Recently I traveled to a client conference in Milan and met up with my mom and dad who had business in Naples, afterward. Making my way down the Boot, I couldn’t resist hopping off the train to spend an afternoon to myself in Rome, before making it to dinner with my parents.
It’s not often that I go into the details of my career here, but my favorite part of my job has deepened my love of travel, so sharing some background seems appropriate.
Once or twice a year, I get to venture to client conferences for the opportunity to meet and work with the people I’ve been collaborating with via email throughout the year. My VP and I are invited to the international event to present new programs and services we are rolling out to our biggest client and partners in the tech marketing and sales industry. Each event is hosted in a different city within Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (the region I manage all our programs for). Careerwise, these are the highlight of my year.
The days are long though, non-stop, and can be rather demanding. While my clients enjoy a short week of training and team-building activities, as an agency representative, I am there to support them, which means I should be operating at a sharp, charming, and always-ready-for-anything level. I try to muster up the best version of myself while I’m both jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, whether I’m presenting to a ballroom, strategizing new campaigns at lunch, or troubleshooting mobile apps in the elevator on the way to breakfast. Together with minding the various customs of the multi-cultural attendees, this can be a little challenging as an American (wink). Though without fail, somewhere between the keynotes and meetings, I get so much more in return. There’s always the chance to learn a new perspective at dinner, gain insight into geopolitical matters over coffee, or catch up with an old colleague in the hotel lounge, and if I’m lucky, make a new friend.
Someday I’ll write a memoir and include all the lovely and interesting people I’ve met while traveling. Since most of the people I’ve met abroad on business are essentially all clients, I’ll leave those characters out of my blog, even though I’ve really lucked out and only have good things and great stories to tell. Until then, I’ll glaze over most of what I do for a living and keep it about location, location, location.
Though it rained every night I was in the capital (and I spent the majority of each day inside the hotel working), I did get out to see a bit of the city when I landed. At 3 PM on Sunday, I fought the temptation to give into the quick-setting jet-lag and skipped my usual post-transatlantic-flight nap. After checking into the Hilton on Via Luigi Galvani, I headed out for a brisk walk to Piazza del Duomo that I had read a bit about the day before.
Even though I was confident with the concierge’s pointers on how to get there, I quickly found that following directions in Italy was trickier than simply taking the “main road” and the “third right” and so on. Its cities are not built on a grid like most in the U.S., so I stopped frequently to ask friendly faces to fill the blanks I was drawing all along Corso Buenos Aires in between some very satisfying window-shopping. Having saved up for this, I took mental snapshots of my favorite boutiques and returned later to purchase all the Italian lingerie my heart desired.
A quick jaunt away from Piazza Duca d’Aosta, home of the monumental Stazione centrale, the boulevard and its connecting avenues and alleyways offer some of the chicest shopping in town. The major thoroughfare was bustling with the excitement of Fashion Week, and was fun strolling down to catch glimpses of artful ads, models, and photo shoots.
From the refectory or Cenacolo, at Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper is preserved, I followed the crowd that led me unmistakably closer to the cathedral I’d been hoping to tour before sundown.
Milan’s Duomo is an impressively massive structure in the center of the plaza that seemingly everyone who comes to Milan, comes to see. The cathedral took over 600 years to complete and boasts having more statues and gargoyles ornamented throughout than any other building in the world.
Climb the stairs or take the lift to the rooftop to fully appreciate the architecture of the most renowned silhouette in the city. From the terrazza you’ll see breathtaking views across Milan and, on clear days, the snow-capped peaks of the Alps.
Losing daylight, and assuming my VP had also landed by now, with a client expecting us for dinner, I figured I had just enough time to wander the plaza (and get lost again), before taking a cab back to the hotel.
As any readers of this blog know, I tend to get a lot out of talking to taxi drivers wherever I go. They know so much about their home cities and make excellent recommendations. The driver who picked me up near the cathedral was a woman, which is rare, and accepted credit, also rare. She asked me if I had enjoyed my time during Fashion Week, and when I said I hadn’t had the chance, she clarified it isn’t something that’s open to the public, and she had assumed I was a model. I wasn’t expecting that to say the least, and the laugh I let out was probably telling enough to show I was not trained in the modeling ways. She was just a couple years older than me, serene, and kindly helped me with my pronunciation on the ride back to the hotel. When I asked, she told me where I could be sure to get a good plate of pasta before I returned to the States.
When we arrived, I gave my first, “Grazie, signorina” while stepping out of the taxi, and was very pleased with myself for not accidentally saying it in Spanish instead.