Thursday, December 13, 2007

Experiencing Milan - the city-wide shopping mall

Visiting Italy had been a dream for long time. Western architecture courses in the college time deepened this dream, it finally came true. We spent five days in the city of Milan, a metropolitan city on the foothills of Alps. I thought I would be very excited. Not really. Maybe because I have seen the world for quite much, or I have done too much research before going there, nothing much turned out to be surprising. People are just like people anywhere in the world, other than it is a lot more crowded in Milan. I try to remember interesting things in my trip.

Italy in my mind, or in my collections are a mask, and a glass candy that a friend brought to me during her trip to Rome. My impression about Italy was also from friends who had been there. First is many thieves, and you need to take care of your bags. One Italian colleague went back home from US also got his laptop bag stolen in the airport. Second is, people there sell meat like what is done in China: they cut meat in the open market. The rest of my knowledge is all about their great history written in stone. With all these basic in mind, we arrived in Italy.

As what I have said, since there was not much that I really felt surprise over there, I will only write about things that more or less special over there in Milan. The biggest for this city is, how can this city support so many shopping spaces? Our hotel was close to Loreto, around two miles from the central DUOMO, one of the biggest Cathedral in the World. We could walk all the way to Duomo with all shops along the street named Bluenose Aires. When you reached Duomo, shopping malls are even more. You can easily see big named stores like PRADA, LV, ZARA, and many others I saw the first time. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the oldest shopping mall in the World are filled with big name fashion stores and elegant design. How can a metropolitan city of seven million people have so much purchasing power to support all these? This is the center of fashion and design. Many shops are nice looking even if you are only window shopping. I just can't help to question how can it be so many. According to my sense, they can only exist so many because some of them are there to be a showroom, rather than sales.

We once sat in a bar, watching people walking on the streets. Occasionally you see fashionable ladies walking by. Maybe also a fashion, you see people holding paper shopping bags, small or big with big brand names on them. Some hold a bunch of them, apparently did a lot shopping. Some in my eyes, it is a fashion to hold a bag with a big name. The picture was edited from a photo taken in a tram: an old lady with a Chanel bag in her hand.

We happened to be there on the San Ambrogio's day, a celebration of Milan's patron saint. It evolved into a beautiful Christmas market full of sweets and typical products. The "Oh Bej! Oh Bej!" fair. Many more stalls were set up on the street in many part of the city. During the weekend time, it was quite a scene: you have to walk with the crowd. Surprisingly, people are buying, not only window shopping like we two. We spotted some local snacks and tasted some. It turned out to be a big mistake: they were made with similar taste although different materials. One big discovery, Italians also sell roasted chestnuts on streets! They use a different way of roasting which didn't have the shinny sugary skin as in China. On the street, they set up some little stove to keep them warm. It is also sold measuring by three different size of cans. The smallest can might hold barely 10 chestnuts at a cost of three euros.

Coming from Netherlands, the tallest country, we suddenly found people there are mostly shorter. Do you know that in the Netherlands all building codes for height of doors, furnitures are higher than most of the world? We sometimes feel some chairs or toilet seats are not comfortable sitting on. We realized this point again when we were walking on the streets, seeing mostly short old couples walking. Maybe the younger generations will be taller.

Till the end, luckily we didn't experience any lost or meet any thieves. Only once in a corner of a stalk on the streets I saw several masks and a few glass candies were on display. I felt masks were such a pretty artifact from Italy and just found out it was famous in Venice. We didn't see meat were cut and sold on streets either. The Duomo cathedral is splendid and we even got on the rooftop to see its wonderful sculptures. What we experienced a few more times were worship mass in varied churches in this 90% catholic country. People all say that Milan is not a typical Italian city. So, I am expecting to go to Rome from now on.

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