First 10 days in Milano went so unbelievably fast! I am done with week 1 of the Bocconi course and I can already describe is at quite intense and challenging from time to time but at the same time indeed interesting. Being an economist in general turned out to be so much more exciting than the word itself sounds. I am now really happy with my choice and am thankful to my parents for their recommendations that gave me first interest for this branch.
Studying at Bocconi is not only intense but also very time consuming. We have a lot of extra curricular activities like team building events and company visits. At the end of the course I am definitely gonna describe their approach to teaching and leading students as it differs gradually from what I was used to at my home university.
But now let’s start from the very beginning! Even the way I got here was already very exciting itself. We went as a fun party crew of four people including two drivers. And we made it from Vienna to Milan! Was the first time both of us drove for such a long distance (ca. 900km) so we were a bit nervous at the beginning, of course. But all went well and in about 10 hours (2 of which we spent trying to get out of Vienna through the worst traffic I’ve ever seen there) we made it! If you know your way and don’t get stuck in traffic jams, I’d say it is quite doable in 7 hours.
The highway in Austria was surprisingly narrow, especially from Vienna to Graz. I was a bit shocked that Italian roads were in general better: more modern, wider, better quality. On some segments Austrian so-called highway looked like some suburb road leading to nearest village. There are no ticket control stations in Austria, but the police can still stop you and check if you have a valid one. In Italy there are checkpoints whenever you get on and off highway. We paid something around 40 euros to drive from Austrian-Italian border (came in through Villach-Udine road) to Milan. All the maps where I tried to build up our route were insisting that we should have driven trough Slovenia but we didn’t give it a try because I was concerned that we could have got stuck on the passport control twice as Austria technically has closed borders now. But there were no checks at all when driving in to Italy, as in good old times with completely free circulation of people within the EU. We didn’t really get stuck anywhere else rather than when attempting to leave Vienna. Not much traffic even though it was Friday. But I must admit that in Austria you really have to check mirrors every other second, the roads are not wide enough for the traffic flow. Italy was much more relaxed. I was the one who was driving most of the Italian part of the route and even in the darkness I found it quite comfortable. The only thing is the language – all info on the highway boards is given in Italian as well as the signs alerting you that there will be speed control point soon. As for radars, we are not quite sure how they work. In Austria you notice one immediately but there are almost no signs informing drivers about them. We just went with the average speed of the cars around as. Jamila said she never gets fines from Austrian highways so let’s hope we won’t get any either. As for Italy, there are radars everywhere and they are so hidden that you don’t always necessarily see it but there are signs «controllo electronico della velocità» that indicate them. However, I have noticed that not each sign means there is gonna be a radar right behind it. They probably move them around or whatever. And all the other drivers were going really fast pass those signs which made me think they are either sometimes irrelevant or people just don’t care which could also be the case in Italy. Anyway, we are gonna see if we get fined couple months later!
As for paying for Italian roads, here you need to be informed in advance how the thing works. On some short highway sectors you don’t pay for the amount of km you drive but for the fact of using the road in general. The billboards above checkpoints indicate where drivers with passes need to go and where the ones who pay with cards/cash should stop. There are also comments like «self-service» underneath so if you don’t know how the system works chose the one that has a person sitting behind the window! And know one other thing: if you chose to pay with cash and go through the self-service window, you need to have the exact amount of coins needed to pay for the road! So just be careful not to get stuck and stop all the people behind you.
As for parking, it’s quite straight forward in Italy. We knew nothing in advance so I just opened a window and asked some passing by guy how I am allowed to park in Milan and he explained it to me: yellow lines are for residents, so if you rent a car make sure to find out in which city it is registered. It may already have a long-term parking ticket or you can purchase it. Non-residents like us can park on the blue lines (they are marked with signs that tell you which hours are free of charge and during which you must pay to stop there) and somewhere nearby one finds a machine where you can purchase a parking ticket.
It took us time to figure out some moments but in general I must say that even if you drive through Europe for the first time you will most likely have no particular difficulties.
What matters now is that we got here.Our weekend was fun. We ate a lot of pasta, drank wine and typical Italian drinks like Aperol Spritz, Negroni or Limoncello shots, did some shopping and sightseeing. MIlan is not my favorite city in Italy and I even say very often that it’s not Italian at all. It doesn’t have that authentic appearance and things like siesta like the other Italian cities. But if you already know what «un italiano vero» means and you are not chasing the real spirit of good old Italy but just want some good restaurants, museums, entertainments and shopping – then you will enjoy a weekend in Milan. It is good for big cities lovers like me. The girls have already been around Italy quite few times, so they just took their time to enjoy some aperitivi, views and loud city events.
On Sunday we were ready for another road trip! Lake of Como! That was actually one of the reasons why we took a decision to travel by car – to have it there for going around the lake. I know that there are some trains and buses that can take you there but believe me – experience is not gonna be the same! All the beauty of Como is not exactly in the towns surrounding it but in driving along those tricky narrow mountain roads. It is incredible. Every other turn we would try to look for a place to stop and just enjoy it.
We first drove to Como city itself, took a boat there, did some sailing around, then even got to swim in the lake that was surprisingly warm and very clean and refreshing. The only thing I would mention here for drivers: try parking somewhere in town and then walk down to the lake, don’t try to get there by car, you will just waste time looking for a parking spot. On top of that, walking along the lake shore is very nice, they have delicious gelato there!
I was very determined to make it to two destinations and to have dinner at Bellagio. That’s where the fun started. Neither of us had tried before driving on such a narrow and curly road before. I honestly wasn’t ready for it to be THAT extreme. I have been to the Alps by car many times but there still usually two cars going in opposite directions can make it easily without stealing each other’s mirrors. Here it was much more tight. Sometimes we even had to use the horn before making a turn to make sure whoever could be coming from the other direction knows we are there. And they go so fast! People who are used to it are just so confident, it is quite challenging to keep up with them if you are not experienced in this kind of driving. When a huge bus was coming from the opposite direction I literally thought we would have to climb the rock to escape. But that is not what I call fun. We were low on gas. Very low. And being sure there must be a gas station at the city exit, we drove from Como to Bellagio. There was one, yes. We were happy to see it when the car was already completely empty. But the gas station wasn’t working. Italian surprise! Of course there was nobody fixing it either. I am just so happy that we consulted some other driver and took a decision to lose time and come back to Como… If we tried to make it to another gas station we would definitely have to evacuate the car from the mountain road as there were no more stations on the way to Bellagio and our tank was so empty that the car wouldn’t even start when we fueled it. We had to turn off AC, radio and lights and just slowly drive back trying to consume as few gas as possible. Guys, that was really stressful. Even more stress we got when came back to the tank station in Como and saw a crowd of people trying to make the machine work. It was stuck as well and it took our ability to speak many languages, a lot of patience, help from the outside and mutual human effort of everybody who was at the gas station to fuel first some German girls whose money simply got stuck and stopped the machine from working and then us. Yay! Luck! I think couple more km and we wouldn’t have made it. I am used to nothing working properly in Italy but I would really never think there would be no working gas stations around. Especially considering that we took a different route to come back to Milan and it was full of them. So just make sure you don’t travel with an empty tank like we did.
After couple hours struggling with technical issues and then driving on a roller-coaster we finally made it to Bellagio. And it was damn worth all the stress! A very beautiful town in the most impressive location on Como (check the map to know what I mean here 😉 ). Surrounded by mountains and the lake from both sides it is absolutely gorgeous in the evening sun! We enjoyed every minute of walking around and even another extreme driving experience – getting through the road that was definitely not wide anough for the car and full of people on top of that. Now Jamila is a real Italian racer! That trip was the best driving school of life.
All small towns keep the tradition of siesta which I absolutely love. Not being able to get any food or go shopping for half of the day never made me angry but, vice versa, makes me feel that I am in real Italy, living their life with their absolutely adorable laziness traditions. Comfort and soul satisfaction are the most important things here – and traditions like siesta kind of lead you to understanding and accepting lifestyle where no working gas stations never make anyone freak out. They just say ok, go and grab a glass of bellini instead of spending their time and energy on making things function. Most of foreigners judge that not-giving-a-shit attitude but I as a very emotional person would love to learn that from Italians. Hopefully I spend enough time in this country to obtain their attitude!
We waited until the siesta was over to get amazing food, but they actually even let us order even before the official start of dinner. Ah, lovely folk!
So, Bellagio was very good. We drove back along another side of the lake and ended up seeing all the spectacular views from both sides of mountains. Incredibly pure beauty surrounds you there. If you stop in Lombardia or somewhere close to Lugano in Switzerland, make sure to visit the lake of Como!