high quality. Almost like being given a secret key to sprezzatura, which is a made up Italian word for the spirit of dressing well.
In a few short days, I have learned a lot about Milano, “made in Italy,” and the business of fashion, which is really the same everywhere. Italians are just as much about labels, especially women and Louis Vuitton monogram canvas, as the rest of the world. And, just like sales people elsewhere care only about making a commission, Italians too have dollar signs in their eyes, especially since their country is such a destination for tourism and shopping. If you aren’t middle eastern or asian, you are probably not going to drop the kind of money they are used to seeing.
For a complete and of-the-moment stream of my photos from Milan, follow me on Instagram @alextenglish.