Over a month has passed now since I’ve lived in Milan and I fall more and more in love with life each day. For my own sanity, I must start this post with a list of highlights from the past two weeks in a bid to remember everything: taking a weekend trip to Venice, meeting my fellow ISA American students (finally!), taking another day trip to Lake Como, eating multiple servings of the best gnocchi I’ve ever tasted, touring the roof of the cathedral in the Duomo, and the dazzling event that was Milan fashion week. Well, let’s dive right in, just like my friend Maria did into a canal, but more on that later.
We start in Venice, the land of 2 euro Aperol spritzes and beautiful glass-made trinkets. My three friends and I booked an overnight Airbnb so we would have just over 24 hours in the floating city and boy, did we make the best of it. We arrived by train, taking in the streets surrounded by canals as colorful boats passed by on water and tourists swarmed on land. Approximately 4 hours after arriving in Venice, my dear friend Maria took a full-on, unintended, swim in a canal. “You wanna walk near a canal, Patrick? Well, here you…” Maria joked as she took a misstep on an algae-covered stair, flailing in the air as she slipped into the water, head under and all. It was silent for about three minutes as we all laughed hysterically at the incident. It was like a movie scene watching Maria dump canal water out of her vintage crossbody bag. After buying some dry clothes from an unenthusiastic saleswoman, we were off to explore and find delicious food.
We walked around for a while and eventually stopped for a sunset dinner on the water. As I laughed with my friends and ate delicious lasagna, I felt true joy. Watching the sunset over the Venice water I was reminded of how truly absurd my life is. There are moments each week when I feel like my life is surreal and I am reminded of how lucky I am to be studying here, and this was one of those moments. After dinner, we meandered around, stopping for gelato of course. One thing you don’t assume about Venice is that google maps are no match for the winding streets and hidden canals. Due to this, our trip home was prolonged for another hour or so and we crashed immediately when we got back.
The next day was shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Some of the highlights were dope Nike high tops, a handmade Venetian glass ring, gifts for family and friends, and a Venice poster made by a local print shop. When it was time to leave, we were melancholy yet somewhat ready, as 24 hours in Venice is no joke. I am pretty sure I walked over 25,000 steps in those 24 hours.
photo 3: ‘ISAstudents’: Day one with my ISA group on a visit to the Duomo in Milan
The next day was the day I had been waiting for, my fellow American International Studies Abroad (ISA) students were finally arriving! Since I was the only American attending NABA, I arrived in Milan earlier than the other students, as they arrived about three weeks after me. We all went to lunch together and I immediately connected with them. Talking obnoxiously loud and eating pizza with our hands felt like having a little bit of home in Milan. We spent their first full day exploring the city and getting to know one another. The rest of the week was spent attending classes, getting aperitivo, and introducing my Milan family to my American friends. That weekend, my ISA group visited Lake Como together, going on an amazing boat tour of the lake and eating, you guessed it, delicious food (I had the best creme-filled donut of my life here).
Then, the time had finally come. Milan fashion week fall 2021 was about to commence. We started fashion week off with a class field trip to The Fashion Hub, a showroom where designers from both Italy and South Africa showcased collections they had collaborated on over zoom, a testament to their insane talent and amazing work ethic. I was entranced by the unique designs and pieces that were created primarily through facetime. I loved getting to ask the designers about their creative process and getting a look into their world. As we exited the hub, I was stopped for a TV interview regarding the exhibit. When that was finished, we left the hub and were surrounded by paparazzi. Regardless of the fact that my friends and I have no fame and or credibility, men fought to get a good shot of us (check that off my bucket list). After, I drank my first pumpkin spice latte of the season (as a Starbucks barista, it made me somewhat nostalgic) and prepared for the rest of the day, little did I know I would be seeing my first real fashion show in a matter of minutes.
Marco Rambaldi was the show a few of my classmates and I were fortunate enough to sneak into. One of our friends really wanted to get into the show, so all 8 of my class members went. When it came time to try and finesse our way in, I volunteered to go first. It turns out confidence is key, as I went up and showed my vaccination card in one line, dodging the line with the list. My two classmates trailed behind and we were in! The show was held in a gorgeous garden (see photos) with Roman pillars, winding vines, and delicious complimentary cocktails. When we were approached by a woman asking to show us to our seats, list in hand, my classmates nervously looked at me. “We are with KRNL Lifestyle and fashion magazine from America. We were added to the list last minute, and I’m not sure if we were assigned seats?” I responded. After looking up my name with no results, she instructed us to stand in a specific area that was out of the way, and then, the show began.
A myriad of models poured out into the garden, wearing a variety of crocheted looks, adorned with evil eye prints and hearts. Models of every age, gender, color, and size strutted through the corridors, proudly displaying the stunning designs. The energy in the show was palpable, as everyone craned their necks to catch a glimpse of Rambaldi’s designs. After the show, we rushed out to tell our friends about it, regardless of their jealousy. We finished the first day by taking another field trip to the Lineapelle, a trade show demonstrating fabrics and leathers along with trend forecasting for the spring/summer 2023. The show was interesting, observing buyers making business deals regarding fabrics for the upcoming seasons and discussing new trends. We were worn out from our eventful day and our brains were creatively stuffed, so we did not spend long there. Instead, we headed home to recoup and revive ourselves (and outfits). That night, we went to the Roberto Cavalli show. Although we didn’t come close to getting in, I caught a glimpse of Anna Wintour which was enough for me.
The following day, Maria and I woke up at 8:00, attempting, and failing, to get into the Max Mara show and the Genny show (at least we got some more paparazzi pictures). After that letdown, we spent approximately two hours refreshing our email, waiting to be the first to respond to our professor, securing us a job as a stylist. Ultimately, our hard work came to fruition as we ecstatically jumped up and down, seeing we were the first to respond. Afterward, we met up with our class for The White Fair, a trade show demonstrating merchandise for buyers and companies. The fair also consisted of hidden rooms with unique art installations, making the fair somewhat of a scavenger hunt. We saw a Vogue exhibit showcasing Japanese designers, exploring the concept of what it means to be genderless. I left the white fair feeling both stylistically inspired, as well as artistically. Straight from the fair, we walked around the corner to the Giorgio Armani 40th anniversary show. While we were clumped together with the paparazzi and other eager spectators, we caught a glimpse of Niall Horan, Becky G, and some Italian celebrities. That night, I went home to rest up for a job the next morning, working for Federico Sangalli.
At 6:00 I rose, eagerly getting ready and dressing in all black, prepared to be a model dresser. When we arrived at Sangalli’s office, we were shown upstairs to our specific clothing racks and models. Our task was to quickly change models in and out of styled outfits, getting them prepared to walk into a room full of American buyers. The fast-paced work environment was electric, with little noise and quick movements. After the job, we thanked the models and the designer for the opportunity and I made my way to the cathedral in the duomo. My ISA group and I explored the interior, roof, and underground of the cathedral, reveling in the history and artifacts we were surrounded by. We next toured La Scala, the breathtaking iconic opera theater. The walls were adorned in gold and the ceilings dripped with diamond chandeliers. While the previous day I was stylistically inspired, I was historically inspired this day as I learned so much history about the city of Milan.
After a quick bite to eat, we got ready to go to Versace, yet another failed mission as the crowds were insane and we immediately gave up. The following morning, the adrenaline of the week finally caught up to me and I slept all day, fashion week had worn me out. Overall, the experience of fashion week was incredible. Not only was I inspired in more ways than I can count, but I truly felt sound in my major and career choice. The world of fashion is ever-evolving and I could never get bored in a profession like that. Since this is the longest blog post ever, I guess it’s best I say, Ciao!
Lucia Sanchez is a college student at the University of Kentucky. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Milan, Italy.