Viva Italia – and then, no.

On the 28th April, there was a public holiday in Ukraine to celebrate Orthodox Easter. Then two working days, then holidays on Thursday and Friday, May 1st and 2nd, for Labour Days. I’m not really sure what happened exactly, but it seems the government gave business the all clear to make it a whole week of holidays, with the non-public holiday days off to be worked in lieu on Saturdays in the future.

Mr Moi and I seized the opportunity to take a holiday and booked a flight to Italy. Except, half of Ukraine was also booking flights out of the country too, so we had to scrabble around to get a good deal on the ticket. The choices were Alitalia (losing about a million euros a day, we weren’t sure it would exist by the time we took the flight), and KLM (via Amsterdam). We took the latter option.

The Saturday of departure rolled around, and it was one of those days where you don’t want to leave the country – 25 degrees, sunny, very quiet (I guess most of Kyiv had defected to their dacha to plant veges for the summer).

Off we flew to Italy via Amsterdam (I saw the famed but expensive Schipol airport), landing in Milan at 10:15pm. After quarrelling with baggage services about my newly broken bag and Mr Moi’s missing bag, we headed to our dodgy one-star hotel near Central Station in Milan (the linen was at least clean, if the walls were not).

On Sunday, we decided to explore Milan (luckily, I’d booked two nights in the dodgy hotel, so hopefully our bag would catch up with us before we left town). We were completely underwhelmed by the city – being a Sunday, many of the shops were shut, but what really put a downer on the mood in the centre was the number of people – mostly poor immigrants – selling really shitty goods (remote control cars and helicopters, stuffed toys, umbrellas – run of the mill useless stuff that will break as soon as you’ve paid for it), and they were everywhere.

At the metro station, we were trying to decide what ticket to buy when a gypsy came up and started pressing all the buttons for us, then put her hand out for money (uh, no thanks). On the metro, we were accosted by people begging. Once in the centre, we were being harrassed by people trying to sell us umbrellas. Their tactic was to come up to our face and open and shut the umbrella, making an annoying clicking noise. This was all within 20 minutes of leaving the hotel – it didn’t augur well for the rest of Milan.

Walking out of the centre, as in any town, there were less tat-and-souvenir sellers, and Milan looked nice enough. Disappointingly, being there on a Sunday, all the boutique/small shops were shut so we didn’t have much of a chance to browse any stores except the big ones. We did pass a couple of Russian and Greek Orthodox churches and saw people celebrating Paskha. We particularly liked the area of Brera, where were sat outdoors and had a drink, before moving onto a nice place for dinner. But again, there were people pretty much taking up whole footpaths selling dodgy rip-off Louis Vuitton handbags and the like – lots of them all laid out on sheets on the ground and no one really caring that it brings down the mood when you have to pick through them just to get past.

After an infuriating day of trying to call baggage services to find out when our lost bag would be delivered (no one ever answered the phone), it materialised at the hotel at 1am (we’d been told the night before it would come in on the first flight of the day from Amsterdam. If bags could talk). We were well positioned to move on with our trip, next destination being the Cinque Terre, but I think that’s another post.

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13 thoughts on “Viva Italia – and then, no.

  1. Well I guess they can’t all be gems. I wasn’t too fond of Milan, but I really liked Rome (still overcrowded, but by a better class of peasant).

    Nice to see you have resurfaced. Did you use sandpaper or an exfoliant?

  2. hey there

    i lived in the suburbs of milan for a month in 2007 and hated milan. you’re completely, utterly, right about the amount of hassle you get. it was ridiculous. also, there are pickpockets everywhere.

    it’s not like the prices make up for anything either. i lasted a month in italy before moving back to poland. couldn’t stand the italians! the only nation i’ve ever disliked…and it takes a lot for me to blanket a whole nation. still, it’s all better than being back in the uk πŸ˜‰

  3. Dear willowtree. I used sandpaper. I thought you weren’t going to visit me anymore πŸ™‚ so I’m glad to see you made it over.

    Dear varske. I don’t really know the details of Berlusconi’s anti-immigrant laws, and I’m by no means anti-immigrant. But I do think immigrants need (and deserve) help from the government to get proper jobs, not resort to hassling people and earning practically no money as a result. It annoys the people they hassle, and I’m sure it makes them feel degraded and depressed.

    Dear burntmaze. Well, I was watch all my pockets very carefully – the only other time I’ve been to Italy – Rome, when I was 15 – I was pickpocketed by a gypsy. Hence, I watch my pockets and I hate gypsies. I have to agree about the prices – our accommodation was really bad, no bathroom and dirty walls – for Eu77 per night.

    Personally Mr Moi and I are France people – whenever we’ve been there we’ve had great experiences with the people and the infrastructure, and the prices are reasonable outside of Paree.

  4. Oh this post had me rolling. Not to revel in your travel misadventures.. . but so well-told. And I just love the word “dodgy”. Just don’t hear it enough! Looking forward to reading more. Boy those hawkers sure are a pain!

  5. I’ve been to Milano once and it felt oppressive to me…even though I didn’t have the same experience as you did. I hope you had a better time in Cinque Terre!

  6. Ahhh… and they say no one blogs on Sundays! Well, finally I get off my butt to post something decent and it pays off cause lots of people visit, yay!

    Dear Sabrina. I’m glad you found it amusing – ahhh the passage of time has eased the pain. The day after I got back I spent three hours on the phone ranting about italy to my friend… This time I managed to condense my frustrations into eight paragraphs! Oh and Aussies love the word dodgy… There’s just no appropriate synonym for it.

    Dear Claudia. Yes, it’s a different town. Very work orientated. I guess I was hoping it would have some of that grand ye olde italia feeling that one seeks in Italia. But… cinque terre was nice!

    Dear chrisb. Milan didn’t even live up to my expectations for shopping, funnily enough, although for the life of me I couldn’t find this one particular boulevard that’s supposed to be teeming with shops (I’m not a shopper, but there’s no good shopping in Kyiv). And I’d left my directions at home. So it was a big of a let down…

  7. flying as become such an endurance game instead of a pleasing one. So sad.

    Then – to top it off with all the vendors. Did you look to see if all their wares were made in Ch^n@?

  8. ahh, what a shame…although i’ve never been to italy. we almost made it to venice, but it was a really hot weekend and we opted for salzburg instead.

  9. I’ve never been to Milan, and with that ‘review,’ probably won’t ever go if given the chance.
    I hear you about the luggage…mine has more frequent miles than I do.

  10. whoa. all of sudden you posted twice and I’m already late!

    First. I really like your new header pic.

    And then – that’s cool that you flew to Italy. πŸ™‚ even if well… the experience wasn’t the best. But still!

    And now… I need to check out your flickr.

  11. Dear pamela. Yep, there’s nothing fun about flying. If I don’t get sick of my own whinging in this ‘holiday from hell’ story, I’ll do a post about KLM and the shitty food they serve.

    Dear elena jane. I have to admit, the heat was the main killer for us in Florence. Hot and smelly. I wished I was in the mountains then!

    Dear swampy. Perhaps someone should attached one of those little spy cameras to a bag and then we can see what the luggage does when we’re not looking!

    Dear leahandmark! I never know who I’m talking to πŸ˜‰ I’m assuming leah, cause there’s a photo of a girl! Thanks for the header pic. I’ll tell the story sometime. And thanks for the kick up the butt – it seems it took a new reader to motivate me to write something! Strange.

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