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Working it out in the world, and sometimes writing about it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Milano, What Are Your Intentions With Me?

What is it they say about best laid plans? Oh, right—just don’t make them. So I didn’t. At first.

A former colleague recently asked me if I had plans or intentions while abroad. What a wonderful sentiment. It implies a decision between spontaneity and minute planning, but allows flexibility so that you may continue to be the master of your fate. Plans or intentions.

So far, I have intentions. My run-through of countries prior to my departure had been Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, and Montenegro. Now, I’ve added at least one or two countries, and I have the intention of adding more, so should I choose.

I used to be more of a planner. But since this trip began, I realized how much it pays off to have intentions and no plans. For example, I was planning on being on my way to Portugal earlier this week. But my train from Lugano was incredibly late, and caused me to miss my train to Barcelona…had I made reservations. Instead, I didn’t, saved myself some Euro, and spent the day tooling about Milan with some East coast boys, Robert and Luke. The best laid plans are those that are unearthed liked old cobblestones and thrown down the rubbish chute. Instead, feel the earth beneath your feet.

Hard not to notice the private school class covered in umbrellas.

I was thinking that when the earth seemed to move. We were being given a tour by Matteo, some permutation of a friend of a friend of Luke’s mother’s. Matteo was pointing something out in the piazza and the earth vibrated beneath me, a harsh whisper of the metro coursing below us like water, just as quick and heavy as a river.

Matteo pointed out blown-out buildings from World War II, new battlements on the old castle, and Milanese fashion and café institutions populated by the well-dressed modern Milanese. I saw a city that I had previously snubbed for its cement buildings and exhaustive and expensive fashion. I’d been to Milan when I was 13, and had felt no desire to return. But there I found myself, standing in a piazza with the metro pulsing beneath me and gothic spires pushing upward from the roof of the duomo, away from one another like tectonic plates. Milan wasn’t my first choice, but ok, I could go with it. What else could I do?

Saint Bartholomew: He was skinned alive. This very statue depicts that. Nice. 

The boys and I spent the afternoon eating pizza and trying to get ourselves out the door of our hostel for aperitivo. But a soccer match was on, we were tired of the rain and being wet, and we just decided to stay in. By the evening’s end, I was thoroughly looking forward to getting out of Milan and getting to Portugal. The next day was my out, and I was ready for it.

And this was our evening. Cheese, bread, meat, and good posture. 

My intention—no plan yet, I hadn’t made reservations—was to catch the evening train to Barcelona, catch another train to Madrid, and catch a final one to Lisbon. When I arrived in Milan earlier in the week, I had been assured by the ticket agent that there was a train later in the week I’d be able to catch. Great, no problem.

Unfortunately, it was. For some reason I couldn’t quite understand—something about the French train lacking the necessary technology to arrive at the Milano station—the train was cancelled. But wait! There was a bus! Although, it was small. And full.


I’d had it. My attitude was no longer pliable and infinitely malleable, like taffy. I wanted to get to Portugal, dammit, and the Italian train system was impeding that want in a terrible way.

So I did what every frustrated female would’ve done.

I cried.

The boys were great. Robert and Luke sat me down and helped me talk about a game plan for getting to Barcelona. But I didn’t want to just get to Barcelona. I wanted to get to Portugal; Barca was just a place to change trains. I hated Milan, I hated the rain, I hated the gross shower in the bathroom at our hostel. I didn’t want to see another Luis Vuitton bag or another Missoni scarf. I needed out.

Ah, the lovely boys. Robert and Luke.

I got back to the hostel and booked a next-day flight to Lisbon. Sorry, Milan. F you. You lose.

Typically, I am not a next-day flyer. I am not even a same-week traveler. I take time to plan, to find the best price. Not this time. My intention to go to Portugal, with a few pieces of information and some not-so-insignificant Euros, became a plan. I had my damn ticket, and by 4 PM the next day, I would be gone.

My last day in Milan was surprising. My attitude had yet again changed. I was still in a city I was so ready to leave, but I was hopeful that what was ahead was better than what was behind. The sun peaked out a bit, I had made friends, and we climbed the duomo to see all of Milan spread out like a blanket. A blanket of Chanel and Hermes and factories, all the same, but a blanket nonetheless.

Part of the top of the duomo. It's vast. 

Some apostles and Milan in the background. 

We climbed down the stairs, I hugged my friends goodbye, and trotted to the metro. All I had to do was pick up my bag, get to the train station, get to the airport, and get on the plane. Then, I would be in Portugal.

And I was. I am. I intend plan on being here for a while. 

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