**Disclaimer: The names of the people have been changed for the protection of their privacy, and for a bit of comedic effect.
I tagged along with a gorgeous Puerto Rican man named Antonio, and a ballerina named Gloria from the UK that first night in Milan, Italy. Antonio was perfect not only because he was the most masculine man in the lobby, but he also seemed to speak fluent Italian and was very gregarious. And nearly broke, Antonio knew the cheapest places to eat.
Antonio told stories about being a model and the reputations of what I called the lobby dandies. Although impeccably dressed, these men weren’t gay. They would hang around to get the models to go to dinner and then enjoy said models for dessert. This sounded like what Americans would call a one-night stand, but the Italians would keep the model around until either she or the Italian found a better deal. This could be months or even years. They wouldn’t let a woman pay for anything. Antonio was occasionally recruited to dine along to translate for a non-English-speaking dandy. They repaid him by picking up the bill for his dinner.
I had the best pasta I had ever eaten and then discovered tiramisu, the most succulent chocolate dessert in history. It’s so creamy it can even make your feet happy after walking all day in stilettos on cobblestones—“Cobblestones Kill High Heels”, should be the title of an article in Vogue—I digress.
The waiter explained that tiramisu is made of mascarpone cheese, sugar, egg yolks, chocolate, espresso and rum-soaked ladyfinger biscuits, all put down in layers. Dark chocolate shavings adorn the top.
I decided then and there I would stay in Milan after the shoot. The Italians were so much more hospitable than Parisians. Once, in Paris, an extremely surly waiter served me a steak and a piece of chocolate cake on the same plate. I had ordered steak avec pommes frites—French fries—that didn’t sound anything like gateau au chocolat. I had studied Spanish in high school but in my experience, most WASP Americans like me didn’t really speak any foreign languages.