We had arrived in Milan the previous night, my Wife from Brussels and I from Frankfurt, for a weekend trip.
The hotel receptionist – always a macho man in Italy, just as it is always a sharp-tongued woman in Spain – asked for our passports and said he’d return it the next morning. This seems to be a practice common to hotels in Italy. On our first trip to the country in 2000, the receptionist of small hotel in Rome had asked for it when we checked-in around midnight. Back then, Europe to us was an unfamiliar place and Italy, we’d been warned, had crooks in every street. So the prospect of leaving our passports with a sinister-looking man in a dimly-lit reception in the middle of the night did not bode well for our chances of a sound sleep, and we found ourselves arguing, unsuccessfully, with the man for a few minutes.
This time we knew better.