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The International Writers Magazine: Arriving in Milan, Italy

First Impressions of Milano
• Angelica Paletta
I believed I would never be passed by again without mumblings and whisperings. I had grown accustomed to the entire populace of Perugia gazing questioningly at me, uttering under their breath, capelli, or verde. Some even shouted towards me “belli capelli!”

Yes, fascinatingly enough, I did have hair, no, not a green color, and thank you, I liked to believe it beautiful hair. In this way, I learned that tiny Perugia did not function as a place to experiment with blue hair color; however, I soon realized that Milano existed as a kinder, more accepting metropolis.

Milan Flea Market

Standing in Milano Centrale beside the Burger King for at least an hour, completely unprepared with no contact information with which to reach my sister, I began to question if she really intended to meet me. Gypsy clad beggars lingered and pestered, men and women scurried to catch their trains, and others protectively embraced their luggage while napping. I waited patiently, guarding my bag with a calm fervor, and at last felt as less of an oddity in this bustling diverse station than I had ever felt previously in Italia. My cheap, barely functioning Vodafone rang at last, “Henrietta?” I inquired. A nearly inaudible voice belonging to someone I had never met answered, “Yes, are you at McDonalds? We can’t find you.” Listening over the sound of departure and arrival announcements, we shouted to one another a number of times. I chose Burger King--she chose McDonalds--as my fast food meeting place of choice (simply because I hadn’t the faintest idea where McDonalds was) and at long last they found me.

Within minutes, my sister, Alexa, and her close friend, Lana, nearly tackled me in an embrace, and I found myself anxious for future adventures with my cronies. Another spastic girl who seemed to have no time to loose and whom I had spoken to earlier, named Herietta, rapidly introduced herself and then tore through the station without trepidation. We followed close at her heels, lost in the shuffle repeatedly. Amidst the chaos, which included fast-paced walking and several methods of mass transportation, the duomo di Milano, located on Via dell'Arcivescovado, seemed to magically appear before us. We marveled at its beauty. But little time could be spent gazing at the gorgeous church, Henrietta took off before us, and we realized we must press onward in order not to loose her. Because Henrietta lived in Milano, tourism didn’t interest her, and it was not her priority for us to appreciate a sight for too long.

Henrietta forcefully declared that she wanted to take us tourists to a spectacular flea market. She hastily sashayed along in her ankle length, form-fitting black dress—complete with a slit up to her upper thigh—and black and gold Bruins jacket as if participating in a race to get there. Suddenly, an overwhelming sight appeared before us. The entire entrance way was lined by hollering-sneering-leering men trying to sell their wares. Boy what junk. The objects for sale reflected the diversified sellers, as they came from all parts of the world. Many foreigners from the Middle East and Africa congregated there, and it seems safe to assume that they were in Italia illegally, the “clandestine;” a recent problem in Italy because they cannot work legally, and they often find themselves living a life of crime because of their need for money while in this illegal predicament. I’m fairly certain these vendors pulled every object out of the trash and lined it up on the road: mismatched shoes, prehistoric cell phones, records from the 1960’s, even faded and scratched leather bags with broken straps; I skeptically desired to leave and find a more promising destination. I couldn’t help but wonder if this were really the high fashion Milano I had heard so much about. What existed here seemed the sad reality of illegal immigrants and dumpster divers.

This market soon grew more impressive. Named Fiera di Sinigaglia, and located in Porta Genova along the wharf, began as early as 1800, and occurs every Saturday morning. In strolling further, the numerous stands displayed a veritable Mecca of products, and it seemed that you could buy almost anything your heart could desire. Scarves and shoes, household knickknacks, cds or dvds, and even bicycles sat waiting for someone to purchase them. Alexa and Lana, in dire need of sunglasses due to a rambunctious night prior to my arrival in Milano, set out to purchase some. I had instructed my sister to say, “quanto costo?” to inquire about the price. However, for some reason, caught completely off guard when the seller replied in Italian, she looked about laughingly in panicked confusion for me to translate. While laughing kindly, sensing the truth of the matter, the man began to speak in English.

Other interactions were just as amusing but I at last felt that I might belong in the land of Italia. With my hair dyed in the ombre fashion—only the bottom portion—I was finally not called a mermaid by those that I met. Not only did I gaze upon purple, pink, and even yellow hair, I rediscovered styles which I thought had disappeared long ago: punk, grunge, and goth. As a result, I noticed that few stared at me. Donned in oversized grungy clothing, with pierced lips and noses, sporting dreadlocked hair to their waists, this appeared a fashion revival. Yet, some appeared in typical Italian fashion with black and brown leather jackets, designer jeans, and shiny fashionable sneakers. However, to my great surprise, in this market full of various objects and people, I felt as if I belonged. As neither a novelty nor a spectacle, here I realized that the odd is acceptable - and boy did I love it.

© Angelica Paletta May 2013
*The flea market of Milan - Fiera di Senigallia, is held every Saturday near the underground station Porta Genova.

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