July 2015

My visit to Milan was a whole six years after my first trip to Italy, and this time it was with Blake as we backpacked Europe east to went. When we got here. I noticed something right away that was different than any city we had previously been to, which also made it starkly different from my previous Italy trip. And that was, there were no locals anywhere. Everywhere I looked, especially in the city center, there were no Italians to be found anywhere. Instead, there were large groups, primarily from China, carrying selfie sticks and posing for photo ops. To me this was unfortunate, but apparently, as we were later told, this is what usually happens in the summer. All the locals leave and the tourists flood in (aka Hell).

That being said, despite the tourists and a bit of a manufactured atmosphere, there were some things I really liked about the city, such as the architecture and the huge medieval fortress (which remains one of the coolest things I've ever seen). But the thing that stood out to me the most, however, was the food, and one dinner in particular. To give some background information, half of Blake's family is from Italy, so before going, his grandmother gave him $100 to spend on a nice Italian dinner. Here is how that went:

We roamed the streets, up and down, until we finally came across what looked like the most 'Italian' place in the city (we wanted the authentic experience, which was not the easiest to find). We entered and sat down, and we're greeted by a waiter who didn't understand English, which confirmed to us that we made the right choice. After a little struggle of communication, we placed our order, choosing a variety of stereotypical yet delicious looking choices and drinks.

I can still remember the look on our waiter's face as he watched Blake's and my seer excitement upon the arrival of our food, which was, as it is everywhere in Italy, amazing. It was clear by know that the wait staff was enjoying our presence and our expressions to everything, so I decided to ask for one more thing: limoncello. Blake had never had it before, and for me, it reminded me of my very first Italy trip six years prior. They brought it out and, to my astonishment, the waiter said, in English, "Free. On the house!"

When we left, they all waved us goodbye, and we, in return, did the same. For me, this was just the thing I needed to escape the tourist cluttered, hot and humid outdoors of the city, and it still remains one of my highlights from the whole backpacking trip.