Thanks to the obnoxious amount of juicy details my writings about our Easter EuroTrip contains, I’m going to break it up and go city by city. Here’s a quick intro though (spoilers!). Michael and I met in Madrid, then explored Milan and Venice before meeting up with Alyssa in Trieste and continuing on to Vienna and Budapest. There ya go. Aaaand, we’re off…!
The family and I awoke bright and early and got to the airport in Madrid about two hours before my flight. I met up with Michael and we got in a long, slow line to check in. I was surprised that so many people were flying on Easter sunday, but I killed time by making small talk with some Americans headed to Morocco in the line for visa check. Right before we could check in our shared bag, the airport/RyanAir staff realized that their flight to Fuerteventura, which had its check-in at the neighboring counter, still had several people left to check in. Even though that flight left a mere 5 minutes before ours, naturally, the most logical solution was to take over our check-in counter in addition to the two it already had open. That makes lots of sense, right?! Basically, this kind of quality decision-making prompted the whole system to go to hell and despite our repeated protests that our gate was closing soon, we weren’t allowed to check in until 15 minutes after our gate was to close. I mentioned this to the lady at the counter, asking if she could call and check the status of our flight. She conversed with a colleague, reassured us our gate would be open, and told me to “oh, just skip past security and go to the gate.” Right. Of course, that wasn’t possible, so we rushed through security and bolted, possessions in hand, to our gate – naturally the furthest one away. We arrived out of breath and were greeted by a wimpy waif of a girl and a sassy fop who told Michael, me, and several hysterical Spaniards and Italians that the gate was closed and there was nothing they could do. After repeated explanations of what had happened, the man’s response still hadn’t shifted from “Not my problem, can’t do anything.” During all of this drama, my family stood by watching quietly; they had checked in to their flight and happened to be drinking coffee near our gate when this all went down. One of our more frenzied companions called her sister who was already on the plane and somehow the gate was reopened and we were allowed to board. Such sweet relief!
The flight itself was fine and afforded us a glimpse of the lovely Alps as we flew. We landed in Bergamo, a nearby town, then took a shuttle bus to Milan itself. At the Metro, a lady commandeered the ticket machine, aggressively changing my 20 even when I told her I had coins and then asking for a euro as a tip at the end. Yeah, right. I don’t enjoy being manhandled like that. #rude. As it was early Easter Sunday, the streets were mainly deserted and Michael and I meandered to a small cafe where I had a cappuccino and chocolate-filled croissant. Knowing no Italian, we spoke only English and felt extra American for the first time in a while. We then walked around aimlessly for a bit and found ourselves standing in front of the magnificent Duomo. The surrounding area was rampant with pigeons, tourists, and hawkers. Several men would walk around handing out colorful rainbow bracelets, forcing them upon us claiming they were “free,” then asking for a “donation, for Africa.” Several times, Michael and I were asked if we were dating. When the response was negatory, they’d proceed to hit on me. It was extremely awkward, especially when one man grinned widely and said, “I love you. Do you love me?” To which I channeled Howard and replied, “I’ve only just met you!” Who says Ol’ Gregg isn’t applicable to real life?
We walked to our hostel and dropped our bags off before walking up to the cemetery for some afternoon fun. It’s a legitimate attraction, I promise, but it had closed early on account of it being Easter. Bummer. We spent the rest of the day walking around the city, seeing the Arena, Arco della Pace, Triennale, and Castlle Sforza before grabbing our first Italian gelato (chocolate and tiramisu for me) – noms. Walking back towards where we came, we stopped at the Duomo again, this time climbing up to the top for a gorgeous view of the city. The stairs were purported to be a strenuous passage, but Michael and I both agreed it was nothing compared to some of the other staircases we’ve seen (and boy, have there been plenty). We intended to find the legendary Luini’s for a quick panzarotti dinner before our early train tomorrow, but armed with only a name, we were unable to find it and instead sat down at a random cafe for pizza bread instead. We didn’t realize we were supposed to go up and get the food ourselves so ended up sitting there awkwardly for some time, and then were rewarded for our ignorance with more food from the lady behind the counter who felt sympathetic for our poor restauranting skills. (In retrospect, these were the early signs of the Great Viennese Train Incident. We should really have known… but more details about that later.)
Like the old people we are, we went back to the hostel and got in bed. Some of the other people in our room seemed friendly but we were exhausted from the morning’s drama and had to be up relatively early the next day. So far, however, our impressions of Italy had been rather wonderful; despite Milan’s reputation for being somewhat cold, we fell asleep full and happy. Staying asleep, however, proved to be a challenge as one of our roommates was prone to making noises that were beyond the realm of snoring, more appropriate from a woodchipper than human. As I lay sleepless, I devised different ways to smother him and at one point gave him an elaborate backstory about how he was a portly, older gentleman in Milan with his little ginger daughter who pleaded, “But ma’am, daddy needs this operation!”, referring, of course, to a procedure that would cure the fellow of his respiratory rumblings. Needless to say, it was a long night and it wasn’t a moment too soon before we head out the doors and on to the train to Venice.