Our only set housing arrangement was Wednesday night, when we first landed in Milan. We had an evening flight, allowing us to go to Wednesday classes, so we got to Milan around 11:00pm. On previous trips, we have stayed in hostels to keep our housing costs down. Hostels are cheaper than hotels because they are set up like dormitories. Basically, you are only paying for a bed, which could be one of 4, 6, 8, or even 10 beds in a room. As long as you do your research, you can find nice hostels that are safe and clean, but you do not have control over who else ends up in your room. On this trip, we decided to try Couchsurfing for the first time. For those of you who are not familiar with this, Couchsurfing is when local people host tourists overnight for free. The idea is that this allows the tourists to connect with the culture more and get tips on where to go, what to see, and how to get places. It also provides the host with an opportunity to learn about the tourists’ culture and home country. The concept is really neat, but it can be tricky finding a good host. The Couchsuring website is where people set up profiles to become hosts/surfers. They also run background checks. However, this is still something I would never do if I were traveling alone. Since there were three of us this time, we gave it a try. When Danielle set up the agreement with our hosts for the first night, she and Pearl tried to convince me that they went with the nudist that sent an offer…thankfully, I have roommates who are smarter than this. They politely declined the offer from the nudist and went with another person. Anyway, or first Couchsuring experience was less than ideal, but we survived – starting our first full day in Milan as closer friends with new memories and lessons learned for choosing Couchsurfing hosts in the future.
When we arrived at the Duomo, I was caught a bit off guard. The setting was different than that of all the other old churches I have seen during my European travels. There we were, at the end of one of the most expensive shopping streets, surrounded by other city buildings, with this huge 14th century cathedral in the middle of it all. The contrast was incredible! What I liked about it was that it felt more real to me than many of the other cathedrals I’ve visited. It was not all blocked off from everything else. There were people siting on the front steps and crowds of people mingling all around. We even had pigeons land on us…so friendly. (Ha!)
At the end of the day, we were reluctant to leave. But, it was time to catch our train back to Milan. It helped a little that it cooled off quite a bit when the sun set. Still, it had been such a fun day! We got back to Milan and prepared ourselves for our second Couchsurfing experience. Thankfully, this one was much better than the first! In the morning, it was off to the airport and back to Lithuania. And let me tell you…it sure felt cold during our walk from the bus station to LCC!
Start to finish, it was a superb weekend. I experienced four Italian cities, took tons of pictures, laughed a whole lot, learned how to say “Thank you” in yet another language, successfully maneuvered another system of public transportation, learned even more about God and myself, and did it all with two great friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better Italian experience.