Milan: It Gets Worse Before it Gets Better
I spent Oct. 20-Nov. 21, 2018 cycle touring unsupported from Milan, Italy to Split, Croatia this post recounts part of that journey.
I woke up thinking the day would be much better than the airport/train/getting lost fiasco of the day before. In some ways I was right, but in others I was very, very wrong. We ate breakfast in the hotel: pastries and cappuccinos, an espresso, and a few cookies stowed away for later. We had a mission to find a laundromat, a bike shop, get groceries, buy camping gas and see a few sights in Milan so we could head out early the next day. What we didn’t bank on was Sunday being a very sleepy day in Italy, even in the metropolis of Milan.
When we finally found an open bike shop it was more of a boutique fashion store and coffee shop than a bike repair shop. We pumped up our tires, tried to find a more utilitarian shop and went on our way. Something didn’t feel right with my front tire. As we made our way to the next shop I asked Craig to pull over. It felt like my wheel was going to fall off. It turned out I hadn’t attached it very well the day before. After screwing around with the wheel and the breaks I finally felt safe, but when we got to the bike shop, it too, was closed. We decided to grocery shop for the next few days and get some lunch.
I paid for the groceries and we sat in a park next to the grocery store eating focaccia and drinking Italian beers. I showed Craig some American money and we were settling into being reunited after 4 months apart. We got up to go into a sports store that was miraculously open and I felt off. I asked Craig if he had put my wallet into his bike bag with the groceries. He didn’t know. We shopped around for a bit and I had a nagging feeling. I emptied the groceries and couldn’t find my wallet. I had JUST had it on the park bench. I ran back out but of course it wasn’t there. I looked in trash cans, asked customer service at at the grocery store and a new sense of panic washed over me. I was about to spend the next month in Europe and now I didn’t have any cash or credit cards or my drivers license or anything. This was not good.
I decided we needed to go back to the hotel so I could regroup, drop off the groceries and figure out where the police station was. I called my mom. I cancelled all my cards. I beat myself up for being careless. I had traveled the world, lived in Asia and never had my wallet stolen while traveling. Maybe I was relying too much on Craig to have it all figured out. Maybe I was in culture shocked from 9 weeks in the woods. In any case, I was out of sorts, without money and on my way to the police station that Craig saw down the road from where we were staying.
The police told us we actually needed to go to the tourism police station near the Duomo. I wanted to see the famous church anyway so Craig bought two train passes and we went to the square. The officers were sitting in a booth seemingly not doing much of anything. The waiting room was brimming and I knew we could wait for hours just to report a wallet that likely would never be found, and if it was, where would they send it? I would be on the road. Wallet or not, we were cycling out of Milan the next day.
I was in a bad mood, which took a toll on Craig who generously offered to pay for everything until I figured out my financial situation. I was bitter about my lost cash, upset I hadn’t taken out my American money and non-essential cards before coming to Europe. We walked around looking for an Apertivo restaurant I had read about. And guess what? Closed on Sundays. We found a cafe called Regina. Closed. We walked for a long time in a neighborhood with a hospital. We found a Mediterranean restaurant, not exactly the Italian food I’d been craving, but they were open and had an Italian beer in the fridge I hadn’t tried yet. I asked Craig to tell me jokes to try to get out of my funk. It sort of worked.
We took the train back to our hotel and on the walk back from the station overpaid for a bottle of wine at a corner store. Teens with skateboards were hanging around outside. We recounted the day, hoped the worst of the trip was behind us, and decided to get a drink at the hotel bar. The front desk worker didn’t drink alcohol and had no idea how to mix cocktails, so we asked for Italian liquor on the rocks. He was generous with the pour. I went to bed with a little more perspective, ready to get out of Milan and onto the road.