Saturday, October 30, 2010

'This infinite ship': Moretti's post-rationalist building on Corso Italia

I hated that building.

I really hated it.

Walking the narrow dark street below it, as I often was forced to do by its proximity, it was like a sheer mountainous wall of crude cement teetering threateningly over my head. With tiny slits for windows, it was a jail of the spirit. The dreary gray of the crude cement dropped like a miasmic fog onto even the sunniest and cheeriest of days.

Funny what a little bit of paint can do....More......

This building by Luigi Moretti dates to 1952-1956, that is, to roughly the same period as Milan's more famous "Torre Velasca" (designed in that period, but finally completed in 1958), though it is completely different in feel.

Structurally, the Torre Velasca may have had something new to say (we'll see whether it did, or not, in a later message), but the style is precociously "post-modern": streamlined, yes, Milan's first post-war "skyscraper," yes, but still looking overall like a medieval, or Renaissance, tower.

Moretti's post-rationalist building on Corso Italia, nn. 13-15-17, is completely different aesthetically.

The idea of the structure was shaved and shaved and shaved until just a smooth geometric profile juts out like a ship's prow from the adjoining perpendicular structure. Basic structural elements (the pinching of the "prow," the slitted windows, the nestling of the structure like the keel of a boat on a dock) served to decorate, the cement left to shout its practical, inexpensive nature during that building boom in the immediate period after WWII, when lots of new structures were needed for housing and offices (Milan was half in ruins), but budgets were tight.

It was still ugly and depressing, though.

That is, until a few years ago.

A coat of white paint with a touch of red on the window details (it's there, I promise), and, ZAP, the building lifts, now, like a boat rising on the swell of a wave.

Instead of being hammered down, my spirit rises up to it, and I kinda like it. (May have just gotten used to it, too, I'm like that.)

I took this photo on April 8, 2007, at around 5:15 P.M., shortly after the paint job.

Here's a related poetic phrase, which is very meaningful for me, and which I've translated into English for you:

I love life, this infinite ship, this reawakened dream, this book never printed, often disordered as a handful of folded sheets of paper, as single sheets of paper, as snippets of phrases now here, now there in this room in which you have just walked, you go back and walk through it, again, and find it another and different and you translate into time your steps and into memories the corners. Somewhere there is, but I don't know where, no one knows where, a hidden door and the walls that seemed four, because thus swore the geometry of the mind, are many, too many more.
(Roberto Vecchioni, "Quell'inutile voglia di imparare," SETTE, December 17, 2009, n. 4, p. 12)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Photoless Friday (02)

Curious about what Milan looks like? Been here, and miss it?

Here's a good web site for web cams around Milan:

I wanted to implant one of them directly into my blog, also to encourage you to go to the site and check them all out, but the site owner doesn't allow it, so here's the link.

Check it out!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Snarl, cont. (a lion on San Fedele, Milan)

Yesterday's snarl disappeared almost as fast as it burst out, but lions are so much fun, here's another one!...More......

This one is up quite high on the left hand flank of San Fedele, a little late 16th century jewel of a church more known, today, probably because on its steps the elderly Manzoni, one of Italy's most important writers, slipped, fell, banged his head and shortly thereafter died.

His figure is commemorated in a sculpture in the piazza in front of the church.

The church also is remembered, today, because, in the furor following Napoleon's downfall in 1814, his Milanese tax minister, Giuseppe Prina, was dumped out of an upper-storey window in his palace facing onto the courtyard in front of that church.

Inside, there's an interesting mix of Early Renaissance (tucked'll have to hunt), late Renaissance and modern.

Personally, the location is just as fascinating.

The space where San Fedele is, today, was part of the area once in control of the Della Torre family, which had the bad fortune to lose the early 14th century power struggle with the subsequently ducal Visconti. Their houses were razed (hence the nearby street name "case rotte" / "ruined houses," an excellent example of how past monuments and happenings are remembered all over Milan).

What went up in their place?

The area also was part of the Santa Maria della Scala complex. Name ring a bell? It should.

The La Scala opera house got its name from the late 14th century church, built in this area by Beatrice Regina of the important Veronese della Scala family and wife of (intriguing) Bernabò Visconti (more about him in a future post) upon whose grounds, in turn, the theater was constructed in the late 18th century (alas, Mozart had stayed in Milan just a handful of years earlier, so he never got to see, or perform in, the new theater).

I snapped this photograph on the 7th of August, 2010, at 5:30 P.M.

To see the needlepoint design that I created out of the lion photo, see my needlepoint blog: Ars acupicturae stellae - Star's Needlepoint Art,


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Snarl (aka, the receiving end of well-meaning, but unwanted, advice)

"Here, take my advice...I'm not using it!"

That still makes my (dear) sister and I laugh.

Like many Americans (and probably people, in general), I have a strong impulse to give advice (I like to call it "being helpful").

But being on the receiving end of well-meaning, but unwanted, advice is a whole other can o' worms...More......

So, when I returned a phone message, just now, and got an earful of it, my inner reaction was "snarl" and general evasion of contact with the perpetrator in the immediate future.

And another glimpse into the wisdom of "walk a mile in my shoes" before doing anything, even making small suggestions.

"I need to share this with my blog readers," I said to myself (all five of you), "but what image to chose? I think I'll just browse in my To Sort folders, there's bound to be something."

Halfway through the (many) folders, and I was beginning to be anxious, when this perfect fellow jumped out.

I snapped this photo at the Villa Belgioioso in Milan, a public museum, on the 12th of April, 2006, at 4:45 P.M.

If you want to see the needlepoint version of it, just go to my needlepoint blog: Ars acupicturae stellae - Star's Needlepoint Art (
P.S., as always with my photos, they're my intellectual property, and so are shared freely with you only for your private delight and edification; for any other use, please contact me, first, for written arrangements, thanks.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Photoless Friday (01): Do you know this man?

There I was, minding my own business, just looking around and enjoying the walk from A to B, when I stumbled on something so unexpected, so pointless, so silly, so colorful, so delightful that I snapped a shot of it, and haven't been able to forget it...for years....More......

Then just a day, or so later, I saw on the news that it was a piece of street art related to a then-current contemporary art exhibit (not my favorite period, but each to his own).

The staying power of this piece in my mind is a good test of...of...of...something. Of it's power, if nothing else, to delight me, whatever the artist was trying to say.

Problem is, I don't want to share MY photo with you until I can find out the name of the artist.

The exhibit at Milan's Triennale was called "Dritto Rovescio" ("Front Back"), and was an exploration of the medium of knitting, as used by contemporary artists to do some sometimes rather startling things.

Because I post only my own photos, Photoless Friday is a perfect chance to give you the link to an image that I believe shows the same artist.

No hunting and cross-checking on the net has yet to provide me with this guy's name.

Do you know who he is?


Alas and alack, you'll need a (free) "Flickr" account to see the photo, but if you have a Yahoo account, use that info, and you'll get right in:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chiaravalle Monastery, just outside of Milan

Whoever would think that a gorgeous Gothic period cloistered monastery exists just outside of Milan! Well, it does!...More......

Waves of the creation of monastic orders alternated with waves of their reform (oh, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak), and so it went with Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the charismatic leaders of the Cistercian reform in the 12th century. He founded the first Italian Cistercian monastery in 1135 right outside Milan, in the soggy plains, so good for growing crops and animal fodder (the monks needed to be self-sufficient).

The first church already had been substituted within a couple of decades (1150-1160, consecrated 1221), but remained very frescoes, no lamps, no candles, no sculptures, no nothin'.

That did get a bit tiresome, however, and so still severe decoration began creeping in on little cat's feet: a 14th century bell tower, ... frescoes ...

...and a courtyard with still austerely carved capitals, as well as a meeting room for the monks (a "Chapterhouse") in which, in the following century, a now famous "scratched" ("graffito") decoration was added, then, in the late 15th century, THE Bramante added another, larger, courtyard, but by then the course already was downhill rushing towards worldly austentation,... obvious in these 17th century choir stalls, and so the church and monastery suffered the fate of so many in the Napoleonic period: closure.

The white-robed Cistercian monks finally returned in 1952, and have opened a little shop in the former visitor areas in front of the church. There, you can buy all sorts of treats and cures created by them and other monks.

If you don't happen to have cash, they accept ATM ("bancomat") cards....remember, too, whenever you visit a church in Italy to drop a hearty handful of coins in the collection box labeled for the maintenance and/or restauration of the church and its adjoining properties (some churches now even charge visitors coming as if the premises were a museum...I was shocked, at first, but, frankly, if you're not coming to pray, it's a good way to help them pay their upkeep bills, be generous).

I snapped these photos on Saturday, the 16th of October 2010 in the late morning.

To see the needlepoint diagram I created out of a photo of one of the (gorgeous) 14th century door jambs, go to my needlepoint blog:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Here my are! (03)

I have a cold. (Curses on whoever it was sneezing--without covering their mouth--on the subway the other day...did you know that germs can live for hours in teentsy water droplets after being sneezed?)...More......

I hope to feel better tomorrow, but, in the meantime, I've decided to stay indoors, today.

Anyway, it's raining.

So here's a new "Here my are!" snapped yesterday, Saturday the 16th of October, before noon, in the cloistered walkway of Chiaravalle, one of the monasteries just outside of Milan.

If you're coming to town, don't miss it, it's gorgeous--the 14th century post-Giotto frescoes in the church crossing have finally been uncovered after years of restoration--and their little shop sells marvie stuff made by the monks of this and other monasteries. I got some great face creams, which I've been using happily for years, but there also are herbal teas, wine, beer, and various health and beauty concoctions for sale at (usually modest) prices.

Oh, and they accept ATM cards (called "bancomat"), in case you're short of cash.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Counting my blessings (01)

When Jeanine of Italian Needleworks wrote about something I love in Milan, I couldn't help but thank her, and she hoped that she'd find some pics of the very same thing on my own blog.

How could I say "no?"

So come on in, sit on down, put your feet up, and enjoy the tour!...More...

"Back up, back up, back up," as my (dear) sister says.

I'm very very, very big on counting my blessings.

I need to do it, in order to put everything in perspective.

Being sincerely and healthily grateful is restful.

Being a whiner and a complainer is not. It nibbles away at your soul.

In the last months, I've needed rest and positivity (who doesn't?), and so I turned to writing this and my other blog (Ars acupicturae stellae - Star's Needlepoint Art) to share two, no three, of my passions: Milan, needlepoint and snapping pics.

Out of curiosity (thank the Cosmos for Blogger's "Blogs of Note!"), I started methodically going through all the archives (there are personality hints, there, for those willing to grasp them). So far, I've made it back to February of 2006, and I'm still going strong.

Some blogs with fascinating titles don't exist any more, sad to say, but others have been a gift from the celestial spheres.

Mind-openers. Heart-openers. Soul salves. Inspiration. Real people sharing real experiences in a way that makes me feel like I've gained something positive, even if "just" a smile, from them.

Like I said, I'm grateful.

So, when Jeanine asked for snaps of the Umanitaria school in Milan, how could I refuse?

The physical place in via San Barnaba, 48, is one of Milan's hidden gems: a mid-15th century cloistered monastery, with some later additions. The structure is now the Milanese seat of the wonderful organization with two names: Società Umanitaria and Fondazione Humaniter. One of them is operated by the other one...I can never keep this straight...but the upshot is that it is a non-profit school for work- and fun-related topics at very good prices, and where you'll meet lots of interesting people, and maybe even make some wonderful friends. I highly recommend it.

You've already seen the (probably late 19th-early 20th century) wrought iron gate closing off one of the courtyards open for special occasions.

Here's a snap (over a fence) of the attached Renaissance church's faç isn't part of the Umanitaria complex...more about it in another post.

Used to walk past this little Renaissance courtyard every time I came, but that entrance has been closed for construction for quite awhile, so...

We come in this way, now, down the Renaissance corridor.
(The curtains are new, this year.)

There's a little café, but I have yet to find it open, this school year, already two weeks old. Should open, soon...

Are you still looking for a chair?

(I snapped these pics for you, today, Oct. 15, 2010, at around 4 P.M.; rain should be blowing in, so the air already is a bit hazy with moisture. Softens and dampens and whitens the light a bit.)

P.S., if you're interested, see Jeanine's two posts (and my comment on one of them):

Italian Needlework - "Società Umanitaria" (Oct. 13, 2010)

Italian Needlework - "Società Umanitaria" (Oct. 14, 2010)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Arguing? About the same thing?

Are you arguing with someone about something? Has the argument deteriorated to "Yes, it is." "No, it isn't." "Yes, it is..."...More......

Are you sure you're arguing about the same thing?

It's so juvenile. "Yes, it is." "No, it isn't." But that's where the argument had ended up. 'How could he be so blind?,' I was thinking to myself, 'The evidence is right in front of his eyes, if he'd only look.'

He was probably thinking the same thing.

I maintained that the epigraphy of the street number was contemporary to the construction of the 1930s building.

He said it wasn't.

We were both right.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A medieval dado on the Duomo

Oh, I do *love* Milan. At first glance, it might seem like the same o' same o', but it's really quite varied. From fragments of its ancient Celtic and Roman past and nibbles of its medieval and Renaissance periods of glory through the booming baroque, neoclassical and historicism periods to modernist (blech) works (can you tell where my artistic preferences lie?)... More......

it's all here, if you have the patience to scratch away at the surface a bit.

Here's a snap taken of the bas-relief dado decoration on the southern side of the Duomo, taken just a few months ago around mid-day...I'll hunt down the folder where my original is stored, and post the proper info, later. Am running, now!

If you're interested in seeing the needlepoint design I created from this snap, you can go to my needlepoint blog:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Notes to self...

Notes to self : (1) shoot gorgeous door detail on Corso Buenos Aires, again, this pic's fuzzy, (2) blogger messages created and saved, then posted on a later day, bear the date of creation, not posting.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why here? Blame it on the furry sow

Milan: often torrid and humid in the summer and frigid and humid in the winter. So—to take up the topic begun on August 18, 2010—why found a city here?

River-rich location aside, blame it on the furry sow....More......

According to legend, at the time of Tarquinio Prisco, Rome’s first Etruscan king (616-579 B.C.), the Celtic tribes to the north of the Alps were multiplying like rabbits, and so needed to go their separate ways. Prince Belloveso got sent to Italy with his hordes, and the Celtic moon Goddess Belisama’s white sow with a wooly strip down the middle of her back ("medio-lanum") appeared on the spot where they were to found the town called by the Romans "Mediolanum" (though if the word has echoes of ancient Sanskrit, it could mean "sacred center").


When the “podestà” (a kind of temporary purposefully foreign governor), Oldrado da Tresseno, was building the new covered market-city hall (more about him and it in other messages), which was completed in 1233, this ancient Roman fragment was uncovered during the digging of the foundations. Considered a good omen, it was set into one of the exterior arches, where it still can be viewed, today.

The sow is hard to photograph, not just because it’s set up on high and slightly tilted, but also because this side of the building is towards the north, and so I have yet to find it in a light good for photos.

I took this photo for you on September 19, 2010, at 2 P.M.

To see the needlepoint design I created out of this image, see my needlepoint blog:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Angel in the sky

"Seek and ye shall find." Phrases from all those Bible lessons pop back into my head, welcome or not, fairly frequently....More......

The beauty of the sky just after rain on Saturday the 25th of September, beginning around 7:15 P.M. captured my attention...

...contrary to what I had expected the sky kept getting brighter ("duh," I realized, "it's the lowering source of light shining up on the underside of the clouds").

Ecstatically beautiful light and color changes:

Delicate changes as the light starts to fade and the clouds darken:

Seen in close-up:

The darkness lightens again a bit as the clouds open:

Then I noticed just what I was needing most to see, not just natural beauty, but a metaphysical sign...

A hovering angel's wing.

It brushed my uplifted face, and was gone, leaving comfort.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mind your Manners (01): sidewalks and other tight spaces

To spare you grief (I'm sure you've got plenty enough of your own), I had decided not to turn my blog into My Private Rant Space. I was able to resist until grumbling about litter. Now I want to grumble about space, personal and urban...More......

The sidewalks in my town mostly are decently sized.

If the pedestrians are polite, there is room for traffic going both ways.

It's really not so very hard, folks.

If you are walking with a friend or a loved one, whether arm in arm or just flanking each other, keep close together and to one side, don't dawdle.

If you're walking alone, stay to one side.

Whether alone, or together with one or more people, think before planting yourself like a 1000-year old Sequoia in the middle, arms akimbo, blocking all traffic in both directions, as you paw in your purse/pocket/brief case for the cell phone, a cigarette, whatever. What does it cost you to move aside a few inches/centimeters to let others pass, while you search for the Holy Grail in your over-sized, over full bag?!

No man is an island.

The sidewalk belongs to everyone, not just to you.

(I snapped this photo on Sunday the 26th at 5 P.M. in Corso Buenos Aires. These two ladies could have been more polite, but I've seen and experienced worse.)

Here my are! (02)

Here I am with "Fiorello", one of Italy's favorite young showmen, a real natural. He also appeared in a series of much loved advertisements with an elderly and also much loved showman, Mike Buongiorno, recently deceased. A few subsequent ads for the same company with only Fiorello were successful, at least I think so, so I don't understand why...More...

...the ad and product companies felt the need to create another sidekick for Fiorello. Since Mike would be virtually impossible to replace with a real person, they invented a giant mole (!) named "Ugo," whom Fiorello invites to not bury his head in the ground, but to buy this product, instead.

It's weak, but maybe it's just new.

Sunday, the 26th of September, 2010, when I snapped this shot for you at 4:50 P.M., was overcast, so, except for this and one other snap, most of my photos for that day are what I call "work shots": views of art/architectural stuff, which might come in handy as a reference should I not make it back on a sunny day, but which won't be pleasing enough to share.

We had a few, but busy, beautiful days, and now that it's the weekend, and I could wander about snapping pics, it's overcast, again.

Oh well, I really did need to clean my desk, anyway....

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