48 Hours In Italy Without Wine & Cheese
That's a math equation.
If Wine + Cheese + X = Italy, then solve for X.
*Now, this isn’t the arithmetic you learned in school because a variety of answers are accepted for the value of X.
X, is a morning walk to a local “bar” that serves cafe espresso and pane al cioccolato, which became brioche cioccolato when yelled across the bar to the woman at the register who informed me my bill was only €2 before asking which cigarettes I wanted. I didn’t want any cigarettes. I needed to save my breath for the goodbye shouting match between the barista and myself.
Me: “Ciao, Grazie.”
Him: “CIAO, BUONA GIORNATA, CIAO!”
X is a persimmon, selected by the man working a fruit stall in the Brera neighborhood who lured you in with fresh grapes, handing you samples as he selected his next customer from the foot traffic. A multitasker. But, the persimmon, so juicy that it drips off your fingers from the first bite and stains your pants and the street before you can accept the napkin and your €.20 coin from the vendor. Desire is impatient.
The goodbyes are thank you’s with a kind smile.
X is a taxi driver, a motorcycle driver, and a group of pedestrians, congregating at a crosswalk on Viale Monte Nero, with arms stretched out between their shoulders and heads, yelling combinations of dog, god, pig, and asshole to each other. They all cross the intersection safely, congratulating themselves for their victory, ignorant to the reality that this interaction will have no impact on future driving or walking patterns of these individuals or other Italians.
A late middle finger by the motorcycle driver was the only goodbye.
X is a ride to Navigli Grande on the number 9 tram without paying. In the standing room only car, your eyes dart through the passengers, surveying for the official blue jackets that will write you a €40 ticket for failing to validate or even purchase a ticket. When you see the jackets, you grab your friend's arm and dash out the closing tram doors to safety.
You can’t hear the goodbye because the tram door has closed on the shouting officer.
X is stopping a family of 4, 3 humans and 1 dog, on the sidewalk to pet Lucy, their dog, and realizing Lucy isn’t responding to your request for paw because she is an Italian dog. She doesn’t speak English, and you don’t have a treat. Your commands are ignored.
Goodbye isn’t understood because Lucy still doesn’t speak English.
Italy is a love affair. A country whose regions encourage a forgiven indulgence into their Bella Vita. It’s here we step out of our routines. Morning runs become exploration walks that extend into the afternoon, espresso is chosen over green tea, and breakfast is replaced by dessert.
So, spending a weekend in Milan as someone who doesn’t drink wine or eat animal products could have been difficult. It was tempting. Italy is a country where straying from our commitments doesn’t feel like abandonment, but rather a thrill. But, with my own version of math, I allowed Italy to mean something different this weekend. I had a love affair with Milan and I don’t regret it.
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