Milan marked the first stop on our three-week girls’ trip around Europe. Our unofficial motto for this journey was probably ‘Plan nothing’. Or, perhaps, ‘Whatever happens, happens’. Or, maybe, ‘Let’s let fate decide’. What all this really translates to is, ‘We’re too lazy to do any real planning, so let’s just leave everything till the last minute’. As two fairly easygoing travellers, it’s an approach that has actually worked very well.
On this note, it seemed perfectly fitting that with our extreme lack of forethought we timed our first and only full day in Milan to coincide with Italy’s biggest national holiday — Ferragosto. This meant, in a nutshell, that pretty much everything would be closed, and all the locals would be off to celebrate with their families. So that, combined with the fact we were there on a Sunday and it happened to be teeming with rain, meant Milan was one dead city.
Even our hotel concierge, after we asked what we should see in the city, said “I won’t bother showing you the tourist brochure because everything will be shut.” Well, the city may have been deserted by locals and left with only a few desperate tourists such as ourselves, but we still managed to find some fun.
In fact, the night we arrived, we dolled ourselves up, grabbed a brolly (which I subsequently left in a bar. I hope it went to a good home) and headed out into the rain to the one strip of bars that had kindly stayed open.
We met some interesting characters that night, none of which were locals, but Brits, Germans, Lithuanians, even a French Canadian. But let me backtrack for just a second. The Lithuanians … Look, I know it’s wrong to form an opinion of a country based on meeting only two of its inhabitants, but, frankly, we did that just.
We were standing at a table in one of the bars, when suddenly they were in front of us, cosying up close and smiling eagerly. The shorter, rounder of the pair, with his well-greased fringe slicked down onto his forehead, did all the talking (though I wish he hadn’t; his breath was rancid) while his taller friend just bopped to the music while grinning and nodding.
“Pleasure to meet you”, the short one kept saying, while gripping one of our hands and smiling hopefully. The conversation really never went further than this, and not for lack of trying on our part. Unfortunately (or fortunately, to be truthful) he couldn’t understand anything we said. And I’m really not knocking his English skills — after all, we could utter maybe five Italian words between us — but it simply wasn’t any kind of a pleasure for us, and frankly, a pretty poor pickup line. Needless to say, we made a fast getaway and hit up the next bar. I know it’s cruel to admit, but after that night ‘Lithuanians’ became our code word for ‘dodgy dudes ahead’.
It ended up being a late one, and after stumbling back to our room, making a bit too much noise and being paid a visit by angry hotel staff, we collapsed in bed at 4.30am. The next day, hungover, obviously, we dragged ourselves out to see the few sights that were actually open.
Most impressive had to be the Duomo. It was breathtaking, and really, words don’t do it justice. But suffice to say, I felt all sorts of inspiration when walking around its magnificent interior to take up Latin, or sculpture, or, well, become more creative, clever and just generally better! Of course, these lofty yearnings have since passed, and now I’d settle for learning how to order a drink in Italian.