One of the reasons why I fell in love so quickly with the idea of studying abroad in Italy is that you can’t help but run into a unique, charming town every 50 kilometers or so (say that in your Rick Steves’ voice). I mentioned this in my last post about planning day trips, but Milan has a geographic location that lends itself well to easy journeys around Northern Italy. Some of the places I’ve been, like Bergamo and Torino (aka Turin), fall somewhat off of most travelers’ radars because they don’t have central airports and aren’t the stars of guidebooks and shows that extoll the virtues of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum.
Being here for four months lets me slow down and really experience the regional differences and stunning architectural masterpieces that are mere hours from Milan. In Torino, we wandered up and down the bustling streets of the Salone del Gusto, grabbing samples of cheese and bread from each of the twenty regions of Italy, punctuating our afternoon of gluttony with the occasional caffè. We spent hours in the Egyptian museum, free audio guides in hand, learning about the history of Italian archaeology in Egypt as well as Egyptian artifacts in Pompeii. The city was full of visitors, yes, but not crowds of tourists—just fellow food enthusiasts looking for chestnut bread and good olive oil.
Not too far away from either Torino or Milan, Bergamo Alta stunned us with sweeping panoramas of the mountains and terra-cotta colored rooftops. A quick ride up the funicular drops you off at a zip line over the city’s ancient walls and we spent the morning circumnavigating the city on the old stone walls, gawking at every church on the way. It may be only forty-five minutes away from Milan by train, but it feels much farther away; most visitors speak German and the car-free streets are filled with hearty Bernese Mountain dogs (a far cry from the delicate city breeds in Milan). Even the food has its own style: casconcelli alla bergamasca are tossed with butter, sage, and pancetta and for dessert you shouldn’t miss the polenta e osei, a polenta cake filled with chocolate cream and covered in almond icing. You can’t find risotto alla Milanese in any of the restaurants there and you shouldn’t expect to either—Italy’s regional pride is not a force to be reckoned with.
These short trips in small towns are rejuvenating after spending the workweek in bustling Milan, the sparser streets and empty cafes are perfect for an afternoon of wandering and eating. It is experiential education at its finest, and I can’t wait for the Italian cities to come.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Kinsey is a Biochemistry major and Italian minor from Tufts University near Boston, MA studying in Milan for Fall 2016. Everything she does is to learn more about food; catch her studying cheese microbes by day and reading cookbooks by night. She caught the travel bug the minute she tasted her first crepe in Paris way back in 2006, and hasn't looked back since.</p>