ciao, italia: arrival + etc (scroll for photos!)

I arrived in Milan a mess- my eyes dull and stinging from lack of sleep, my jaw still clenched the way it had been on the connecting flight from Zurich as I had tried to nap. After 15 hours of travel that concluded with a wordless 40 minute taxi tour of the empty streets and shuttered store windows of Milan, I found myself facing the excruciating final obstacle in my odyssey: an apartment door that would not open. Behind this triple-locked wooden door was bliss: a shower and a bed and unlimited legroom, and I became more distraught with every useless turn of a key.  Should anyone have found me standing there in the dark hallway, dripping sweat and cursing in English, they might have thought I was some kind of idiot thief amidst a botched attempt to break and enter.

But, of course, no one did find me. In fact, for the next 3 days in Milan I had to make an active effort to find other people in streets and city squares. I had made the tourist’s mistake of arriving in Milan in the middle of Ferragosto (which is both an old Italian holiday and the nickname for August holidays), and although I had been fairly warned that I would be entering a ghost town, nothing could’ve prepared me for the total desolation I witnessed. It was both eerie and oddly comforting- like Milan was telling me to ease my way in (“come on, look around, there’s nothing to be afraid of!”)

I was not alone at home, though. Eva, my friend/ guiding angel/ northern star (where to begin!) took a train from Lerici to Milan and arrived just a couple hours after I finally made it inside her apartment. For the next three days, when I wasn’t sleeping off jet lag and she wasn’t studying we went out for little excursions. She took me to Bocconi, a short walking tour that proved immensely helpful, and to Colonne di San Lorenzo, which sparked my new love of city squares. It’s rare to befriend someone you meet online, rarer still to immediately welcome them into your home, your life, your family. It’s hard to express just the magnitude of my appreciation and gratefulness (gratefulness?) to have had someone so caring and selfless and helpful literally guiding me from San Francisco to Milan, with no single obligation to do so. (if you’re reading this…. ❤ ❤ <3)

Besides me and Eva, the apartment was also home to a particularly persistent and vicious bunch of mosquitos. After my first night I woke up with red swollen circles all along my legs and shoulders; by the end of the day they were throbbing and I couldn’t sit still. I decided to go the pharmacy and pick up the strongest anything that I could for mosquito bites. But, as I had not actually said anything in Italian besides “grazie”, “quanto costa”, and “si” I had to go prepared. “I need…. antihistamines. mosquito repellent. antibiotics? I don’t feel well. I have swelling. Mosquito.” It was either the heat or my nerves or both but I was sweating by the time I arrived at the pharmacy, clutching my handy dandy notebook (lots of perspiration is happening in this post, my apologies). The actual interaction was simple and pleasant, I needed only to say “zanzara” and shake my head a few times before “ciao, grazie” and I headed home.

My final night in Milan the jet lag finally caught up to me, I hardly slept before running out to catch my flight to Istanbul. Which brings this episode of my travels to an end… more from Istanbul to be posted soon!

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