Amy, the anti-fashionista

I am a fish out of water in Milan. The fashion industry is alive and well here, but unfortunately, it’s mostly wasted on the likes of me. Sure, I recognize all the big names – Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace – but I’m scared to death about going into these stores and making a complete fool out of myself. I am missing the shopping-for-sport gene that most women are born with, and I can’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes or a purse. I have zero ability when it comes to dressing myself in a creative or stylish manner. As a stay-at-home-mom, my wardrobe is pretty limited. You can usually find me in a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt or mock turtleneck on any given day. I’ll throw on a dress or pair of boots for a special night out, but those events are pretty few and far between these days.

And it’s not just the women of Milan, but European women in general. Of all ages. These ladies are made up so nicely and dressed so well, it’s intimidating! Not all are drop-dead beautiful, but they are certainly what you’d call attractive, at the very least. As my husband says, they really learn to work with what they’ve got and maximize the hell out of it.

I have managed to pick up a few minor fashion tips here and there during my previous visits to Europe. For starters, do not wear tennis shoes/trainers under any circumstances. Even if you’re going to be walking and doing a lot of sightseeing. You’ll immediately single yourself out as a tourist. It’s currently 45 degrees outside and has been raining all weekend, yet the women of Milan are out and about in stilettos and all manner of gorgeous leather boots like it ain’t no thang.

Point number two. Wear a scarf, and don’t just wrap it around your neck; tie it creatively. I swear, European women know how to tie more knots than a sailor. You hardly see two scarves tied the same way, yet all look jaunty and fresh and oh-so-stylish. If you can pull it off, wear a hat as well.

There are some fashions I’ve seen here and in Germany that I’m hoping WON’T cross the pond. For instance, the resurgence of (dare I say it) legwarmers. No. Just, no.

The past day in Milan has been kinda miserable. Hubby thinks I’m complaining nonstop. I am really trying hard to be positive and make the most of our time here, because after all, when am I next likely to be in Milan again? However, it’s proven difficult so far. The weather has been piss-poor – rainy and cold all weekend, effectively curtailing any plans for extended outdoor time. The toddler and I did manage to zip out for a little while yesterday between showers to explore the area around our hotel, but there’s just not a lot here. A few pizzerias, a McDonalds, a couple shops. Not exactly a hopping ‘hood. The toddler is enjoying watching the trams and cable cars go by, though. He nearly jumps out of his skin squealing with delight every time one goes by.

Hubby rejoined us last night after some on-site work for his trade show. He still wasn’t feeling well, so although we’d considered taking the tram into the city for a look around, we decided keeping outings to a bare minimum was probably the wiser way to go. We cruised back to the supermarket for baby food and milk, and found ourselves in the midst of even more mayhem than during our previous visit earlier in the day.

The saving grace of being here in Italy is, of course, the food. Dinner was a repeat performance at Il Pavone. Which was not a bad thing at all. We arrived just as they were opening at 6 p.m. and the lovely Maria took excellent care of us again. I ordered the delicious gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and toasted walnuts, and it tasted every bit as good as it had looked the night before. A plate of grilled zucchini, eggplant and radicchio rounded out my meal, and I washed it all down with the house white wine (dry and slightly bubbly, almost champagne-like, but milder in flavor). Hubby got a pizza and seemed very content with his choice. The toddler soundly refused to eat the Italian baby food meal I’d purchased for him at the grocery and loaded up once again on breadsticks. He did take a few bites of my gnocchi, but wasn’t nearly as impressed with it as I was.

I was starting to go a little stir crazy by that point, so hubby offered to head back to the room with the toddler and let me take the tram into town for some solo time. The tram stop is right outside the hotel, but that’s about the only convenient aspect about it. I boarded with no problem and tried to pay close attention to the stops so I’d know when to hop up and get off. Well, the tram was super crowded, the windows were steamed up and I could hardly see out to get my bearings. Plus, some of the stops were announced and some weren’t. In short, I completely flubbed the trip.

We went through the a busy downtown area and at each stop, I assumed the next announcement would be the Duomo, where I was planning to disembark. It never came, and before I knew it, we’d gone through the city center and were somewhere on the other side heading into another residential district. Hm. I tried to text hubby to see if he could help me figure out where I was, but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t help. I knew it shouldn’t be taking THAT long to get to the Duomo, so I finally just got off the tram and walked around to the other side to catch the return route. Sure enough, I’d gone way past and out into the opposite side of Milan.

Discouraged and disgusted with myself and my apparent lack of navigational ability, all I wanted at that point was to get back to the room and into a hot bath. I did catch a very brief glimpse of the Duomo on the return trip, but it was seriously a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse as we raced around a corner. All in all, the wasted trip ate up about two hours of time and I reentered the hotel wet, cranky and roundly defeated.

This morning, we enjoyed another nice continental breakfast at the hotel, then hubby suggested we all go into the city together where we could walk around a little before he met his work colleague and continued on his way for the day. We figured out that there are two kinds of trams running – older models that require three steep steps to enter and exit, often blocked by divider bars (no hope for us with the stroller), and the newer modern versions that are flush with the stop, allowing much easier access for us to wheel on and off. The only thing is, you never know which tram is coming when. Although the trams run frequently (every seven minutes or so during the week, every 15 on weekends), we quickly learned the hard way that our wait times were going to be inconsistent. We watched two or three of the older trams roll by before one finally arrived that we could board with the stroller.

We finally got into the city in one piece, after requesting a tram map from the hotel concierge and counting the stops like a hawk. We disembarked at the Piazza del Duomo, and it is a beautiful place. The buildings are ancient with gorgeously decorated facades, and the Duomo itself is enormous and elaborate. We took a few requisite photos and a spin through the gorgeous shopping center to the left of the square. Sadly, it was getting onto the toddler’s lunch time, the rain cut our walk-around short, and hubby had to get to work. We returned to the tram stop for the return trip, and ended up waiting about 30 minutes for one we could get on. I did have a lovely chat on the ride back with a family visiting from Ireland for a weekend holiday, and turns out they are staying in the same hotel that we are.

It’s a small world after all.

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