By Mawuse Ziegbe
Recently, I went to Italy for the first time. For all the glossy Gucci, fierce Fendi and vampy Versace the country pumps into the world, I expected bronzed, hollow-cheeked glamazons marching through the streets day and night. So much for stereotypes. Milan, one of the glamour meccas of the world, struck me more as a quaint old-world city, with the modernity of a metropolis sprouting up between epic castles and canals.
One thing that was painfully too modern, however, was the soul-crushing exchange rate. Compared to the Euro, the dollar has the strength of a marshmallow. One Euro is about $1.50 and the prices of well, everything, were heartbreaking (cabs start at 6 Euros!! What the !!!) So while my plans changed a little bit (no more poppin' bottles of vino in Lake Como), I was able to really live like a 20-something Milanese.
First, there is the very homey (and thankfully economical) custom of aperitivo, which is the Italian answer to the New York brunch. From 7 to 9 pm everyday, the city slows down and every bar offers an all-you-can-eat appetizer buffet with the purchase of one drink. It was a welcome comfort after trying not to blow my rent money on discounted Fendi and vibrating around the city hopped up on espresso (one of the only things I could afford).
I hit up a party or two, including a Levi's shindig on Porta Ticinese, a hipster stronghold populated by edgy accessory shops and cozy boutiques. And in a very Devil Wears Prada moment, we passed by a Versace fashion show which was infested with frantic journalists and photogs (One cavalierly snapped my photo yet couldn't be bothered to tell me what magazine she was from. Whatever.). Later in the week, I boogied to shimmery electro at spots like Yellow Submarine and Refeel and relaxed to groovy mid-90s trip-hop and soul at Cuore.
I also checked out a Roni Size concert, who is a drum and bass fave from way back. During the set, I participated in my first mosh pit. I didn't expect to lose my moshing virginity at a D&B set in Milan but I did learn something: moshing is awesome! I never thought that fighting equals fun but pushing and shoving to a beat gets the adrenaline thrashing through your veins. Plus I figured, "I live in Brooklyn, NOBODY is going to out-rude me."
Honestly, I didn't take to Milan that quickly - it's dirty, expensive and a lot of that fashion stardust rarely touches us common folk. But it's also charming, with heaps of stunning architecture, cobblestone streets that snake aimlessly throughout the city and no shortage of chill bars. And, the purpose of the trip was to visit friends and I realized that whether we're trading jokes over a cocktail or strolling along a piazza, love is still love - regardless of the language.