When an Unexpected Stopover in Milan is Not Good News
Espresso in Milan-Malpensa Airport
Before I knew my flight would be canceled, before I knew my only option for dinner would be a leathery cheese and tomato panini, and before I knew the white tiled-floors of Milan-Malpensa Airport would be my bed for the night, I ordered an espresso.
I sat down at the only cafe near the boarding gate after ending up in Milan by accident. Delays and missed connections had added another stop to my 20-hour journey from Bangalore to New York. That meant an extra five hours tacked onto my travel time, but no matter. After all, I was in Italy (sort of).
And when in Italy, who can resist the most Italian beverage of all? I texted a photo of the squat white porcelain cup to my husband, and then another to my parents and brother. “Flight is a bit delayed,” I wrote, “so espresso time.”
The terminal seemed packed with people waiting to board the same flight as me. Seating was scarce and we were told to stay near the gate, so I wandered around the only duty-free shop next to the lone café, determined to make the most of my time. The shop carried the usual lineup of liquors, Italian goods, and last-minute gifts for forgetful travelers. Milan-Malpensa is the second-busiest airport in Italy, but if it has a sleek and sprawling side to it, I did not find it. Hour after hour, the once-short delay stretched on. I bought a bottle of balsamic vinegar and another of Prosecco. I sat on the floor as kids made fast friends and raced around the terminal. I thought about getting one more espresso.
It wasn’t until several hours later that we found out the flight was canceled and we would only be leaving the next morning. It was currently 10 p.m. that night. Though the airline offered rooms at a hotel nearby, this was going to be a problem for me. As an Indian citizen, I’m required to apply for a visa to European countries well in advance of entering them. My unscheduled stopover in Italy meant that I did not have a tourist visa to get into the country. While the British, American, and European travelers breezed out of the airport for one more night in Milan, I and a dozen other passengers waited anxiously for the Italian authorities to approve a one-day transit visa.
The answer was a resounding no. I was given a blanket and a small pillow from Business Class and settled under the airport’s fluorescent white lights for the night. There is something calming about realizing that the worst-case scenario has come true, and the stress of the day slowly started to ebb. All that was left to do was eat a shitty panini and fall asleep.
I woke up early the next morning with my fingers crossed. The cafe I had sat at the previous day, about 18 hours ago at this point, was slowing easing itself into opening hours. I brushed my teeth at the public restroom and waited for good news. We would finally take off that morning and I would arrive in New York an entire day later than planned. But before that, there was still time for one more espresso.