Read the first part of guest blogger-photographer Elizabeth Lippman’s special series about departing from the fashion flock here.
After flying into the new airport in Milan, I hop on the Malpensa Express into the city, as guided by my super-helpful host from AirBnB.com, Fabrizio, who sent me emails with PDFs of maps, directions, his cell number, email addresses, etc.
But my cabbie drops me off with all my camera equipment (I am in town to shoot the fashion shows) on a street corner nowhere near where I’m going. Two panicked phone calls and another 12 Euro cab ride later, I find Fabrizio waiting for me nervously in Piazza 24 Maggio.
I get a tour of the apartment where I'll be living WITH Fabrizio and his wife, Asia, for the next four days. Only I, the lone American, seem to find this arrangement incredibly weird and awkward. All my other accommodations on this trip have required borrowing someone's personal space, but not actually sharing it. Here I will be sharing an apartment, and a bathroom, with this married couple.
The apartment is long and narrow with high ceilings and nice light. The charmingly mismatched kitchen with balcony overlooking the courtyard is clearly the center of activity, and I am told to help myself to anything I want. Fabrizio gives me a map and shows me a nice walking route from the Piazza 24 Maggio up to the Duomo, the de facto center of town. I set out and have to admire how, in the middle of a bustling and not-particularly-pretty modern city, one still TRIPS over history.
As I get closer to the city center, I stop for pizza—my first in Italy in years. My hosts later tell me that NO pizza will be good on Via Torino, and also that Milan doesn't actually have good Italian food—the city is allegedly so “cosmopolitan” that I would be better off with Japanese food! Finally, I find the Duomo, which looks pretty and pink in the fading light.
I discover my hosts both home and ready to entertain me. It turns out our apartment is right around the corner from the Navigli neighborhood, famous for its nightlife. We wander down uncrowded backstreets away from the famous canals to one of Fabrizio and Asia's favorite spots, Trattoria La Magolfa, (15 Via Magolfa). We talk extensively about their recent trip to New York and Brooklyn, where they actually walked through my neighborhood, and about being journalists, newlyweds, and a bunch of other normal stuff. These talks even make it into a gift Fabrizio makes for me, a cartoon version of myself and my adventures he gifts me on my last night:
These are seriously some of the nicest people I've ever met, but I am astounded to hear that they have allowed strange men, users of AirBnB, to stay with them, and never thought anything of it. Do Europeans just watch far fewer horror movies than we Americans do?
The next morning, having in fact survived the night, I wake up to find my hosts departed. They've left me toast, raw honey, fruit, and coffee. I grab a cappuccino to go and head out to the Four Seasons Hotel, where I've been instructed to pick up my pass for my first Italian show—Gucci!
With a little extra time to kill before the show, I'm able to wander the famous streets of the “Golden Rectangle,” Milan's high fashion quarter, including the famous via Della Spiga.
The Gucci show is fun—a blur of color and glamour.
When it’s over, I decide to walk back. I find the Via Vittorio Emanuele, a pedestrian-only street with lots of high street and mid-range fashion shops and sit down at a cute outdoor cafe next to the neo-classical church San Carlo al Corso to watch the afterwork crowd bustle by. (Thank god for the Milanese’s exuberant use of heat lamps!)
That night I have dinner at home with my hosts, who cook a simple but delicious radicchio ravioli in broth and serve it with a green salad. Though it’s just something they've thrown together after work, it turns out to be the best meal I'll have in Milan—fresh, unpretentious, and delicious.
That night, I reflect on the Milan part of my voyage, the city I know by far the least. It occurs to me that despite my reservations about sharing an apartment with strangers, my Airbnb hosts have not only NOT killed me, they've actually provided me with almost all my enjoyable experiences in what has been an otherwise grey, cold, and kind of lonely business trip.