Ciao Italia. Part I

March 4, 2009

Ah I hardly know where to begin.

This past weekend I took advantage of no school on Monday and trekked with two lovely girls from Northeastern over to Milan, Italy. 

The trip over was less than smooth, it practically began on Wednesday night when we heard through the rumor mill that all the trains to Athens for the next night had been sold out.  Thursday morning we raced over to the ticketing station in Aristotle square to discover that, of course, only the more expensive express night train had seats availible.  We had no choice but to cough up the 35 euros and stay up awkwardly late that night to catch the 1:40 am train.  Especially to someone living in the States this probably sounds absurd, but considering nightlife around Thessaloniki really doesn’t pick up until at the EARLIEST 3am, 1:40 was not so late. 

We kicked some scrubs out of our seats and got ready to pass out.  Ten minutes after the train had left the station- the lights were still on.  Turns out “night train” does not mean “dark place where sleeping can occur” in Greece.  Lucky for me I had worn my trusty beat up black hat which doubled quite well as an eye mask, Jenna and Deirdre were not as lucky.  I still ended up waking up every 40 minutes thanks to shooting paints in my legs or neck from the awkward positions I curled myself into; next time we will fork over the extra 10 euros for a bed I think.

We arrived in Athens sore and unrested, but still excited.  We had six hours to kill before our flight so we grabbed our bags and hopped on the (almost brand new) Athens metro to the acropolis.  Even for me, having been to the acropolis before, turning around on the escalator rising out of the metro and seeing the Parthenon come into view on the hill behind me was fantastic.  What a city.

After breakfasting in the shadow of the acropolis we decided sleep was a priority.  We successfully navigated the Athens metro (and bus) to the airport and as soon as we arrived, fell promptly asleep on those wonderfully uncomfortable airport chairs.  Lucky for us, the Athens airport is spectacular.  There are dozens of places to eat and most importantly, there is a McCafe.  Ordinarily I am not a McDonalds fan- I would say I’ve eaten there maybe a dozen times in the past three years.  HOWEVER the United States does not have McCafes.  They are the home of the glorious 1 euro cappuccinos that Deirdre and I began thoroughly addicted to throughout the length of this trip (among other un-mcdonalds like items like fresh squeezed orange juice and to-die-for pastries).  Finding a MC in Thessaloniki has become a high priority. 

After what felt like 62 years we finally boarded our plane and were on our way.  I was thoroughly impressed by Aegean Airlines, who operated our AirOne flight.  The meal they gave us was huge and of course I ate every bite of it. 

When we disembarked my first sensation was gratitude for the EU.  No customs, no lines, no bs- we got our bags and were on our way!  We proceeded to catch the  train from Milan Malpensa to the downtown central station- though whether or not it was actually supposed to be free we never did figure out.  We successfully navigated the (very easy to use) metro system and arrived at our hotel at 7pm.  Dinner was obviously a first priority so we dropped everything and walked around our neighborhood, located down the street from the famous ancient Roman walls of the city and the Venezia Square.  As we were peering into a Pizzeria on via Tunisia some Italians were walking in the door and “highly recommended” the small restaurant.  We took there advice and were NOT disappointed.

I would now like to devote a full paragraph to Italian food.  Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the fare in Greece thoroughly (as evidence by the 10+ lbs I have gained in just a MONTH) – but for me there is nothing more spectacular, comforting, or DELICIOUS than Italian food.  I suppose it has a bit to do with the fact that lots of the food we cook at home is Italian- but I really enjoy nothing more.  The Milanese specialty is Risotto and we had several varieties over the weekend (some with seafood, some with mushrooms, ahhh so good).  I, of course, splurged on beef carpaccio twice and it was even better than I remembered.  Both Jenna and Deirdre are vegetarians which worked to my advantage when we ‘shared’ plates, oops haha.  One of the best dishes we had was an appetizer with aubergines and pine nuts in a rich tomato sauce that Jenna couldn’t finish (so D and I naturally devoured it).  On both Saturday and Sunday we had pizza for lunch, the first time I had the Quatro Staggioni (artichokes, ham, mushrooms, olives) and the second time I had the vegetarian.  My mouth is watering just typing all of this and I’m still three hours from lunch.  Ugh! 

I actually have to get to class now (this whole school thing is really starting to cramp my style), so I will write about the things we actually DID in Milan later this afternoon!

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