And now, the long-awaited final update on our trip to Italy! Our last day was to be a travel day: from Rome to Milan, a quick overnight, and then an early trip to the Milan airport the following morning. Nonetheless, we still managed to do a bit of sightseeing.
Mostly we were revisiting the previous highlights, and wandering the city center, down different streets than before. Our number one goal was to see the Pantheon again. It was raining very lightly, and in a way that was good. I’d wondered what the inside of the Pantheon looks like in the rain. After all, the lighting comes from a big hole in the ceiling. Does the floor just get wet?
Yes, it does. The center was roped off in the rain, and watching the water stream from the dome reinforced just how large the structure is (and remember, it was built in 126 AD). Of course, we also had to order another granita, the super-strong iced coffee, from the coffeeshop around the corner.
A few days earlier we’d picked up some cheap supermarket wine, and on leaving our AirBnB apartment, we’d emptied the wine bottle into a canteen, to fortify us for the train trip. Who could resist a few gulps on the front porch of one of the most famous buildings in human history?
Wandering further around the city, we passed some familiar sites, such as the reputed assassination sight of Julius Caesar, and some unfamiliar sights, such as the column of Marcus Aurelius (now adjacent to a shopping mall).
Near the train station in Rome, we finally got a chance to see another long-awaited authentic Italian sight: a street protest. Sure, it wasn’t a strike, but it’s gotta count for something, right?
The return trip to Milan was sad… but also a little bit of a relief. I didn’t much look forward to returning to work and boring everyday life. But on the other hand, we’d packed an awful lot of action into two weeks, and I was ready for a break. A break in Lucca probably would have been better than NYC, but we only get so many vacation days every year.
I actually really enjoyed the little bit of Milan that we saw that night near the AirBnB. Somewhat outside the city center, it had a very NYC feel, with wide streets and lots of taxis. The apartment where we were staying was a huge old place; an older Italian woman lived there and rented out two bedrooms. It certainly felt like the most authentic place we stayed, though I suppose it was also the most rough around the edges.
I also got to have a real Italian conversation. Though I’d studied Italian for a few months prior to making the trip, I hadn’t really spoken much, due in part to my natural shyness, and also to people’s tendency to switch to English pretty quickly. I’d enjoyed the study, but now I could talk to someone who spoke no English, and I could get by. It was really rewarding.
We left very early the next morning, winding through the streets and standing at a coffeeshop counter to grab an early-morning cup of espresso. On the way to the Milan train station, we passed by the Sforza Castle, the first tourist sight we’d seen in Italy. Now it was quiet, and cold, and shrouded in mist. Across the street, where there had been a book convention two weeks earlier, stood a blow-up Lego pavilion, ready for the next event.
And then, reluctantly, we went into the train station, to return to America.