Thursday, 11 November 2010

Europe's third world

Italy, where to start? It is a mix of first and third worlds, a terrible destination but also a delightful one.

A friend of mine told me "you are spoiled by Switzerland", and it is true. Everything is simple, convenient, on time, reliable and clean; Italy is the exact opposite. It is an ongoing chaos which I find hard to understand - and I come from Beirut.

First of all, I would like to say that Italy has by far the friendliest people, the best quality of food and coffee and the nicest language of all Europe. But this isn't enough. Their food is easily exportable and their language may sound nice but I have a hard time taking it seriously - nevertheless the people are undeniably nice.

I arrived to Milan, but took the train to Venice the next day. The first thing I saw in Milano Centrale was this special section for "delays". I took trains in several European countries and never have I seen this section integrated in the timetable.

And it's true. In 3 days in Italy I have witnessed over 10 delayed trains. In Switzerland I saw only 2 delays in 5 years.


A beautiful and romantic city.

Everything is very cliché, the gondolas, the canals, the narrow alleys, the palaces and the medieval sensation.

It is unfortunately infested with tourists. They are everywhere, taking pictures of themselves with the gondola, the canals, the churches and the big squares. As soon as they click on the capture button, they all gather around the camera and look at the picture and comment on it - it's live version of Facebook all over the place. What happened to quietly look at the pictures after the holidays?

This overly touristed island has the most horrible Italian food in all of the country. It is hard to find a decent Trattoria serving quality food for a normal price. Pastas are cooked in industrial quantities and pizzas look like a thick piece of bread with vomit on it.

Once you get over the delicatessen in the city, you'll enjoy walking around the island, going through small dark alleys surrounded by rustic dilapidated buildings connected to each other by clothes lines.

You'll fine about 3 churches per square meter, the main one being San Marco's church on San Marco's immense square. Whether you're in Italy, Switzerland, Lebanon or Peru, churches are the same: they love money. In this gorgeous Cathedral, for example, it is forbidden to take pictures or videos - even photos without flash.

But worry not, because Jesus has an answer for that. For just 20 Euros, you can get the DVD with pictures and videos of the Cathedral. You think money will of course be used to refurbish and maintain the church, but no - inside the Cathedral, you can find a little box asking for money for that exact purpose, and next to it another box for the regular purpose of buying new cars and jewlery for the priests. I couldn't take a photo of these boxes, but if you buy the DVD, you can see them.

Please note that you can also buy the Video Cassette for 5 Euros, in case you forgot to update your home appliances.

Despite all the tourists, tourist shops, crappy food and Christian presence, Venice is a wonderful and magical place that you have to visit before you die.

Lake Como:

I heard that George Clooney and other Hollywood stars have their homes along this beautiful and luxurious lake. Well, I'm not sure why.

Living in Switzerland for about 5 years now, I know lakes quite well - and Como is overrated. Take Lugano for example (Italian part of Switzerland), put it back in the 80's, make it very dirty and over-urbanise it: you get Como.

To be honest, I have only seen one small part of the lake, but I'm guessing it's the most important part because I was in the city of Como.

I took a boat to sail around the lake - it was beautiful, but too many homes and bad urban planning on the surrounding mountains. That's why I'm putting a shaded picture so that you can only see nature's work.


Big city, shopping, gorgeous people, chaos and fantastic food - this is Milan. The North of Italy is supposed to be very modern and developed compared to the South where people enjoy the Far Niente and live the easy life. Having seen how chaotic the North is, I'm quite curious to see the South now.

Milan is full of people walking right out of a fashion magazine, no kidding. They are tall, beautiful and dressed with the most expensive brands in the country.

The heart of the city is the Duomo. Technically it is this breathtaking Cathedral:

But today, it is this covered shopping area. Its main Square has for sides to it: Prada, Luis Vuiton, some expensive Italian brand and...and...McDonald's! Probably the only thing you can afford under this glass roof.

Open during the day,

And at night. Very impressive.

If you leave Milan via Malpenza airport, don't worry you are still in 2010, it's just a trick Italians do to make you feel like you're in 1983! I wonder how all these fashion stylists who live in Milan accept to transit through this airport. It's terrible!

Italy is a wonderful place, I have been several times to the beach in Tuscany but it was my first time to Milan. I think that it is a tough city to live in because it gathers the worse of everything.

In the first world: everything is so rigid but at least it is reliable and punctual.

In the third world: it's chaotic and impossible to perfectly plan something, but on the other hand everything is so flexible that you can get around easily.

Italy is inflexible and chaotic.

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