THE PLAN: meet Dylan at the airport, fly to Milan, arrive Saturday afternoon. Go to dinner with William and Giannino and his new girlfriend, Ann-Marie. Follow up with a little R & R in some Milanese club. Sunday, complete our pilgrimage to the San Siro stadium, a fitting temple for the titans of modern football. We will see AC Milan annihilate Juventus. Back home on the last flight.

At the Tube station I realise my wallet is at home. But I have pounds 3.50 in change and I can borrow cash from Dylan at the airport. So I travel to Heathrow and find he's not there. Now what? I still have pounds 50 in lire, and I can borrow more from Giannino to pay the hotel bill. Where is Dylan? Twenty minutes before take-off I decide to go alone.

Suddenly, Dylan is at my shoulder. Late, in a rush, he has skidded and crashed his car just outside the airport. No one hurt, but the front of the Citroen is a mess, as is the rear end of Mr Ali's Datsun. We check in and learn the flight is delayed by 90 minutes. Understandably, Dylan is swearing.

We know that everything will be all right once we get there, and so it is. Blue skies, a soft breeze, a beautiful spring afternoon. The Duomo radiates golden light. Everyone is wearing sunglasses. We check into the hotel, pop out for a coffee and walk back. Dylan voices his admiration for Milanese womanhood, or words to that effect. At 7pm William arrives and says the game is on TV right now. My response is firm but gentle. No, William, it's being played tomorrow. He defers to my superior knowledge in these matters. We leave to meet the others.

Five minutes along the road a crowd has gathered outside a TV shop and, yes, they are watching the match. We arrive just as Roberto Baggio dances around a mesmerised Milan defence, and cheekily stuffs the ball into the net. Milan are now losing 3-1, with about 10 minutes 1eft. Our expressions mirror those of Milan's back four.

We have missed the match, which has been brought forward at a week's notice to allow Juventus an extra day's rest before they play a European fixture on Tuesday. We have paid pounds 75 each for tickets, which are now useless, pounds 140 for the flight, another pounds 25 for the hotel. Dylan is swearing again. I swear, too, then start smiling. Since there is no focus for my frustration and anger, I decide to have a great weekend in Milan. But then, I did not crash my car this morning.

We go for a drink and meet up with Claudio and Danielle. Dylan says he thinks he's in shock. He says this is the most expensive negroni he's ever tasted. He asks Claudio what he's smiling at. I say he's happy, Dylan, remember what it looks like? We go to a new bar called Cocktail to meet Giannino and Ann-Marie. I laugh out loud as I tell Giannino. It's such a great story, I love telling it. Especially the bit about the goal.

Dylan is still pretending to be pissed off. At least, I think he's pretending. I apologise, just in case. Ann-Marie is really funny. Giannino and Willy are in good form. We head off to Trattoria Bolognese da Mauro in Giannino's car.

Giannino knows all the good, earthy, family restaurants in Milan. Ann-Marie points out that Giannino Malossi translates literally as Little Johnny Badbones. I've known him five years and I never realised that. He ought to be in a heavy metal band, says Ann-Marie. We laugh at Giannino, who is balding, with a beard and exquisitely cerebral. Dylan pretends to be annoyed with me again. Says I dragged him out here. A bit later he starts referring to me pointedly in the third person. Ann-Marie is concerned. I tell her not to worry. It's not that he's really pissed off with me, just that, well, he's pissed off and I just happen to be here.

The meal is over and he's still faking resentment when I start laughing. I've just remembered my trump card. I tell him it's even worse than he thought. Not only is he out of pocket and pissed off, but I can write about this evening for the Independent and get paid for it. I can literally write off the cost of my trip. It won't cost me a penny. And it will end right here, I tell him, with me laughing my head off while you growl at me, you miserable git. And we all laugh at Dylan, whose face seems to be made of granite. You could have struck a match on it. This finally does the trick and he drops the act.

Later, at a bar called Caroselo we meet Busy, who is waiting to lose his appeal against a six-year sentence for possession of heroin. He is very sweet, very funny, very drunk. His friend Vittorio, a fireman, describes how earlier that day his unit had tried to catch an escaped monkey. A pattern was soon established: each time the hydraulic ladder was raised and the fireman got close, the monkey had simply jumped to another tree. I tell him my story. He laughs at the bit about the goal. Vittorio says he and Busy support Inter, the other Milanese team, and AC Milan's arch-rivals.

Busy plucks a brass Inter pin from his lapel to show me. It must be 30 years old. I feel like an impostor.

Back at the hotel, Dylan and I share a few jokes before lights out. Tomorrow we'll have lunch at Lake Como with his friends, he has arranged it. It's beautiful up there, he says. Later, in the darkness, I gaze up at a single white star in the window's purple rectangle. I feel like a child in a fairy story.