May 29, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Here’s a quickie itinerary for the University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse trip to Italy:
Today: The Irish arrived just about on time in Milan on Alitalia flight 605 (with only one missing bag). Most everyone accessed Euros at the airport, either from the bank or an ATM, and then it was off via bus (driving past a 70,000-seat soccer stadium on the way as well as the newly-modernized headquarters for the A.C. Milano soccer team) to downtown Milan for some free time and lunch, followed by a guided walking tour at 3:15 p.m. The two major sites to see proved to be the Duomo di Milano, the third-largest church in the world (it took 400 years to build and is covered inside and out with marble), and the Milan castle (official name is Castello Sforzesso), built in the Middle Ages to protect the city. Downtown Milan is extremely old school, with cobblestone streets and old-time trolley cars paired with major-league shopping.
When in Milan, try the Bar Duomo bistrot café. The bruschetta is excellent, as is the vegetable plate (with eggplant) and the melon with prosciutto. And there’s a perfect view of the Duomo from your seats.
After a bit more free time around the castle, the team took its bus to Erba (in the foothills of the Alps) and its home for the first two nights, Hotel Leonardo da Vinci—with dinner (salad, plus homemade lasagna, lemon chicken, lemon potatoes and tiramisu) at the hotel for a somewhat exhausted group. The owner of the hotel also turns out to be the head chef.
Tour guide for the trip is Giancarlo Manti, who made certain the Notre Dame contingent understood rules for coffee in Italy:
— Order coffee in Italy and you get espresso.
— If you want the United States version of coffee, ask for Americano.
— There’s no such thing as a latte in Italy—if you order that, you’ll be served milk.
— Don’t order cappuccino after noon—Italians drink it in the morning, so if you order it later in the day it’s a dead giveaway that you are a tourist.
— Understand when you go in a bar and order your coffee, you are likely to stand at the counter to drink it.
In the small-world category, the Irish group hadn’t been in downtown Milan for 10 minutes before running into Ben Sutton, longtime executive with ISP and now IMG (owners of the Notre Dame football radio rights), who was traveling in Italy with his daughter.
Here’s what’s ahead:
Friday: There’s a morning boat ride on Lake Como, some free time for wandering in nearby Bellagio and Como, a late afternoon training session (that means practice in Europe), followed by dinner back at the hotel.
Saturday: The team leaves early for San Marino, with a stop at the Ferrari museum on the way. The Irish continue via bus to Riccione where at 5:30 p.m. they will play their first lacrosse game against a select team from Great Britain (also including other international players). The competing teams will have dinner together, then the Notre Dame group will check into the Gran Hotel San Marino.
Sunday: The Irish will take a morning walking tour of San Marino, then play another game against Team Norway.
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