A Weekend Full of Church Visits

This past weekend was my last full weekend with my friends in Torino. And my, what a weekend it was!

We decided to go to Milan on Saturday. Before we left, I went to get coffee with Sam and Katie at their favorite coffee shop. Angela and her son Giovanni are going on vacation next week, so they had to say goodbye to them a little earlier than they would have liked. I’ve been to Angela and Giovanni’s “bar” (as it’s called) before, and they’re always very friendly and their food and coffee are good. I had a marocchino and a brioche, both of which I’m going to miss terribly when I go back home in a few weeks. (I’m not sure if I explained this before, but a marocchino is a warm drink with Nutella, espresso, and milk, and a brioche is just a fancy (aka Italian) word for pastry. The rest of the world might have known the second definition already – I, on the other hand, had never heard it before coming here.) After leaving the coffee shop, we went to the open market and got a few groceries before we went to their apartment. Sam, Katie, and I met up with Chloe and Erika at 10:20 or so at the main station to catch our train to Milan. We got there around 1pm or so and wandered around a little bit, looking for a place to eat. We settled at this one café inside the station. I had an ali baba for lunch, which turned out to be the equivalent of a club sandwich in a pita, so not only was it delicious, but it had an awesome Aladdin-y name too 🙂

Our main motivation for going to Milan was to see the Duomo, or large church there. We initially expected it to be right outside the train station, but it turns out it was quite a ways away. So we took the Metro there, which was an experience in itself. The Metro train that we rode on was like one extremely long bus, with no dividers between the cars – only the accordion-style connectors. We were standing near the front, and it was particularly scary when we went around turns and looked backwards, since we could see the entire train move. It was like a scene in Inception.

When we finally made it to the Duomo, we spent some time taking pictures and playing with the hundreds of pigeons that were hanging out around the church. Katie and Sam had a great time doing this, and it was fun people-watching everyone with the birds. There was this one little boy that we could tell was experienced in the ways of pigeon-feeding, and he was exceptionally funny to watch. I got a picture of him with the birds – it looks kind of frightening, but he was laughing, and it seemed like he was having a good time:

After we exhausted our attention span with them, we actually tried to get in the church. Erika, Chloe, and I got in without a problem, but because Sam and Katie’s shorts were showing their knees, they weren’t allowed in. They stayed outside as we looked around.

The church itself was beautiful, and huge! There are gorgeous stained-glass windows covering the upper parts of the walls, which are so intricate and seemed to tell a story. Everything about the church was pretty, even the details in the floor. It was kind of cool, actually, because you could feel the differences in the stones they used underneath your feet. I saw the bodies of St. Charles Boromeo and a couple of cardinals as well – they are interred there, but not in a stone tomb or in the wall or anything; they’re actually in glass cases for all of the world to see. It was kind of cool to see what’s left of someone who’s revered so much, but at the same time, it’s a little weird. I feel like death has been very present in my trip, which I find ironic, almost, because it’s been filled with so much life at the same time.

We went back outside and decided to go shopping, since Milan is the fashion capital of the world. We wandered into what we thought was a shopping mall, but it turned out to be one of the biggest department stores I’ve ever seen. We must have gone to ten different floors, each filled with clothes or handbags or perfumes. The top floor even had a champagne bar in it. It was a little too overwhelming for us (plus there wasn’t anything in the store that was under 40 euros) so we wandered around the streets some more. We toured the Ferarri store, and Katie and Sam found scarves in H&M that they morphed into temporary skirts, so they got to see the inside of the Duomo too. I also had amazing gelato, complete with a chocolate-filled cone.

Our trip home was probably the scariest situation I’ve ever been in in Europe and possibly in my entire life. After our first train got delayed, we boarded a new one headed to Torino an hour later than we were hoping. We have reason to believe that the man sitting by us was crazy: he was mumbling to himself and just did not look well. It was clear that he spoke and understood not just Italian, but French, German, and English as well, and he kept running around the train car, sitting in various spots. We weren’t doing anything out of line – just talking like normal humans do on trains – but he got really angry at us and started yelling to the entire train in Italian about us. Finally, he stormed out of the car. Since this man seemed really upset and also irrational, we were all nervous that he’d come back and yell at us directly, or potentially even hurt us. Thankfully, no such thing happened, and we got to our destination just fine. We made sure he didn’t follow us and all got home safely.

Going to Milan was an adventure, to say the least, and it really made me grateful that I reside in Torino now and that I live more permanently in the United States. The city of Milan was visibly dirtier than that of Torino, and it felt that way, too. There were more beggars and people calling at us. There were parts of it that smelled like urine, and not just from dogs. And while there are crazy people in all parts of the world, there’s something about encountering one in a foreign country where no one speaks your language and you don’t really speak theirs that makes it a hundred times scarier. I walked away from the situation counting my blessings and thanking God for keeping me safe and giving me a good life.

On Sunday we went to the Basilica di Superga in Torino, which is another huge church up on a hill. I met up with Katie, Sam, and Gabby, and we got fluffy coffee drinks, which were delicious. We hopped on a bus which first took us the wrong way, and then took us to the base of the hill of the basilica. We took a little tram up the hill, talking all the while about how it felt like we were at Disneyland. The basilica looked kind of like Hearst Castle from far away, and upon arriving, we took pictures and explored it a bit. It too was very pretty, though much smaller on the inside than you would guess from the outside of it. We paid two euro each to walk up to the balcony and look over all of Torino. It was quite a nice view 🙂 We prayed a little bit inside the church, then got lunch at a nearby café. We played with a stray dog that officials had just found – we called her Bianca, because she was a cute little brown and black beagle that would be white too once she got a bath. (In case you missed that, “bianca” actually means “white” in Italian 🙂 ) We caught the tram down the hill just in time, and the bus, too. We headed to the museum of modern art next, but by the time we got there, we would have only had an hour or so to see all three floors, so we decided to leave and return another day. We went home and worked on homework, then met up again for dinner.

For dinner we went to Piazza Vittorio, down by the River Po. We ate outside, and it was so lovely. It was like a scene out of a movie, but then again, so is most of this trip. I had some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten, and we just had a good time together.

The view of the piazza from my seat at dinner 🙂

Looking down the street from Piazza Vittorio. Isn’t Italy at night just beautiful? 🙂

I got to talk to my family after dinner, and to Davis too. I went to bed sleepy but mostly content. I took a test in Italian today (which I woke up early to study for) and then had two and a half more hours of class. It was just me and one other person today, which was actually really nice. I love learning, especially when the subject of my studies is this beautiful language. I made myself lunch – chicken with pesto pasta and zucchini – then went on a field trip with one of my Italian teachers to Eataly. I went to the grocery store afterwards, which is always an adventure: I love just staring at everything they sell here. The stores are so interesting. I can’t wait to show my mom and Molly this when they get here. I hope they love it too.

I think it’s time to take a nap now. I’m a wee bit sleepy and have to finish my final for Italian Cuisine tonight. Ciao for now – more updates from Italy coming soon 🙂

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