The Armani SILOS

I had a friend invite me to go to the “Armani Silos,” yet I had no idea what it was. She said it was the first sunday of the month, so it was free. I couldn’t pass down free, plus it was a good excuse to get out of the house and take a break from studying.

The Armani Silos might as well be known as the Armani Museum. I had no idea what to expect, but I was awestruck. The first floor is a temporary exhibition that at the moment feature photos of athletes in armani sportswear. Most of these were olympic athletes in celebration of the recent Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. The floor was designed with the surface of a running track, even having painted lines to simulate the lanes.

Walking up the stairs we begin to see garments from past Giorgio Armani collections. They were some of the most exquisite, and well-crafted items I have ever seen in person. Most of them were beaded, a laborious task. They had gowns and outfits, accessories, and more from the fashion shows since the birth of the Armani Brand. Check out the gallery below to get a glimpse of what this showcase has to offer.

Traveling in Italy (using metaphors) – Another Rant

Here is another one of my rants on Italy, this time I used a bunch of metaphors and similes. Some of  these metaphors are actually based off of real things, like travelling for an hour and a half and the place you are going to is closed. That happened when we tried to go to Pompeii. Anyways I’ve changed a lot of my thoughts since I wrote this. I’m not always this cynical, just when I’m fed up with frustration. Maybe you can relate.

Traveling in Italy is like driving down the road when all of a sudden a yeti comes and totals your car.

Traveling in Italy is like scoring a touchdown, only to realize the ref called a flag just seconds before you succeeded.

Traveling in Italy is like your boss giving you a raise, but then your house catches fire.

Traveling in Italy is like smelling a beautiful flower, only to realize it is the devils breathe.

Like finding a perfect tinder match, only to learn you are being catfished.

Traveling an hour and a half on a train, only to realize the place you were trying to get to is closed.

Trying to buy a discount card, only to realize you didn’t read the fine print that said you had to be an EU citizen.

Running to the bus because it was on the other side, hopping on just in time, but catching someone’s mucus spit on your backpack.

Buying a nice quality bag, only to realize the supply exceeds the demand and you overpayed.

Every train being delayed, except for the train you arrive a minute late to.

Having your phone company tell you 4G data is free all day, but  getting the edge network (slowest data) 70% of the day.

Getting on the wrong train when your train at the same platform is late, and end up passing your destination and having to retrace your steps.

Asking to try on a pair of shoes a size larger and being told you can’t because they won’t fit your feet, but buying them anyways and then fitting perfect just like you thought.

Traveling in Italy has been really hard. Everything may be going well, but then a curveball is thrown at you and it can ruin your day. We’ve learned to not let everything be ruined, but instead we laugh. We laugh a lot because things are constantly not going as planned. The country is beautiful, but the people are not. The country is rich in history, but has a corrupt and poor economy. Lots of nature, but equally as much pollution (and cigarette smoke). Point is, Italy is not all that and a plate of pasta. It is full of pasta, very good pasta, but the country itself can be defined in one word: Challenging.

Everything is challenging. Whether it is transportation, information, eating at restaurants, finding something open, etc etc etc. The store is never open when you want it to be. The train never comes on time, except when your running late. The internet almost never provides enough information, and your stuck having to fend for yourself and think quick on your feet.

Even the language doesn’t make sense. There may be 20 words for one little thing, but you have to choose the exact word based on where you are, you are are, who the other person is, what your relationship is, what time of day or year, and more. For a foreigner they aren’t too picky, they’re mostly happy to see you trying. Though as a foreigner it can be pretty tricky to try and understand if: A) they are using different words than you know (or are used to), B) they talk fast and complex even after you ask (in Italian) to slow down.

So many people come to Italy and you hear them talk about its beauty and how it was so amazing. There are different kinds of people who travel though, some book tours, others live it out themselves. Those who book tours (both all inclusive and individual ones) typically have an easier time seeing and doing things. Everything is planned, they don’t have to worry about other costs or something going wrong. Those who live it out themselves typically choose to plan things on their own, without the direction of a guide. The latter also typically go more so off the beaten path. The former ends up sticking to touristy things and definitely getting a different experience.

I am the latter. I am stubborn and I like to plan everything myself so I have room for flexibility and exploration. I’ve been on a guided tour of a whole city and it sucked. I felt trapped. I couldn’t explore or spend the amount of time I wanted to at places and not everywhere we went was I interested. I like to experience the real culture, not a fake one that tour guides try to make it out to be. When you live in the rough, you learn to adapt. When you live in Italy, you begin to expect nothing to go the way you planned. That is what I have become. I have let go of my expectations and nothing can surprise me anymore.

I don’t think everyone has the capacity to travel abroad. I’m sure other countries leave people feeling this way, but Italy seems so much more so than all the others I’ve been to. Italy seems to be rough on other travelers I have met along the way. Everything is backwards, people are rude, Sunday is the worst day of the week because everything is closed, and you become an early bird because the only thing to do in Milan after 8pm is go to a club or bar with equally posh Italians who all look 20 years older than their real age because they smoke so much. It’s been really life-changing living in Italy, and traveling abroad in general. I have 2 months left until I go back to the mothership, and I cannot wait. I will go home a new person, with new skills, new knowledge, a new perspective, and knowing everyone who thinks Italy is the greatest place ever…. is wrong and they must not have actually been to Italy.

I think the reason people talk so well of Italy is because they had such an amazing guided tour experience. The country truly is beautiful, and if you are paying the people then they are nice. Otherwise expect to get shorter on your change.

Would I recommend living or studying in Italy? No. Just don’t do it. Visit Italy while you are abroad, but don’t make the mistake in living there. If you really feel so inclined, then be prepared knowing it’s challenging.

Airport troubles and Heading Home

The day I left was difficult. It was my flight to go home. Milan Linate airport was super foggy and thus getting the plane to London took some extra time. We left late, delayed the landing, then also delayed our taxi to the gate. It was a rough 4 hours or so.

I tried to find my connection, but alas it wasn’t even on the connections board. I talked to a lady and she told me to stand in this immigration line and rebooking was on the other side. I was constantly updating my parents about my flight and even though it was the middle of the night, my dad was constantly checking his email. He told me that apparently my flight was 2 hours delayed and I might be able to make it. I run to the bus to take me to terminal 3.

Standing in line at the UK Border

I run and approach yet another security check. I anxiously wait and get through it somewhat quickly. I run to the board and I still can’t find my flight. I ask an attendant nearby and he says, “let’s talk to British airways.” He brings me up to a tall British man who I give my boarding pass to. “Unfortunately yes you miss your flight, but I will work to get that all fixed off,” he says as he runs off.

I didn’t even have to wait in any line, but I am just standing there where he once was. I sit down. I’ve had to use the bathroom for a good 3 hours now, along with being dehydrated and I had poured out my water at security. Plus I have gone without a meal for a good 7 hours. The man eventually comes back asking for my passport, he tells me that my flight will be tomorrow and that I’ll be in a hotel tonight. Best news though: it’s a direct flight home.

I wouldn’t be able to appreciate a direct flight as much as I do today. Seeing my hometown on the screen, the thought of doing customs in my own city, and not having to worry about switching to another flight all mean so much more to me.

The hotel they put me in was close to the airport, I got a bus voucher to get me there and back. I also got dinner and breakfast. Dinner was a bunch of fried food, but I could not have been happier. French fries and fish sticks and chicken tenders and more. Fried food: An American’s Dream. The room was pretty quirky as well, and really nice. Having my own double bed and my own cozy little room was so refreshing.

Quirky picture in my hotel room’s bathroom

Getting to the airport the next day was also so relaxing. It was nearby, I didn’t have my 2 huge and heavy suitcases, I already had a boarding pass, and security took less than 5 minutes. I got to my gate and it was a short and easy wait for my flight to board.

I hadn’t taken a flight this long before. I think my longest was around 6-7 hours, this one was a solid 10. I tried to sleep, but only got a scattered 3 hours. I was delighted that they fed us, something I honestly did not expect, but looking back I understand it is probably mandatory to do so. I watched 2 movies, played countless games of solitaire, and walked around a couple times. We were in the new Boeing Dreamliners (787), and it made me feel rather fancy.

Customs was also easier itself than I expected. Apparently the Austin airport is special in that you don’t have to fill out any papers because everything is recorded electronically. The process was very simple. While waiting for your bags, go through this line til you get to a machine, scan your passport, answer the prompted questions (which replace the need to fill out the paper form), get a receipt, and have it checked by personnel. They will write a number on it, which corresponds to which line you’ll need to go through once you collect your bags. I finished that first process and waiting on my bags for a bit while longer. Once they were collected, I handed the receipt and my passport to the officer, he asked me if I need to declare anything, to which I answered “no” (an honest no too) and I went out the doors to see my family waiting for me.

My first long-term trip has been a success and it has been so amazing. There are so many things I look forward to and I cannot wait for the future! Adventure awaits!

Italian Ranting

I’ve complained about Italy quite a bit, and right now I’m going to come clean and share one of my rants. Don’t take it personally, as it was written in a moment of anger. Maybe you’ll relate to it, but I’m sharing to show my real experiences. Despite all my problems encountered by Italians, I think I would come back to Italy, although this time I’ll be more prepared.

If you’ve ever wondered why I think Italians are absolute nightmares, here is how I feel about it. Snow week is a great example because it was run by Italians and was pretty disorganized.

The email says the bus leaves at 5:20pm, but suggests you get there by 5pm so they can load all the stuff. The bus doesn’t arrive til 5:15. Loading doesn’t begin til 5:25. You can’t get on the bus until 5:40. It’s an organized mess trying to give everyone their envelope. The bus finally leaves at 6:30pm. Yeah There is no bathroom on the bus. The door that you think is a bathroom is locked and the sign is scratched out. It’s probably he bathroom, but the driver doesn’t want to clean it so he locks it. Not the first time that has happened.

We finally get to the place. It’s late. Check-in IS a nightmare as the organizers barely speak English. Typical. Host an event for internationals and only speak Italian. We learn that we need everyone’s ID’s. We get that. Then we learn that there is a deposit. No one knows how much. We finally find out. We gather the money. Then they tell us there is also a tourist tax. We pay for it with intent to get the money back from our fellow flatmates. Finally checked in.

Next day. We try to find information. No snow week person knows anything and can barely speak English or tell us what is going on. The front desk is talking to us and as they are talking they shut the window. A minute later one of them comes around and refers us to someone else.

The way back is the same, takes forever to get going on the road. It’s not just this though, my whole time in Italy has been frustrating. Characterized by people who really don’t care. All Italians care about is leisure, which is good in moderation, but all the time, really?

Things Italians are good at:

Blocking doors and sidewalks

Smoking cigarettes

Growing fruit

I hear the coffee is real good, but as someone who cannot properly digest coffee….. it is of no use to me.

Customer service and satisfaction do not exist. People hardly ever seen happy about working. They all seem to hate their jobs or just not care. Some of my professors seem like to like teaching, and a couple of baristas don’t seem to mind, but the checkers at the grocery store, bus drivers, and associates at the phone store just don’t care. Do they want your business? I guess (read it again, but now with an eye-roll and you’ll get what it’s like.)

I’ve written about this topic before, but it’s frustrating. You have to leave at least 10 minutes early because I promise you there will be something that delays your trip. The more transfers you have to make, the earlier you have to leave. Always check your change, they’ll try to short you, especially since you’re foreign.

Did your phone provider charge you for something unfairly? Don’t expect to get that money back. They’ll just shrug and pretend not to speak English or pass you off to their associate. For me, they called customer service until they found an English representative. She wasn’t too helpful either.

It’s also frustrating because in all my classes they talk about customer satisfaction and delight, none of which Italy has. Sure if you buy expensive stuff of course they’ll provide you with top-notch stuff. But if you’re buying day-to-day needs or services, don’t expect much.

Also “international nights” ALWAYS are half Italian. Any event listed as international seemingly has very few internationals at it and mostly just Italians trying to meet internationals. Like I don’t come to those to meet Italians???? Italian men are especially annoying. They expect so much from you, and expect you’ll be smitten immediately. Newsflash: Italians are not very attractive. Everyone, men included, has severe resting bitch face. They hardly smile, so when they do it’s a bit shocking. Still doesn’t help make them anymore attractive. Seriously though, Italians are ugly and not sexy whatsoever. More so just creepy.

Goodbye Milan

I am so blessed to have beautiful weather on my last day in Milan. I was able to bike around the city and take in all the sites one last time.

Leaving Europe is bittersweet. I spent 6 whole months here and went to countless places, met some amazing people, and I have been inspired. I never knew how fascinated I was with language, or the way different people function. I learned that everywhere you go there are people who lack basic common sense, but that they are mixed along with people who are inspiration, smart, and capable.

I’m returning to Texas tomorrow, with a gleam if sadness in my eyes. Sad because I’ll be leaving Europe, where it’s easy to get anywhere, and no one checks IDs. But I’m also sad because I am returning to an unfamiliar America. Throughout my journey I had thoughts of: America is better because this; America is better because that….. But on second thought I don’t really know if America does it better. Although they are way better at making Mexican food, thanks neighbors.

I leave Milan content. I like the city, but I never loved it. It was never quite my type of place. The overall atmosphere of the city was too uptight for me. If I had the chance to go back I would probably opt for Rome or Naples instead. Still frustrating, but more laid-back, casual, and more my speed.

I like Italy, but it has been very frustrating. Something about Italians… very hardheaded. There is a common lack of sense, and efficiency doesn’t exist. Customer service, also non-existing. We had this joke that goes along the lines of: “How many Italians does it take to check you out (at the register)?” “Two, one to do it, and another for them to talk to.” Constantly we had cashier who would completely ignore you while they rang up your items, and just continue talking to their friend. Their ideal situation would be you show them your items and just leave the correct amount on the counter. I also won’t miss the dog poo all over the sidewalks. The rain wasn’t very helpful either.

Overall I’m very grateful for the experience I’ve had and I will cherish it immensely. I’m excited to come home and start a new adventure.

A Good Customer Service Experience

Italian businesses have frustrated me countless times, especially phone service companies. When I’m upset or frustrated, I hardly ever get a response or even feel like I’m valued. Even when I’m not frustrated people just don’t try to keep me happy.

Take the grocery store for example. If I’m checking out at HEB, usually the cashier will be peppy or at least have strength in their movements. They’ll ring me up with some sort of motivation or hast. At the grocery stores here, half the time it’ll just be an employee going through the motions. You might write it off as, “Yeah of course, that’s how that are everywhere actually.” But here it’s more than just going through the motions. They go slow, they give me the limp arm, as they ever so slowly scan the groceries and plop (not place, just carelessly “plop”) my items on the counter. They look at me, expecting me to just leave my money on the counter and get out of their face, instead I always have to pay by card. This gets me a lot of glares, especially when they realize I have a foreign card and they have to press one extra button.

Whenever I do get a good customer experience, it really has a huge effect on me. I smile, in disbelief, and it really brightens up my whole day. I was walking with my friend Anna to the Armani Silos exhibit, when we passed a store that caught her eye. They were selling purses: leather and ones with fur. We decided to go in and see if the fur was real. It was. Dyed fur, but still real, from the leather hide of the animal. She really liked one and eventually decided to buy one, they weren’t too pricey.

The guy manning the store was really friendly, helping us when needed, and giving us good information. I had some trouble opening a particular clutch and after a few minutes of all us fiddling around, he finally figured it out. She bought the bag and looked around some more while he packaged it. It was a local shop and the sack didn’t have any branding, so he got out his marker set. He drew on the bag, representing their little shop through colors and art. He took his time, and he did it with a smile in his eyes. On the way out the door he gave both of us little furry keychains. That was the icing on the cake.

We walked out the door extremely satisfied. I was in shock about how kind that man was. Even without the free gift, his smile was so unusual for someone working a job in Italy. If you want to check out the shop, I took a photo of the business card. It’s a nice, affordable bag shop in Milan, near the Porta Genova stop. Check it out.

[nectar_image_comparison image_url=”3564″ image_2_url=”3563″]

Rimini in the Winter Wonderland

I spent a weekend exploring the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. I went to Bologna and Rimini, and neighboring city-state (country) of San Marino. It was a wonderful time! I find that the more I explore Italy, the more I like it. I’ve realized that the north of Italy just isn’t my style. I think of Milan as the New York City of Italy: everyone dresses in black, biggest subway system in the country, people are a bit on the rude side, crowded, expensive, fashion, etc etc. I didn’t much like NYC when I visited, so getting out of Milan and around Italy has been good for me.

I really liked this region, at least the places I visited. I visited a couple weeks ago, when most of my american friends were celebrating Thanksgiving and the start of the shopping season. I spent a day in Bologna, eating, and walking around. Italy has black friday sales, and so of course, I shopped around a bit. I was with this girl from my school, a chinese girl name Lu. We had booked a hostel in Rimini for 2 nights since it was a bit cheaper than in Bologna.

Bologna is the food capital of Italy, so of course I had to try some of the famous Tortelloni.
Bologna is the food capital of Italy, so of course I had to try some of the famous Tortelloni.

The day we went, there was a national strike, so we had to take the freccia trains at their higher cost to get to Rimini. We took the frecciabianca and it was a nice hour long trip. We got to the hostel to find it almost completely empty. Winter/fall is the dead season, as Rimini is a coastal town known as the “Italian Riviera.”

Walking around we could definitely tell it was meant for summertime fun. The coast was full of beach areas, where you could pay to get an umbrella, shower off, and eat. All of them were closed, with the exception of a few restaurants. It made getting to the sea fairly easy. Walking down the coastline was really nice, and unlike other italian beaches I’ve experienced, there were a lot of shells here. I collected and brought home quite a few. Even at this time, the beach wasn’t dead. There were tons of people taking “una passeggiata,” or a stroll, down the water. The weather didn’t even feel that chilly, it was nice, but still jacket weather.

Looking down the coast in Rimini
Looking down the coast in Rimini

We spent one of our days exploring the city-state San Marino, which was a 50 minute bus ride from the Rimini train station. I think we chose a great time to come because there were very few tourists, which made our stay extra enjoyable. I read about how San Marino can sometimes be too touristy, but our experience was just right. Not everything was opened, but we still went shopping, saw the main sites and museums, climbed the towers, and did a mini hike. Definitely a great day trip! I even sent postcards using the San Marino postal service, I’m hoping it is more reliable than the Italian one.

One of the famous tower in the Republic of San Marino

Our last day we spent wandering around the Rimini city center. We had already traversed some of this path before, trying to find a restaurant to eat at. The city center was full of people, but still didn’t feel crowded. The streets were lined with christmas lights at night and it was absolutely gorgeous.

Rimini’s old town has a few key attractions namely, the Augustus Arch, The Ponte Di Tiberius, and the Surgeon’s house. The arch and bridge are on opposite sides of the city so makes for a good walk. The surgeon’s house is cool, there are ruins from ancient times and you’ll even be able to see a few skeletons. Mhmm very cool. The ticket for that got us into the City Museum, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a bit of time to kill. It’s like every other museum in Italy and we just wandered until we were bored.

The Ponte Di Tiberius. The Romans were able to build this bridge to capture the perfect reflection of the arches on the water.
The Ponte Di Tiberius. The Romans were able to build this bridge to capture the perfect reflection of the arches on the water.

Overall the atmosphere of the city felt so much more relaxed in comparison to uptight Milan. People were smiling everywhere, full of energy. People were willing to help you, and not just because they wanted your tourist money. I felt they were truly genuine. It was a great change of pace. Since the city was in its dead season, people probably were happy that their city wasn’t overrun with tourists and beach bums. It felt like a place to live, and not just a place you could visit.

I spent a bit of time looking what there was to do in Rimini in the winter. While there is not a whole lot of touristy things to do, I enjoyed walking around in the park and talking to people. I met a few italians or italian-speaking folk in the hostel, and I even learned the cyrillic alphabet. Would I recommend going? Yes! It is still a beautiful city in the winter, and doesn’t have that touristy vibe. There are several day trips you can make from Rimini, good food, and the ability to get away from the hustle and bustle of a huge city. I think it definitely captures that romantic italian vibe, without all of the stress of people everywhere and the pressure to visit things.