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You May Have The Universe If I May Have Italy

July 31, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

I am not going to lie – I have a very bad habit, which is that I tend to imagine the nastiness and negative sides of a new place I am about to visit. Or perhaps I am just addicted to the excitement of being surprised. Isn’t it awesome when a new place/person throws unexpected pleasantries at you and leaves your jaw dropped and face on the ground?

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This summer I was sent to Italy on a work trip by my company and while I was stopping over at Amsterdam airport for immigration clearance before hopping on the plane to Milan, the young officer asked “Why Milan though? The city is not beautiful, it’s a waste of time.” I smiled and said, “I will see it for myself.” – On a side note, whenever I am on the road, I love initiating little chats with immigration officers because I know they are probably sick of seeing people’s faces and saying “look at the camera” or “thumb and index finger (for fingerprint scan)”. Having a conversation shall make them feel slightly more human again, if we can help them to get by their “another work day” easier, why not?

Milan greeted me with a horrible rainstorm that left me dripping wet by the time I got to my hotel room. To be honest, Milan failed in making a pleasant first impression to me. But as soon as I went exploring the city on the next day, I fell in love with Milan.

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Milan is unlike one of those cities in the UK where all the shops are closed at 6pm with the town centre resembling a zombie city. This just gave me more reasons to not look forward to Sundays when I was still living in the UK back then. Judging solely by the fact that shops in Milan are open until late, Milan is just as awesome as Hong Kong, if not more awesome.

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In Milan, your tummy will always be a happy bunny because it is true that Italian think they are obliged to feed everyone in the world and leave no one unsatisfied. Milan is always the first destination of the majority of fresh seafood from local seaside towns because Milan attracts tons of foodies visiting every day and people here are willing to pay more to get the yum in their tums.

I am not sure where the rumour comes from, people often tell me to be careful of pickpockets in Italy which left me wondering if Italy was actually that bad. Now is the time to kill the myth, you are likely to become a victim if you leave your personal belongings unattended. Pickpockets can be found anywhere in the world, if you have a higher awareness, you are already way out of their league. During my stay in Italy, I have never encountered any pickpockets and felt safe walking on the streets even in the evening. Somehow I felt way more relaxed strolling casually on an Italian street than in Hong Kong. Since I am now trained up into a ‘professional’ HongKonger, my walking pace always appears to be ridiculously fast in Milan. To a typical HongKonger, slowing down is an art and slowing down in a busy city like Hong Kong is somehow a luxury.

Apart from Milan, I also spent some time in Bologna (home of Spaghetti Bolognese) and Florence.

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Mamamia! Food and wine in Bologna are just ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIC! I literally can’t remember any just-about-average meal I had in Bologna because every restaurant I randomly popped into is just unbelievably amazing!

Tagliatelle Al Ragu, Prosciutto e Melone and a bottle of “Domvs Caia” 2009 – heaven on a dining table!

Similar to service charges we pay in Hong Kong, every person needs to pay a table charge called “COPERTO” which means table setting. Normally they charge more or less EUR3 per person, but mate, it’s all worth it. Once waiters find out you are a cheerful and fun person to talk with, they won’t leave you alone for the rest of the evening. They shower you with fun conversations and make honest recommendations. Genius travel tip? Befriend your waiters/ waitresses. Not only do they leave your tastebuds satisfied but also keep your chin up.

To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed by Florence although I am a huge fan of the Renaissance. Imagine the touristy and crowded Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong, Florence is the Tsim Sha Tsui in Italy.

If anyone is planning to travel in Italy, sweat not about the transportation. Many major cities are connected by a well-established railway system. I suggest you to start your journey in Milan. Milan Linate Airport is closer to city centre, taxi from the airport to the city centre is around EUR 35; or you could go to city centre by bus (EUR1.5) and connect to your hotel by taxi/ tram/ bus.

Beware: They don’t sell bus tickets, tram tickets and metro tickets separately. One public transport ticket is valid for bus, tram and metro services. Normally one single ticket lasts for 90 minutes, during the 90 minutes you can enjoy unlimited bus/ tram/ metro rides. If you will go on public transport a lot during your stay, one day pass, weekly pass and singles are available in metro stations, train stations and Tabacchi (tobacco shops) – just bear in mind tickets are not available in Tabacchi on Sundays.

That’s it folks. Feel free to drop me a line at isabelwongjourno@gmail.com – I am so an email person and I love making new friends via lengthy conversations.

Grazie mille e Buon Viaggio!

Submitted by Isabel Wong, Year Two Journalism Student at HKU



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