Film Festivals and City Hikes
During my program’s third week in Bologna, a friend from Vassar studying abroad in England visited Italy, and a couple of us joined him in Milan for a film festival. With the satisfaction of being the first students in our program to travel outside of Bologna, our group of friends hopped on a bullet train on Friday after classes and arrived in Italy’s fashion capital within an hour. The train station in Milan was gorgeous and inspired in me nostalgia of Grand Central. As for our hostel, we somewhat expected to find a creepy, lone man in a parking garage-type building who had hacked the hostel website. However, upon checking in, we realized that the hostel was actually of hotel quality. Relieved, we took a walk around Milan, falling in love with the city in its afternoon sun.
After wandering the streets for about five minutes, we came upon none other than the Sforza Castle. Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, built the castle in the 15th century. After a few centuries of renovation, today it houses many of the Milan’s museums and art collections. The gigantic fortress inspired my friend Domina to divulge with us her life’s dream of owning a mansion large enough to allow her and her thousand cats to move to a different part of it every few months for an in-house vacation.
After perusing the castle, our hungry selves wandered around in search of something to eat. Soon, I was drawn to a neon “Crêpes!” sign like a moth to a flame. Little did I know that I was about to enjoy one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had. I ordered a crepe with fontina cheese, wild boar prosciutto, and truffle cream sauce. The others in our group opted for equally delicious crepes, though I don’t remember the details since I think that I blacked out from gastronomic pleasure. For dessert, we all shared two more crepes: one with Nutella and gelato, the other with Kahlua, coffee beans, coffee gelato, and whipped cream.
After sitting in a blissful daze for a few minutes, we came to with espresso and headed over to a nearby movie theater to see the film Licks. Made in Oakland, CA, Licks tells the story of a young man who gets involved with a gang’s robbery of a corner store—known in gang slang as a “lick.” The film begins two years after the man is released from jail and depicts his attempts to avoid getting pulled back in to his previous life of crime. Licks is both beautiful and impressive considering that it is the first movie of a young director, who decided with his friends to make a movie about their hometown. They came up with the screenplay based upon their stories or those of their friends, and they recruited many amateur actors or friends of friends to participate in a film project that was pretty dangerous to shoot. I cannot recommend Licks enough and would encourage you all to watch the trailer.
It was really cool to watch the film with Italian subtitles, and pretty funny that some of the slang was so intense that I understood the Italian speech better. The Q&A session with the director after the show was also a fantastic, translated, bilingual mess. After the Q&A, we got to meet the film’s director, since a member of our group attended high school with him. The director, Jonathan, invited us to the after-party, held on the terrace just outside the theater. Before attending the after-party, we walked around nighttime Milan for a bit, stumbling upon the famous Galleria and Duomo.
We returned to the after-party and mingled until the party shut down at 1:00 a.m., discovered another after-party of the Milan Film Festival that carried on for an hour more, then went clubbing at a famous invitation-only outdoor discoteca called The Old-Fashioned. While I was excited to meet a group of guys who looked like they were members of One Direction, I was less excited to discover that all of Milan’s public transportation was closed at 4:00 a.m. and had to walk five miles back to the hostel.
In the morning, we grumbled out of bed around noon and had a lovely brunch of cappuccinos and panini. I chose a sandwich of prosciutto, brie, arugula, tomato, and truffle oil. Yum.
After brunch, we headed into the centro for a mini-tour of Milan. We returned to the Duomo and Galleria, saw the Teatro alla Scala and attached museum, and were lucky enough to watch a live rehearsal in the Teatro for about 20 minutes. The Duomo was incredible—so massive and dark, but filled with the most beautiful stained-glass windows and sculptures. You could write multiple books about the intricate history of the stories depicted in the stained-glass façade alone.
It was a great little two-day trip! I definitely want to return to Milan, maybe for an Inter game at San Siro or an opera at the Teatro.
Original version first published on Almost Italian.