Q. Are those the Alps?

A. Why yes, they are. Camera phone pic taken while flying over the Alps from Germany into Milan.

A. Why yes, they are. Camera phone pic taken while flying over the Alps from Germany into Milan.

Italy, Day 2

(Spoiler Alert! You might want to start with Day 1 to follow this trip from the beginning...)

We arrived in Frankfurt Thursday morning — 1:30am as far as our minds and bodies were concerned — 7:30am as far as Germany was. Our journey through customs was smooth compared to the poor Japanese man who apparently drew the short straw. Our officer even wished me a belated Happy Birthday with an adorable accent.

Zan met a friendly traveler on the brief Lufthansa flight to Milan who suggested that "the woman" should ask for help if necessary during our visit. Understood.

Surprised not to pass through customs in Milan (and bummed not to get an Italian stamp in our passports), we set out to find our bus. After Zan's failed attempt for help, I decided to ask a couple Italian businessmen. Yup, worked like a charm.

 

Dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente, the Milan Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, currently Cardinal Angelo Scola. The Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete.

Dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente, the Milan Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, currently Cardinal Angelo Scola. The Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete.

From the bus stop we accidentally stumbled upon the Duomo di Milano in our attempt to locate the metro. I soon learned that this would be the first of many times that we would accidentally walk by something epic in pursuit of our intended destination.

On the metro we befriended a Milanese gentleman who worked for a large American-owned software company. His English was great and he eagerly helped us find our stop and even recommended a great place for lunch.

Moments later we arrived at Richard's place, located in the heart of the trendy Navigli District, and buzzed at the gate. We were greeted by our warm, even trendier host, and led along the stone-covered courtyard to our cozy perch in Milan.

Our airbnb.com "super host" Richard.

Our airbnb.com "super host" Richard.

After visiting for a while, we headed to lunch at the recommended l'Osteria de la Conchetta. As our waiter approached we both froze for a half second which is apparently how long it takes to signal to the world that you're an American. We were quickly sent an English-speaking host and dove into our meal.

Antipasto misto della conchetta — salumi e formaggi. Side note: I think our antipasto may have included horse. Yes, horse, as in Burger King. More on that later...

Antipasto misto della conchetta — salumi e formaggi. Side note: I think our antipasto may have included horse. Yes, horse, as in Burger King. More on that later...

Gnocchi di patate con pomodoro e bufala affumicata.

Gnocchi di patate con pomodoro e bufala affumicata.

From lunch we stumbled upon an amazing Blu mural and strolled along one of the da Vinci designed canals, the Naviglio Pavese. It was 30°C (times 2, plus 32 minus a few) and the words "death march" may have escaped my lips on our way to the Duomo. Shortly after making our way through the crowds, I hit the proverbial wall. Ever patient, Zan agreed it wise that we take the bus back to crash. Good man.

 

Mural by Blu.

Mural by Blu.

We awoke from our traveling comma just in time for the dinner reservations at 8pm. Delirious from the jetlag, we could not find the restaurant. We worked our best lost puppy faces but were abruptly turned away by the couple we asked for help. The unexpected jab to my pride, combined with sleep deprivation, almost brought me to tears. But instead we rallied and reached out to the next friendly Italian face that passed. In his limited English he pointed just a block away and with our most genuine "grazie!" to date, we triumphantly scurried off.

We arrived at La Madonnina to find zero english-speakers in the house. Slightly less self-conscious about it than our waitress, we all stumbled through the meal and enjoyed Pasta Faguili and Piacente burro e salvia "al fresco."

On our way home, we stopped for our first gelato and shared a delicate, chocolate-dipped cone stuffed with salted caramel, orange chocolate with cinnamon and pistachio. Shame on you normal American ice cream. Seriously. Shame.

Back at Richard's we met his partner Luigi and sat talking on their balcony under the moonlight. "Do Italians really like Americans?" I asked. "Be honest."

"Yes, seriously, they do," assured Luigi. Unsure or of whether he was sparing our feelings or not, we were nonetheless thankful for their company and headed to bed at midnight to fuel for the next day.