One of the many reasons I chose Milan to study medicine is that it has the most numerous, and least expensive, transit connections to and from Italy. To illustrate, here is a chronicle of my wonderful trip home in New York for the holidays.
It is important, when deciding upon a medical school, to choose a place a) where you may get visitors, and b) from which you can easily travel to see your loved ones. After all, you will be based out of that city for perhaps six years, and during that time, you will hope to be with friends and family as much as possible. As far as international transit is concerned, Milan is optimal. People pass through Milan for all sorts of reasons, such as business, leisure, or as a stopover. Furthermore, it is relatively easy for IMS-Milan students to get to places where their loved ones reside — in my case, Cologne, Paris, and my home city of New York.
For our holiday break — about four weeks long — I decided to go to New York. My round trip flight, via Alitalia and Air France, cost 507 euros, booked approximately a month in advance. Getting to Manhattan, from my apartment in Milan, was smooth and simple; it hardly felt like an intercontinental journey.
I live seven minutes by foot from Lambrate, one of the train stations in Milan. Many of us IMS students live near Lambrate or on the subway line serving it, because that line also goes to LITA, where our classroom and labs are. Milan has two main airports, Malpensa and Linate, and Malpensa is connected by train to the city center. My direct Alitalia flight to New York was from Malpensa. So, I walked to Lambrate Station…
…and grabbed a train to Milano Centrale station, a few minutes away. There, the Malpensa Express, to the airport, was waiting for me. These trains leave every 15 minutes or so.
I thought this Alitalia ad was cute. It says, “OVER 1,000 DESTINATIONS FROM MILAN.”
On the way to Milan-Malpensa airport, you can watch the Italian countryside float by, with the Alps in the background. I love the Alps. This picture does not do them justice, but wait until you see them from the airplane!
Malpensa won the Airports Council International award for best airport of its size in 2015, and for good reason. The terminal was newly renovated for the Milan Expo, and is user-friendly, with an artistic flair. As soon as you get off the train, monitors direct you exactly where to go. They are impossible to miss. Here is my flight to New York, leaving at 1300 hours.
You follow the signs to the check-in and gates. Unlike at other airports, they are absolutely obvious to follow, even if you are jet-lagged. It is a short walk. Notice how spotlessly clean Malpensa is. The lights literally reflect off the polished floor and ceiling.
On the way to the check-in, you pass through a room which is, itself, an art exhibit depicting the spirit of Milan. In the background is a futuristic display of Leonardo DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper, located in a convent in the city. Machines create a wall of fog across the room, recalling the mysterious, romantic weather for which Milan is famous.
There was literally no line either at check-in, or US flight security and passport control, at Malpensa. I do not know how the airport pulls this off. This is the Alitalia counter, an hour before my flight left:
The gate boarding area in the new terminal is luxurious. The only airport I have ever seen that is as fancy as Milan-Malpensa is Zürich (which literally felt as if it was lined in gold). Here are some of Malpensa’s duty-free shops:
As you take off to the north from Milan, you immediately start to cross the Italian and Swiss Alps. I must admit to dreaming about someday living in a cozy little town tucked into the mountains, when I am not doing the international emergency medical aid work which I consider my professional mission.
Here is the interior of my Alitalia Airbus 330. It was comfortable for economy class, and the flight attendants were very kind.
This is the Alitalia dinner. I used most of the flight time to study. Writing and highlighting in my textbook was no problem, because this was literally the smoothest trans-Atlantic flight I have ever taken. There was virtually no turbulence. On the way out of the airplane, I asked the flight attendant to thank the pilot for me, although of course, we do not know how much this smooth flight was due to meteorological luck.
Halfway to New York, somewhere just south of Greenland…
…I put away the study guides, and played miniature golf on the in-flight entertainment system.
It is interesting how, when you start to study medicine, golf can take on a sudden, inxplicable appeal.
…with beautiful clouds as we descended into New York’s JFK airport…
…Long Island stretching out in front of us…
…we are back in the USA, at JFK’s International Arrivals Terminal…
…and in New York!
During these holidays, I had the chance to spend time with family…
…(happy birthday, Peter!)…
Being home for the holidays was emotionally and physically refreshing. This made it easier, each day, to study at least a little bit of medicine, which is a joy, particularly when you have a comfortable workspace, and are not rushed.
After saying farewell to everyone in January, I grabbed the New York Subway A train to JFK.
My return flight, with Air France, had a stopover in Paris-Charles De Gaulle. This airport is well-known as being complicated and large, but I must say, the new Terminal 2 is charming and easy to navigate.
You know you have arrived in Milan when your plane taxis past a giant EMPORIO ARMANI sign.
Milan is, indeed, the hometown of aperitivo — midweek evening drinks with hors d’oeuvres, usually with professional colleagues — something of an institution in a city with a reputation for being both hard-working and elegant.
I flew not into Malpensa, but rather Linate, Milan’s other large airport. It is very close to my neighborhood; I could bicycle there in about 20 minutes. From Linate, there is a direct bus for five euros which drops you off right at Lambrate station. The ride is under 10 minutes. This bus continues to the city center, if that is your destination.
It is a comfortable bus.
The next day, I was back in school at the IMS. Here is our genetics professor, mid-lesson.
In the three months I have been in Milan, already about three different friends have visited me, because they were passing through the city. Furthermore, my parents just informed me that they are planning to visit in March, which makes me very happy. They are in their older years, and are not capable of tough journeys involving lots of transit connections. Fortunately, they can fly directly to Milan from New York. The ease of getting to and from Milan — one of Europe’s major transport hubs — gives those IMS students, who are not from Milan, a good chance of seeing their loved ones frequently.
Erik Campano is a consultant to the English medical school of the University of Turin and doing a Master's degree studying artificial intelligence applications in global health at the University of Umeå, Sweden. He completed his Bachelor’s of science in Symbolic Systems at Stanford University, and then he worked for about eight years as a radio news anchor, before moving to biomedical scientific study and research at the University of Paris and Columbia University. His goal is to develop AI technologies for international emergency humanitarian aid organizations like Doctors without Borders, and to combine medicine and journalism. Erik grew up in Connecticut, and is a citizen of the United States and Germany.
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