Watch out for bag snatchers, pickpockets, and crooks in Milan. Many hawkers offer you corn kernels (to feed the pigeons) or a lousy bracelet in front of the Cathedral. Do not accept their offers, as they try to cheat you with ridiculously high prices. In the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, it is risky to buy anything from illegal vendors.
“We set off along the castle wall, looking for the entrance, when a young black man came up to us. I knew exactly what he wanted.
“My friend! My friend! Do you want one?” He spoke with a wide, playful smile, his white teeth gleaming just as he held some colorful thread bracelets in front of us. Don’t imagine that this was a beautiful, handcrafted piece of work, but just two or three threads wound together. If you show any interest and don’t immediately send them packing, they hang on to you like a leech and don’t leave you alone until you buy something from them. In fact, in the short term, they’ll even follow you, chatting away to see if you change your mind. This is the better case. It gets worse if there are several of them at once, when, with a noble simplicity, they stand around and blackmail you into buying this worthless junk for a totally unrealistic sum (20-30 euros).
I was in the square in front of the Duomo that year, with an Indian-looking, kind-looking uncle pressing a handful of wheat seeds into my hand so I could feed the radish pigeons from that hand. By the time I woke up, a group of pigeons had started onto the seeds slamming from my hand. After throwing the remaining wheat grains, I would have just thanked Uncle for the gesture when the smile suddenly disappeared from his face, and as a cruel mafia leader called for me to pay for the seeds right away, it cost him money, and I had to reimburse him for his loss.
I was walking through the square in front of the Duomo when I was approached by a pleasant-looking old guy of what looked like Indian origin. He pressed a handful of seed into my hand, so I could feed by hand the scruffy-looking pigeons which populate the square. Before I knew what was happening, a flock of pigeons was greedily pecking the seeds straight from my hand. I scattered the remainder of the seed on the ground, then turned to the man to thank him for the kind gesture. At that moment, the smile abruptly disappeared from his face, and like a ruthless mafia don, he told me that I had to pay for the seeds at once: they had cost him money, and it was necessary for me to compensate him for the loss.
This absurd situation became serious when the man’s big, scary-looking companion appeared next to him, and both of them started demanding €20 in exchange for the seeds. While inwardly, I was more than a little alarmed by all this l, I tried to act confidently and not let myself be intimidated. At last, I handed over about €2, and that brought the story to an end. They were visibly unhappy with the loot, one of them came after me a little when I turned and walked away with what I hope was an inscrutable expression, but eventually, he gave up. Moving away, I could still hear them cursing me for a long time…” (2016)
“Hey, Angelina! I’m Brad Pitt!” a chubby Italian with a whitened face, wearing a curly wig. I was trying to fix my sunglasses at the time and trying to focus on a 3mm screw so that I couldn’t hurry away. In an instant, he had already dragged me by the wrist to his companion, who introduced himself as Leonardo DiCaprio. As a firm believer that honesty is the best policy, I told them I was sorry, but I didn’t have any money. At once, their enthusiasm visibly subsided, but their golden teeth flashed at me, and they still smiled a little.” (2014)