Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vita a Milano

Amazing Day Trips: Part 1

I highly recommend taking day trips while studying or working abroad. If you happen to be in Milan, I suggest taking a day trip to Lake Como (lago di como). You can get there easily by train and explore yourself or you can simply book a tour. You can catch a train at the Cadorna metro stop (this train station can bring you anywhere in Lombardia). I booked a tour just because it seemed easier to me and included everything I wanted to do and see. I used the Viator Tour Company. It is well worth the money. The tour guides speak very good English and are very knowledgeable. Lake Como is absolutely gorgeous! If you are looking for a nice, relaxing day, Lake Como is the destination for you. If you’re lucky you may even see George Clooney! Our tour guide pointed out two of his villas, which was exciting to see, but unfortunately he wasn’t home. Off of Lake Como we stopped in a small quaint town called Bellagio (yes, you’re probably thinking Las Vegas right now). Bellagio is how I imagined Italy to be… that old world feeling that includes rustic, beautiful buildings, small narrow streets, and wide cobblestone staircases. Bellagio has many small family owned stores to shop. If you are interested in unique jewelry you must stop into “Laved: I vetri di Bellagio” which consists of jewelry made from glass of Murano. Como is also very well known for producing silk, which is why you will find many silk goods being sold in towns off of Lake Como. Other than window-shopping I suggest walking around and taking in the surroundings.

Stairs leading up to town of Bellagio

Lake Como

Exclusive hotel on Lake Como (can only reach by boat)

Another view of Lake Como

Villa of George Clooney (one of three)

If you like the idea of taking a tour, I also highly recommend booking the Swiss Alps tour (also from the same company). It costs a little bit more, but it was one of my favorite things to do/see so far. Don’t forget your passport/visa since you will be entering Svizerra (Switzerland). We boarded the Bernina Express (inclusive with the tour package, but I’m sure if you went on your own you could just book tickets for solely the Bernina Express). This new and amazingly smooth train winds up the Swiss Alps as you relax and gaze at the amazing sites. Yet another scenic tour, that consisted of mostly retirees. I really didn’t mind being the youngest and actually felt privileged that I was able to experience the sites this early in my life. There are really no words to express how amazing the scenery was so I will just post the photos. While in Switzerland we stopped in an exclusive town (mostly for those who are wealthy) called St. Moritz. I have never been to Aspen, but this is what I imagine Aspen to look like but even better. Many wealthy individuals stay here for a few weeks during the skiing season (which begins in November). Our tour guide joked that the men usually ski the slopes while their wives ski the streets that are lined with luxury boutiques such as Gucci, Prada, Versace, etc. Well, I know I’d rather ski and I am so envious of those who had the chance to do so on the Swiss Alps. If you have the money and are looking for an unforgettable ski trip, I highly recommend taking a trip to the Swiss Alps. Since I couldn’t afford the latter, I simply bought delicious Swiss chocolate and was happy as could be! We didn’t take the train home, rather a bus. It took three hours to get from St. Moritz to the starting point in central Milan (which included the long time it took for the bus to get down the Swiss Alps which consisted of narrow, winding roads that I’ve never seen before in my life). All in all it was a great day trip and I hope you will get to experience this at some point in your life.

View from Bernina Express

Snow capped mountains (taken in beginning of Sept.)

"White Lake"

Bernina Express

Well, I hope this information will be able to guide you in the future. Until next time… Ciao!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vita a Milano

Difficulties & Simplicities of Milan

The most difficult task here in Milan is finding internet. I was told that there would be internet cafes on every corner. Well, they simply do not exist. I’ve only ever seen two and it’s not free wifi like Starbucks (which also does not exist), it costs money (and quite expensive too). I never realized how much I would really need the internet while abroad. Being that I am abroad by myself I need contact with those from home. In order to solve my problem I bought a wireless internet key from Vodafone. Well, that was the worst decision. Do NOT go to Vodafone for anything (cell phones, SIM cards, internet keys). Vodafone internet keys do not work with Macs (Macs are in Italy, but not one person is knowledgeable enough to help with problems so beware). They do (sometimes) work with PCs but would not refund my 80euro because they blamed the problem on my Mac (although they knew that I had a Mac prior to purchasing the key). So after a month of waiting around and arguing back and forth I gave up. I went to a new company, TIM. Much better. I’ve had no problem with the internet in the past week or so. I definitely recommend going to TIM for your internet needs, especially if you have a Mac. TIM is also cheaper. It costs 69euro for the internet key and 100hours of internet for the first month then you can pick your own plan after that. It is well worth the cost.

On a brighter note, I was pleasantly surprised by the public transportation of Milan. It is very easy to use and economically efficient. I use it everyday and really do not mind. The metro system is called the ATM (Azienda Trasporti Milanesi), not to be confused with our kind of ATM, which is actually called a "bancomat" in Italy. The ATM is clean and very modern for an old, old city. It even has flat screen televisions underground casting the news! (Although that kind of reminds me of Big Brother, so I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not). I think it is much better than the SEPTA (which isn’t hard) and the metro system in Manhattan. Fortunately, it is very easy to navigate having only three metro lines (and of course trolleys and buses). If you need to use the metro system daily and will be in Milan for at least a month I recommend signing up for the metro card. For a student it is only 10euro for the card and 17euro a month of unlimited travel. Although it does take about 15 days to register so I suggest ordering it right away. This can be done at the Duomo stop which can be reached from the M1 or M3. Visit this website for more information and to see a map of the metro system. The taxis, of course, are another source of transportation, but very expensive (more so than in the States). They are extremely clean and nice (it is common for a taxi to be a Mercedes Benz), but it’s really not worth the money unless you really need it at night since the metro does close at midnight.

Well, I hope this information will be of use. Until next time… Ciao!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vita a Milano

Language Lessons & Internship

Greetings from Milan! My name is Amanda Comunale, I am a junior at Drexel studying Design & Merchandising and Marketing. I will post from time to time in order to give advice and share my great experiences.

I am currently doing my co-op in Milan through a program called Global Experiences. I highly recommend this company because not only do they help to set up a co-op position, but they also arrange language lessons and accommodations. They were very helpful through the entire process. They offer the language and internship placements for areas other than Italy as well.Check it out if you are looking to gain a working experience abroad!

When I first arrived in Milan I had three weeks of language lessons at Linguadue. There are ten different levels of Italian within the school. I asked to be placed in level two just because the lessons are more in depth (and my teacher knew absolutely no English, so it helped the learning process). Level two at Linguadue is equivalent to Ital102-103 at Drexel. It is an amazing school even though it is not a university (solely a language school). There are people from everywhere! My class consisted of three girls from Thailand, two girls from Sweden, a guy from France, and two girls from Russia. It is absolutely incredible. I met so many different people. It’s a big world out there and I strongly suggest experiencing it at some point in your life… the sooner the better!

During the weeks of the language lessons I was preparing for co-op. Fortunately, the interview went well and I was hired at Studio Zeta (one of the largest fashion showrooms in Milan). The concept of an internship is very new to Italians. Their own word for it is a ‘stag’, so I am currently a ‘stagista’ in the showroom. If you are looking to work in a showroom and do not know much Italian, don’t worry about it. Some of the sellers know up to three languages fluently! If you know broken Italian and your employer knows at least the basics of English, you should have no problem. I absolutely love work! If you are looking for a fast-paced environment and want to observe both the selling and buying aspects of the industry I suggest looking into a showroom for your co-op, or at least for half of your co-op due to the short time of the selling campaign.

My responsibilities include assisting the sellers during the campaign. We stylize and keep in order the designer collections for our clients (the buyers). I also work with the models. The days can be very long and hectic, but it is all worth it in the end. Fashion Week was absolutely amazing, even though it was extremely exhausting. We worked long hours everyday and then attended fashion shows, presentations, and the designers’ after parties. It certainly was a rush. I was able to attend the Spijkers en Spijkers presentation (Dutch sister designers) and the Angelos Frenztos presentation (both hosted in the showroom). I was also invited to the Marco de Vincenzo runway show!

Vincenzo Runway

Designers: Spijkers en Spijkers

Well, I have off today so I better get out there and enjoy the city while I can! Until next time… Ciao!