We Stalked George Clooney
His fingerprints are everywhere, but George Clooney is nowhere to be found. For the past two days, my best friends—Diane, Gina, and Gloria-Jean—and I have searched for him across Lake Como. From restaurants and bars to grand hotels and humble tobacco shops, he has either just been there, or he frequents the place so much that no one can pinpoint his last visit. He smiles at us from scrapbooks and smirks at us from framed photographs. "Dove é Giorgio?" we ask taxi drivers, waiters, and people walking their dogs. The answer is always the same: "You just missed him! What a guy!" But like crusaders from bygone days, we refuse to give up. By foot, by boat, by car, we will find him—and if we don't, we'll order more wine, loosen our jeans, and eat more risotto.
Over the years, the four of us have toured Cambodia and Vietnam, shared beach houses along the Eastern Seaboard, and suffered through altitude sickness in Peru. One night last summer, in my backyard in Providence, we pondered our next getaway. We sure needed one. Gina, a wine sales consultant in Boston, had broken up with her boyfriend for the 10th time. Gloria-Jean, an adjunct film professor in Providence, didn't get that teaching position she wanted. And Diane, who lives in Northampton, Mass., was in the market for both a boyfriend and a job. After we ran through a laundry list of perfectly reasonable destinations such as Paris and Rome, someone blurted out, "Why don't we go find George Clooney in Lake Como?"
Plenty of people go to the lake region in northern Italy for reasons that have nothing to do with the new Cary Grant. There are lakeside cafés and restaurants with some of Italy's best food, Alpine views from the top of a funicular, and great shopping in just about every town. In short, the area has everything four friends could ever need to have a good time—and, just possibly, an opportunity to cuddle with the one man on earth who could have a pet pig and still be attractive. "Wouldn't it be something if we met him?" wondered Diane.
This fantasy resonated with me. In one of my most satisfying dreams ever, I stood in George's kitchen, wearing his button-down shirt and smiling at the knowledge that he was mine. "It can't be that hard to find him," I said. After all, pictures of George careering down Como's steep roads on his motorcycle show up in magazines all the time.
Two months later, we're at Logan Airport, armed with matching Where's George? T-shirts and an Italian phrase book. On the flight, Diane and I practice our language skills, focusing on the chapters titled "In a Bar" and "Dating." Sei bello: You're cute. Va bene se ti tocco là?: Is it OK if I touch you there? We're somewhat puzzled by one pickup line: Do you believe in flying saucers? But maybe this is the very thing George is waiting to hear. Our laughter catches the attention of a dashing Italian man across the aisle from us. He grins. We grin back.
When I awake from a nap, the Italian is sitting next to Diane. Heads bent close together, they murmur and giggle, already reliving the moment they first met, near the lavatory. By the time we land, they've exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and he's even given her his MySpace page. "You met a guy on the plane while I slept just one row away from you?" asks Gina as we hail a taxi at the airport in Milan.
"A cute guy," I add.
"A cute Italian guy," Diane says dreamily. "His name is Fabio."
We're staying in the town of Carate Urio, one kilometer from George's villa, at Piccolo Hotel Orso Bruno, owned by a lovely husband-and-wife team, Daniele Quartieri and Simona Guffanti, who eagerly embrace our mission. "He eats here sometimes," says Simona. "We will help you find him." Daniele is also the chef, and as he plies us with heaping plates of risotto, we study our notes, carefully culled from magazines. When George wants to escape the paparazzi, he dines at La Fagurida in Tremezzo. He often has drinks at Harry's Bar, followed by dinner at Il Gatto Nero in Cernobbio. As we inhale Daniele's heavenly gnocchi with Gorgonzola and pine nuts, Simone makes us a lunch reservation at La Fagurida. Full and happy, the four of us settle into our beds, visions of George Clooney dancing in our heads.