Saturday, April 30, 2011

The dinner

The dinner with friends at my house, last night, was a lovely evening and a culinary success (I thought so, too, but they were nice enough to say so...and seemed sincere, not just formal!). First step? Always fresh ingredients (local, if possible, to avoid not only unnecessary expense, but also worsening the environment by supporting unnecessarily long transportation)...More......

...Besides, the Italian "NAS," the national service that controls food safety standards, is very strict, so that's reassuring.

What was the menu?

Appetizers: spumante, Sanbitter (non-alcoholic slightly bitter-sweet drink), crudité (red and yellow pepperoni, carrots, fennel, green onions) and...

...cacik (the refreshing yogurt-based dip with mint, dill and a hint of garlic found variations in middle eastern and Indian restaurants...the recipe was given to me eons ago by an Italo-Turk with whom I used to work)

First course: tagliatelle with a thick tomato and eggplant-based sauce with baked ham cubes, fresh yellow onion, fresh garlic, fresh basil, fresh Italian parsley and good extra virgin olive oil, created while preparing the second course (killing two birds with one stone, yeah!)

And the wine?

Since the dish comes from the south of Italy, where they tend to put more herbs together versus the way I was taught Milanese cooking (one herb at a time, so you can taste the freshness of THAT herb in balance with the rest of the fresh ingredients), it has a very "structured" and complex taste, so I decided to go with a Sicilian wine "structured" enough to hold its own: Nero d'Avola (which I've tried before; it's yummy. I had wanted Cerasuolo because it's supposed to have a fruity taste towards cherries...should be fantastic...but couldn't find it, and didn't have time to go wine hunting).

Second course (which we skipped because we already were too full...and a special dessert was headed our way): chicken thighs simmered in the aforementioned sauce, to have been accompanied by a delicate salad with soncino lettuce, rucola, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, origano and a spritz of good extra virgin olive oil with a spritz of good red wine vinegar (HINT: buy the good stuff, then use it makes all the difference in the world, in fact, get a chianti flask, empty it in the best way you know how--grin!--, then put in some good quality red wine vinegar, and each time you don't manage to finish a bottle of good red wine after it's been open for a couple of days--it won't be at its peak for drinking--funnel it into the red wine vinegar bottle, let it mature for a day before using, again, and just keep repeating this...over the years, you'll have a red wine vinegar that is out of this world, and--with a spritz of it and a great extra virgin olive oil--you will not need to buy those costly and fatty salad dressings which hide the yummy taste of the salad ingredients...P.S., don't use iceberg's tasteless...that's why you need the strong dressings in the first place).

Dessert: homemade American style cheesecake made with real Philadelphia cream cheese, which finally is available here in Italy by now. They used to (and probably still do) make it with ricotta, but it just doesn't have the tangy bite that Phillie has (another soft fresh Italian cheese, Certosa, has a bit of the tangy bite, but has a gelatinously sticky consistency---perfectly yummy, but not suited for this recipe). Had to find an alternative for graham crackers, though. I haven't been able to find the Honey Maid brand--oh, so good. The one brand I have found here is less crunchy, less tasty, and goes to paste in the mouth, quickly. Yuck. (Just a reminder: I get no perks for mentioning name brands!) It worked out O.K., but I need to keep hunting. By the way, I don't have an electric beater, so had to fluff the whites with one of those old-fashioned hand-turned beaters; my arms were exhausted...just think if I had had to do it all with a whisk! (I think an electric beater will be on next Christmas' list.)

And we brought the spumante back out.

Fruit: well...fruit...the Italians like to finish off the meal--even after a sweet dessert--with a bit of fruit that lightens the stomach and cleans the palate. There also were fresh green grapes and tangerines, but the strawberries stole the day.

Followed by coffee for those partaking. No one wanted tea (of course), or a "digestive" liquor (one had a long drive back home). And lots of fun chatting, in honor of the special occasion (Happy Birthday, dear M.!) and about the photos the guests had brought back from their most recent vacation.

A fun time was had by all...even the maid-less chef...and the evening whizzed by. We finally said "goodnight" just in time to get Cinderella into her carriage, and cleaning up the aftermath was pretty quick, too, because I rinse and stick into the dishwasher as I go.

Heck of a lot of work though. Between getting the groceries, preparing everything, putting my feet up literally for ten minutes, then back at it, it took all day. And thank the Cosmos they were fashionably a bit late. If it weren't so fun and intimate to host people at home, where one can choose the background music (classical, of course, the radio treated us to Pavarotti in "Tosca"), maybe I'd prefer hosting a dinner at a restaurant.


Leftovers, of course.

That's another bane and boon of cooking special dinners at home. Already sent half of the cheesecake home with one of last night's guests, some already has gone into the now stuffed freezer and fridge, and today another dear friend is coming to help me with those, too.

Cosmos bless her.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Photoless Friday (11): preparations and a snipped of Marcus Aurelius

Fixing a special dinner, today. Special for its memories, special for its purpose, special for its guests.

Grocs then the preparation (while watching William and Kate's wedding, and wishing them well) of the various dishes (I'm taking photos along the way for you) is gobbling up the day, and I've gotta run, but wanted to share the day with you, and felt in the need of a snippet of Marcus Aurelius.

Opened truly at random, it's the absolutely perfect comfort for me. Perhaps my paraphrase will help you, too:

'Even an obvious and quite brief aphorism can serve to warn those infused with the true doctrines against giving way to grief and fear, for instance:

Such are the races of men as the leaves that the wind scatters earthwards

and your loved ones, too, are little leaves.... For all these things

burgeon again with the season of spring

and the wind then casts them down, and the forest puts forth others in their stead. Transitoriness is the common lot of all things.'

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book X, verse 34

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Have a special interest? Don't be afraid to venture to nearby small towns

Especially fascinated by a particular topic? Don't be afraid to venture to small nearby towns.

It took the promise of coming rainy days and a special exhibit--due to close within that very handful of days--to prod me into finally and immediately going to nearby Busto Arsizio, about a half an hour by local trains outside of Milan. Easy and cheap to get to, the city's train station is in the center of the small town, so it's very walkable, as well.

Enjoyed the exhibit, though I was disappointed in the lack of more detailed and/or new information, but once there, I had a very pleasant surprise, no, two surprises...More......

The first surprise--please excuse the hubris born of ignorance--was this little city on the outskirts of the metropolis was a lovely little place giving the impression that it would be delightful to live in. The city was an interesting mix of the relatively old and the definitely new. (When I say relatively old, you have to keep in mind the Italian sense of time gauged on thousands, not decades, or even hundreds, of years so that without evident ancient Roman, medieval, or Renaissance traces--they might be there, around town, or hidden in a museum, but I didn't see them during my brief afternoon walk and visit--the city seems to burst on the scene "only" in the Mannerist and Baroque periods making the city a young adolescent from "only" the late 16th, early 17th centuries.) And being on the doorstep of Milan, it could be a great place to have the family home, raise the kids in a less pressurized environment, while having a fairly easy commute to work...when there aren't train strikes, which is a whole other can o' worms. Let's not go there....

The second surprise is that I went to see a special temporary exhibit, but also discovered once there that there is a permanent museum dedicated to the production of thread and textiles.

"Ho hum," you say?

Silly you.

Had it not been for the burst of the mass production, trade and sale first of thread and textiles, later of ready-made clothes, bringing work, profits and affordable products to an ever larger group of people, who knows where the world would be, today. For the better and worse, surely, industrialization has good and bad sides, but our world would be decidedly different. (This "one step necessary for the next step" line of thought--not to be confused with an idea of "inevitability" and "progress"--reminds me to tell you about a fascinating author, if you haven't read his book, or seen his made-for-UK television films on which it was based: James Burke, "The Day the Universe Changed"'s FANTASTIC on many levels and for many aspects and professions of our lives, today. Try this link:

Busto Arsizio is one of the proofs.

On the outskirts of Milan, with lots of open land dedicated to agriculture, there was space in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to put up factories for the production of thread and textiles in this area already dedicated to home and craftsman workshop production.

This brought wealth to an increasing middle class, as can be seen in the burst of late 19th-early 20th century delightful Eclectic and Historicism style buildings.

But back to the thread and textile museum.

Poor dear, it's still set up in a very (literally dusty) old-fashioned way, with glass case exhibits and real equipment plunked down in a roughly chronological way, as space in the ex-fabric factory allows. True, at least this way the objects and memories--with local, national and international repercussions--are being preserved. Furthermore, there are clear signs that the museum becomes a happy living place when animated by guided school groups, and there is a section fascinating even when not being demonstrated that--thanks to the Zucchi collection--shows and explains the use of fabric printing blocks. There also are labels and some very good--and mercifully brief--explanatory didactic panels, but the didactics are all in Italian, and the lack of anything that moves, or helps the less aware visitor put especially the older exhibits into the context of their own lives will keep it undeservedly a niche product.

Think this kind of thing would make you cry with boredom?

Go to the Science and Technology Museum in Manchester (UK), follow the demonstrated and commented path of a hunk of raw cotton through the mechanized processes to become first thread, then cloth, and listen to and empathize with the stories of the extremely difficult, even brutal, lives of the even very young workers, and you'll never take for granted anything you wear, ever again.

So, do go to the Textile Museum in Busto Arsizio, provide your own internal fire (what are we adults for, anyway, if we can't even get ourselves to focus on and really think about something that doesn't move?!), think about your blessings, small or large, when compared with the lives of the factory workers of the day and of your blessings for living today in an industrialized society that at least has the idealized goals of providing a safe and reasonably comfortable daily existence for all. (Then maybe do your bit--donating time, goods, or money--within your means to help today's less advantaged enjoy some of the basics you take for granted, starting with abundant and clean drinking water, or learning their ABC's. Heck, I'll even throw in a disinterested plea for Busto Arsizio's textile museum. Are you a wealthy thread and textile industrialist, especially if a local? Fork over the big bucks to redo the museum, and get your name splashed all over the place in the process. It's great PR, too.)

How to find these little museums?

Check out the web sites of the towns, usually following this formula, substituting the name of the city for that of Milan: Check out the web site of the province (Lombardy's link is in my column of links).

Check out published museum guides, sometimes generic, sometimes even focused on particular thematic, or quirky, museums.

Check out the "find" function of the internet domain dedicated only to official museums: Here, you'll be able to find the participating museums dedicated to your particular special interest even before you leave home. (Hello! Is anyone listening to me? Apparently not. I've written to them for years to change the technically correct words "second level domain" into something normal people can understand: "categories" hasn't been done, and I give up, so, forewarned is forearmed; clicking on the second level domain link will let you find the category of museum of interest, and clicking on that will give you the list of all participating museums in that category in the whole wide world! Pretty nifty!) Plan ahead. A short and brief detour just might turn your trip into something not just momentarily relaxing, but also intriguing and enriching for the rest of your life.

Be open to these little adventures. You might even find new career inspiration, too. Since you're in Italy, at least you'll be able to find a refreshing city park, or a picturesque piazza for a good gelato.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A beautiful architectural female "mask"

I've passed this series of beautiful Eclectic style female "masks" for years. They're on the front of a building in Piazza Virgilio. The light was never right to photograph them, or the light was right, but I didn't have my camera, or when recently the light was right and I had my camera...More......

...I discovered that the modern lamps added so insensitively just below their faces, in order to illuminate them, also hid them at the same time, and were in the way of getting a good photo.


Maybe a week, or so, ago, I finally gave up. I just couldn't find an angle that would have done justice to the architectural decoration AND let me turn it into a needlepoint (or cross-stitch) diagram for my other blog, Ars acupicturae stellae - Star's Needlepoint blog.

Today, I chanced to be walking down the street behind that building, and, guess what?!, the same building covers the whole block, so these masks are the same as those on the front of the building, but they're on the side street, via Metastasio, instead, and they're not covered by lamps! Yeah!

The building is part of the area of town developed after the Unification of Italy, in the late 19th century, and is between Cadorna and the church Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Leonardo's Last Supper is.

Isn't that female "mask" lovely?!

If you'd like to make it into a needlepoint, or cross-stitch, design, here's the link to my blog, where I put the diagram for your personal non-commercial use:


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Rome!

Ancient Romans accepted 21 April 753 B.C. (in our current Gregorian calendar) as the traditional date of the founding of their city, and celebrated its "birthday" with the festival Parilia...More...

Here's my snap of the Antonine column in Rome, taken on the 5th of July, 2006, at 8:30 A.M. Commodus commissioned this column in honor of his just deceased father (guess who?!), my favorite, Marcus Aurelius. It now is found in the Piazza Colonna aptly named, not after the column, but after the enormous palazzo (to the right, out of the view of this photo) dominating the space, which had belonged to the powerful Colonna family, though the presence of the column in the piazza surely is no coincidence.

So, calculating OUR date based on the date of the founding of Rome (as some of them actually did, other times the dates were based on the ruling periods of the consols), today would be April 21, 2764, that is, two thousand and sixty four years after the founding of Rome.

For more info, see, for example:; (with references, yeah!, but it is drawn from Wikipedia, so take everything with a grain of salt, until you can verify the sources for yourself...I've been hunting for more than an hour for a university web site page with something similar, and no such luck, so you'll just have to make do, and hunt for yourself, if interested);

and the ever helpful pages (for everything!):


I can't believe I actually did this! What ever possessed me?!

I can't believe I actually did this! What ever possessed me?! "I can do that!"...Famous Last Words (actually, it worked fairly as expected, but was A LOT more work than anticipated)...I actually made these little cakes in real egg shells! However, I hadn't thought far enough into the future to realize that...More...... by-product of the process was a mind-boggling quantity of raw egg just waiting for a destiny. A couple went right into an omelette (eventually delicious, if I do say so, myself); the rest went into the freezer in little individually wrapped containers. I hope they'll be O.K. for cooking, later, but that's another story.

The eggs had to be washed, then a small opening at the top had to be created (I sterilized a big sewing needle, poked tiny holes, and carefully connected the almost always worked to create an even round hole about half an inch across) out of which the egg had to be coaxed into the little individual containers, one by one. The empty shells had to be rinsed, then soaked in a room temperature brine for a half an hour, rinsed again, then turned upside down to drain and dry.

I hadn't realized that the drying would take so long, either, but chance came to the "rescue." Warming up my oven and using the stove top to fix dinner at the same time blew out their wall socket, and plunged me into almost complete blackness (thankfully, there was a feeeeeble bit of sunset waning rapidly, but not so rapidly that I couldn't get to the flashlight, shut off and unplug the offending appliances, leave their blown fuse untouched, and switch the general current back on). Once the light was back on (Thank the Cosmos), and I was no longer able to bake the little cakes, or cook my dinner, I upended the rinsed egg shells on a towel, and let them drain dry over night, put the eggs for the cake batter and the omelette into the fridge, then foraged.

The socket was replaced the next morning by the ever efficient and trusty construction and handy man suggested by a friend in the business, and that evening I finished mixing the batter, shook a bit of sunflower seed oil around in the shells, cut a small hole in the bottom of a little baggie then tried to fill the baggie while keeping the hole upturned (another unplanned moment), then filled an unsnipped baggie, snipped it, easily filled the little shells steadied in a muffin tin with little bits of tin foil carefully placed in advance (the suggestion of the recipe writer, see below for links), then baked them in the perfectly running oven (with no other major appliance in the apartment even allowed to THINK about turning on).

The shells overflowed a bit because I filled them to 2/3 (or a tad more...hey, waste not, want not!), but that was solved by trimming off the baked overflow (a yummy treat for the baker!), all just as the recipe source says: (discovered thanks to the marvelous blog, "Not Martha":

I confess, I had been a little laissez-faire about the oiling phase, so parts of the shell peeled away easily (the smoother, darker area),...

...others less so (lighter and a bit rough, where a teentsy thin layer of the surface peeled away with the shell), but who's in a hurry, anyway? Once cleaned of their shells (if tidy, they'd be fun to give away in the shell), they were yummy little perfectly egg-shaped cakes to break open and dip into milk (or coffee, or tea, as you prefer).

I still can't believe I did this, it was so labor-intensive.

But also fun.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Semi-random thought from Marcus Aurelius for the day

Why am I so enamored of Marcus Aurelius? If previous messages haven't clarified this, maybe I'll attempt a few words, later. Right now, I've barely got enough time to jot you today's semi-random thought from his "Meditations"...More......

...parapharased in my words, here goes:

'It brings gladness to a human heart to do the true work of humankind. And the true work of humankind is to show goodwill to others, to disdain being too moved by our sense perceptions, to discern specious impressions, to take a comprehensive view of the Nature of the Universe and of everything that is done at its bidding.

You have three relationships: the first to that vessel your body in which you are contained; the second to the divine Cause from which issue all things to everyone; the third to those that live with you.' (Book VIII, verses 26 and 27; Loeb edition)

Marcus' thought can be meaningful for you, wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of religious thought, from traditional approaches firmly convinced of the existence of a god, or gods, an approach supplying a comforting system of behavior precepts and a system of punishments and rewards, to those accepting the mystery of the mere fact of existence, with the consequent enormous personal responsibility for comportment, which best fulfils the thinker positively, while respecting the environment and fellow inhabitants of our world.

Sometimes, as in this case, he refers to "Nature," other times to the "Gods." Interpret these references as you will, and absorb his respect for self, for those around us, for the world in which we live.

Yes, yes, yes, we need to plan for our futures, but keep the center of your soul firmly rooted in the here and now because the past is gone, the future may never come, all we have is this present moment. Use it to be a better, happier, more positive person. Kiss your spouse, your kids, your friends goodbye each time you take your leave of them; have a kind word for each, treat yourself, your co-workers, your employees, the environment with respect. You may never have another chance to say "I love you."

The center of your soul will become more resilient, able to withstand better the buffeting winds, now soft, now battering, of daily life, and you'll spend each waking moment with part of your conscious self "stopping to smell the roses" as you scurry along with the rest of us in this fragile rat race called life.

This post is dedicated to everyone, who has recently lost a dear friend, or family member.

Remember the positive, evoke the love and laughter, let the sharp edges of grief gradually be blunted.

The sharp knife of loss, the terrible void, always will be there, but you can learn to live with it, if you invoke the positive presence of the missing loved one to keep you company on the rest of your journey.

I snapped this shot with you in mind on April 13th at about 4:15 P.M. in Piazza Virgilio, Milan, Italy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Delicate and exquisite: a classicizing vegetal border from the portal of Santa Maria delle Grazie

Delicate, exquisite, classicizing: a spiral of acanthus on the frame surrounding the principal portal of the fifteenth century church, Santa Maria delle Grazie. A condottiere of Francesco Sforza (ipso facto duke of Milan) called Gaspare Vimercati sponsored the construction of the church--founded in 1463--around a pre-existing chapel in this area then outside city walls. The adjacent Dominican monastery was finished in 1469. Both were projected by one of the day's top architects, Guiniforte Solari, and the nave and side aisles were painted by top artists, Bernardino Butinone, Bernardino Zenale and Giovanni Donato Montorfano, a good hint of the importance of the patron. In and of itself, the church is both beautiful and exemplary, don't miss it when you come to vist Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper in...More......

...the monastery's refectory (dining room). And be sure to make the reservations way in advance (I'm talking about a couple of months; check out the official online calendar, and even if it's filled up, write them, anyway, as there may be free spaces just liberated, but which haven't been registered on the site, yet:

Heard of Bramante, the architect who 'started' Italian Renaissance architecture in Rome with his little San Pietro in Montorio? He was in Milan first. Where Leonardo da Vinci worked off and on over about twenty years, including painting his Last Supper. Bramante is thought to have designed the principal portal (1488-90) of marble--featured in today's picture--, and also to have collaborated, at least in the design of the semi-circular apse, where--skipping over complex and bloody dynastic power struggles--then duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, buried his young Este wife (1497), and planned to make the apse the new Sforza mausoleum.

There's lots more to recount about this church, its chapels--whose decoration was entrusted to important families and at least one confraternity--, the sagristy and the lovely little cloister courtyard open to the public, but all this for another day.

I took this photo for our enjoyment on the 17th of April, 2011, around 4 P.M.

If you're interested, I also created a diagram for needlepoint and cross stitch from the design for my blog, Ars acupicturae stellae - Star's Needlepoint art:


Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's not a Lucio Fontana, though it looks like one

It's not a Lucio Fontana, though it looks like one. Thinking about coming to Milan, this summer? This snap actually is...More......

...the repeated imprint of scooter kick stands sinking into the sizzling tarred sidewalks rendered almost like melma by the torrid heat and humidity of full summer in Milan.

I snapped this with you in mind on the 13th of April at a quarter to 5 P.M.

And, oh, it was pleasantly warmish in the direct sun punching a hole in the bright blue sky with a brisk chilly breeze.

Still thinking about coming to Milan?

I hope so, but forewarned is forearmed (for heat relief, see my posts on Gelato).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The taxi shot I've been waiting for

Here's the taxi shot I've been waiting for...had to be the right weather, the right time of day, a day when I could plant myself there to wait...and wait...and wait...and then--SNAP! yesterday at 4 P.M.--it finally happened!

Dedicated to the great NYC taxi driver blog I follow, here's the info, in case you'd like to, too:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wisteria and more ice cream

I've now got ice cream on the brain. I've probably passed this sign on Corso San Gottardo 500 times, at least, but never noticed it. All of a sudden, a couple of days ago, there it was. I didn't give in, though, so you go, and tell us what it's like. In the meantime,...More......

More 'spring has sprung' photos. A delightful very Milanese turn-of-the-century building a bit veiled by the netting of tree branches and small new green leaves; come summer, the building will be hidden completely by the thick foliage of the trees.

Heavenly heavenly heavenly perfumed air...aaaahhh, wisteria!

Now, back to ice cream.

On the way home the other day, I noticed an ice cream store I hadn't seen before, or rather, I had, but since it's called "Chocolat," I figured it was a candy store. The lighting must have been right because I finally could see into the big front window. Tell-tale refridgerated counter and a flash of more or less colored circles. Ice cream. Mental note.

This afternoon? After a day's hit-and-run storm, the sun was back, a brisk breeze kept it from being roasting. "Aaah, I could walk to that ice cream place, and check it out for the blog readers." (Are you feeling guilty, yet? No? Read the text in cursive, again.)

Chocolat, via Boccacio, 9, just around the corner from the Cadorna train station (where the "trenino" arrives from Malpensa, just in case you have some time to kill while to-ing and fro-ing between the airport and town).

The medium (i.e., medium-small) cup is more expensive than the average, at E. 3,00 (about $4.30). There is a baker's dozen of cream-based flavors, a half-a-dozen sherberts, a hearty handful of tables indoors (great for when the roasting temps begin) and a few outdoor seats in the shade during the hot afternoon.

The first couple of bites were very full flavored, but quickly something just wasn't right. The consistency is halfway between ice cream and a spongy soft serve, so the doubt arose in my they whip their ice cream, or extend it with something, so that they can charge more for less, and just what is it that I'm eating, anyway? At home, I checked. Their web site says they use only the most expensive natural ingredients.

If they say so.

And the type font, interior decor and logo are silly looking and faddish, too. (No photos because the light was wrong.)

Am I playing the part of the persnickety, overly critical critic?

I'm sure I am...especially since I now am reassured by the claims of their web site regarding the contents of their ice cream.

Would I go, again?

Yes, but not YES. My favorite ice cream place is still LA CIRIBICIACCOLA, Viale Romagna, 10.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gelato, gelato, wherefore are thou, gelato?

A kind soul reading my blog said that she and others were coming to Milan for one of the annual calendar of product and design stuff this time...and that she'd happily consulted my blog for gelato information.

Glad to help, and hope she and others come back to my blog (the side columns are so rich with links of all kinds that I painstakingly gathered for you), but I also felt guilty.

It had been awhile since I had written about gelato, and, well, ahem...I've been holding back...More......

...I had thought to post pictures of each of the gelateria, and spread out my reviews of the gelateria I've tried (whether stumbled upon, or on the list in Italian mentioned in my first review, but repeated here for your convenience, aren't I nice?:, but her comment made me realize that it had been awhile since I'd spilled the vanilla beans, so to speak, so here goes, rapid fire, getting us up-to-date, and even highlighting the absolute best independent gelateria that I've found in Milan, so far (in no particular order, but building up to my current favorite).

GELATERIA ELIO BIGONI, Via Bazzini, 3 (across the viale from the Piola fermata of the green line, in the opposite direction of the Politecnico university).
Tasty, good, and--at least last year--open in August. I'd definitely go back again. And have.

GELATERIA ALOHA, Via Vallazze, 102, also in the general area of the Politecnico and the Tumor Institute
Very good, and--according to the Corriere article, the best price-quality ratio in town. It is a bit out of the way from downtown, after all. Would I go back? YES!

GELATERIA CONCORDIA, Corso Concordia, 11, corner of the Piazza Risorgimento, not too terribly far from Piazza San Babila (for those used to walking)
It's been awhile since I've been, but I remember it being good, and happily would sacrifice myself for you to test it out, again.

Corso Italia, 6, just down the way from centrally located Piazza Missori
Very yummy and interesting flavors. Definitely would go, again.

HELADOS, Viale Monte Nero, 50, not so terribly far (for people used to walking) from Piazza 5 Giornate
Excellent gelato and normal prices. Definitely would go again (and have). (P.S., a bit farther down the street from the piazza is the "Mongolian Barbecue"...fresh chinese buffet-style food, where the price is right; take all you want, but eat all you'll get charged for leaving anything edible on your plate, such a good idea to help us avoid wasting food)

(THE NAME ESCAPES ME NOW), on Corso di Porta Romana, just south of the Crocetta (a trident-shaped intersection reached also by the yellow line of the subway)
Good ice cream, normal prices, fairly large selection, but they also have sugarless ice cream, good for the diabetics in the family.

DUE PALME (pretty sure that's what it's called), via Cesare Corrente, corner via Mora, almost to Piazza Resistenza Partigiana
VERY VERY good gelato and a big selection...this used to be my favorite place before...drum roll, please.........

LA CIRIBICIACCOLA, Viale Romagna, 10, a bit out of the way, BUT WORTH EVERY STEP
A teeny tiny cute hole in the wall, and a bit more expensive than the others, but gelato heaven for sure (don't ask me what the name means, though)...the absolutely best gelato that I've ever had in Milan, and maybe even topping those three famous places in Rome (which I, ahem, did frequent, calories notwithstanding).

There, that's the rest of the list of places tried so far.

Hope those of you currently in town for the exposition can get the list in time.

If not, don't worry, there are plenty left on the Corriere list that I haven't tried, yet, and I'm bound to stumble across others while traipsing around town with my camera. You can try them out the next time you come.

Most gelateria have very limited seating, inside or out, it's a hit and run proposition in Italy (where eating on the street is frowned upon...try juggling those two aspects!). All the gelateria had prices which seem to me outrageous (but I haven't seen the prices in the States for 15 years), but all more or less the same, around E. 2.75 (what, about $3.25?) for a small cup with three dinky scoops.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Lovely acanthus

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we must have something in common with millenia of occidental eyes if the acanthus--a favorite of ancient Greeks and Romans--still fascinates....More...

Here's a marvelous snippet of an architectural decoration on via Meravigli in downtown Milan. The structure dates to the late 19th-early 20th century development of the area, when Italy was recovering in vigorous spurts from a near financial collapse around 1883, not so many years after the Unification of apt topic this year during which we celebrate its 150th anniversary.

I snapped this photo with you in mind on the 31st of December, 2010, at around 1:30 P.M.

If you are interested in the diagram of it for a needlepoint, or cross-stitch, design, you may see my blog "Ars acupicturae stellae - Star's Needlepoint Art":

Sunday, April 10, 2011

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din, or the 2011 Milan Marathon

I hardly remember anything of the film (except that Cary Grant is in it) in which there is the line "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din," but that phrase stuck in my memory, and jumps to mind frequently. So many people can do things that I can't, or would never want to do (and maybe find a bit crazy)...running a marathon fits both categories, but I admire the participants, nonetheless. This year's 2011 Milan Marathon began around 8:30 A.M. not too far from the new "Fiera" (Convention Center) in Rho-Pero, and cut almost straight south before zig-zagging back north, past my house (the first I saw started jogging by around 11:30 A.M.), turning again west and south, then ending at the Sforza Castle. The fastest runners already have finished, the stragglers are expected by around 4 P.M....More......

Great day to share with the kids. The solitary, or paired, runners were still coming by at noon...

Traffic, blocked all over town, was a mess, of course. Tempers flared, horns blared, I got an opportunity to observe Italian hand gestures (both the conversational and, shall we say politely, "punctuation" kind...makes me think of the wonderful show "Culture Shock," don't miss it!).

...still in traffic....

 took those cars about an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half to inch along to that big intersection in the background of the photo...walking briskly, it takes, oh, maybe five wasn't a day to be out and about. Maybe some didn't know (I was lucky, and saw the info posted a couple of days beforehand), maybe some didn't have a choice...I saw people abandoning taxis and tourists dragging suitcases (Thank the Cosmos they all have wheels, these days) in the general direction of the subway, a good 20-30 minute walk under the hot sun...

Meanwhile, the runners began to become more numerous. What an interesting stream of folks, maybe 2/3 men I'd estimate. Some folk looked like marathon runners: sinew skinny. Others, well, didn't. A couple had banners, some had balloons (maybe for charities?!)...

Some stopping now and then for a much needed breather, or to retie a shoe (or both), some looking tired and determined, some looking exhausted and decidedly ill (for privacy's sake, I will not share the photo of the poor gent, who bent over I thought to rest, then, get it...bless his careful folks, push yourselves, but don't overstep your limits too ambulance was called awhile later to attend to someone else just down the street)....

Some smarties moved out of the street, and into the shade...

Some, like Minnie Mouse, here, were having fun despite the effort (or to help the effort?!)...

Some, even after hours of running, still had enough energy to run backwards, and encourage his buddies...

The courage of other runners... challenge obstacles makes me shake my head with admiration and wonder.

2:15 P.M., the runners are beginning to thin out, and I haven't had lunch, yet.

I bet the neighbor's cat was smarter than me, and ate before coming out to ponder these strange hurried creatures rushing past his balcony.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Handy Helpful Hints (01): signage and a prosaic suggestion

Personally, I find directional signs on Italian town-to-town roads very difficult to comprehend: teentsy and JUST BEFORE WHERE YOU SHOULD HAVE TURNED, so, by the time you figure out what it was, you've already whizzed past the exit. Those aside--one of the reasons I don't drive in Italy--signs in town sometimes need a bit of translation for non-locals. I thought I'd give a helping hand (an irresistable American trait, I think, trying to be helpful, with good sides and bad sides, as in just about everything, but that's another story, and could end up being much more political than I'd care to be on my blog), so here's the first in the series of Handy Helpful Hints about living in Italy, today mostly to do with signs...More......

While the picture for photo #1 opening this post is pretty clear, those used to reasoning about time using A.M. - P.M. might not get the text. It's the ever-so-handy 24 hour clock used in Italy (and probably the rest of Europe). Midnight is "0" (that has been a font for interesting philosophical musings on my part while waiting for busses) AND "24." So, no parking there for anybody, 24 hours a day. (I might have mused in an earlier post about my anguish at trying to learn how to tell time on an A.M.-P.M. clock. My little 9-year old brain, apparently already quite logical, just could NOT figure out how "1" could follow "12"..."But, dad, shouldn't it be 13?," I remember asking as clearly as if it were yesterday...can even remember being in the kitchen of that house on Hill Drive. Being born European would have saved me that trauma.)

While we're talking about parking in town (not so easy: so many cars, so few spaces, and costly hour-by-hour or rental spaces in garages), forget looking for the blue strips, if you're handicapped. Blue strips mean "pay for parking here," and are available also for people not residing in that area. Yellow strips are areas reserved for residents of the area, with the permit visibly displayed. Handicapped parking is marked by the international sign of a person in a wheelchair. Something new, too: a scattering of pink marked areas for mothers-to-be, particularly in front of hospitals and clinics, where they need to go for check-ups.

Are you a bit under the weather, have crutches, in a wheelchair, or just feeling lazy weak for one reason, or another? In the subway, this exit sign also tells you that there is an escalator available, while the outline of a person, or two, in a square indicates an elevator (in Milan, anyway, they are usually working, too).

I'm pretty sure I've whined about this, before, so I'll keep it brief: when on the escalator (or on a public sidewalk, for that matter), please "tenere la destra," and keep to the right, so that others may pass you on the left.

I snapped these shots with you in mind on Saturday, April 2, in the hours just around noon (then went home to eat!). What a lovely lovely day, after so many gray days of clouds, rain and drizzle. Spring is finally here! Yeah!

Oh, and what was the prosaic suggestion?

Ahem, there's no real delicate way to bring up this topic, which could be a potential source of shock for others, as it had been for me, so I'll just out with it: if you prefer using seat covers for public toilets, you'll have to bring your own! There, I've got that off my chest!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Exotic food stores in Milan

Here's the list of exotic food stores in Milan, which I started for my ESL students, but decided that it might be helpful to anyone interested in Milan since that overwhelming nostalgia for comfort food from home is waiting in ambush for us all.

I created the file in Excel because it's easiest for me that way. Hope you all can read it! If not, try saving it first as a text file.

Hope it helps, bye bye!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Photoless Friday (19): Famiglia Meneghina and theater in the Milanese dialect

Attended a round table of talks, last evening. The topic, for those non-scholarly, sounds like a snorer: "The new catalogue published by the Famiglia Meneghina of works in their library dedicated to theater in the Milanese dialect." If you made it even through half of that title, you probably also watch the History Channel, frequently. Really, though, it was fascinating, and well-done (Cosmos bless the speakers, none were long-winded)...More......

...even a bookworm, like myself, does have its limits of resistance to the physical and mental strain of sitting still in a dark room, and not letting my mind wander, or falling asleep after a long hard day of work, complicated often by low glucose levels.

Reading the program, the scariest proposition was the panoramic introduction to the evening's topic by the local city councilman for culture. Just at the words "Councilman's presentation...," I already was gripping my chair's seat and locking my elbows to keep myself from tumbling over in a sudden blow of sleep, but 't'wasn't so. He did get a bit windily philosophical on us, but kept it pretty brief and--amazing, but true--finally to the point, so that his talk really did set a larger cultural stage (pun not intended) for the rest of the evening dedicated to theater in the Milanese dialect.

An expert on theater in the Milanese dialect spoke briefly about the topic, itself. Here are a few of the most interesting factoids, which put the project being discussed in context.

Added to the "Italian Comedy" theater repertoire (ever heard of, for example, Pulcinella, or seen Picasso's paintings of the Italian comedy troupe? It's a centuries-long travelling theater tradition) at the very beginning of the 17th century (note for those not having read previous posts: we're talking about the period in Milan's history when it had been under Spanish Hapsburg domination for almost a hundred years) was the manservant, "Meneghino": well-meaning, good-hearted, dedicated, able, but a bit bumbling. Interesting to hear how the Milanese present, last night, still identify with this figure, as proven by hearty applause at appropriate points in the talk (even the word "hearty" somehow fits the stereotypical Milanese, now so watered down thanks to immigrants--including myself--that many lament its demise). But back to the factoids.

Theater in dialect in general had its ups and downs (these latter during periods scared of sharp and public criticism and of private cultural associations in which political discontent could breed and multiply), but Milanese dialect theater continued--in part thanks to the Famiglia Meneghina--even up into the 1990s, when, as a club it had to close its doors for financial reasons, and transform itself into a foundation to manage its large and precious collection dedicated to "things Milanese" (Milanesità), which it had begun shortly after its foundation in the early 1920s (it will not pass the notice of history buffs that we're talking about a period just after the close of WWI, during which identity and economic recovery were taking place). (It will not pass the notice of any reader that I like parenthetical comments.)

Next talked the expert responsible for the production of the catalogue, itself. That kind of talk really can be a scary snorer, if specialists don't keep their audiences in mind. Thankfully, this one did. She presented a few indicative and interesting examples (with images contained liberally in the catalogue), and didn't wear us down like Chinese water torture with a seemingly endless string of unrelated examples.

As any visitor to the Famiglia Meneghina web site will be able to see that (if they are able to read Italian...just bless yourself that the site isn't in the Milanese dialect), the very rich catalogue ripe for mining of the works in this small, but precious library, open by appointment to the public, is online. Their first published catalogue appeared a few years ago. It's enormous. The presentation of the second, smaller published catalogue, dedicated to the works of theater in the Milanese dialect (not just scripts, but also playbills, photos, and critics' reviews), which have entered the library in the last few years, was the occasion for last night's round table, closed brilliantly with his typical verve and conciseness by Alessandro Gerli, longtime president of first the club, and now the association dedicated to the library.

(For the scholars in my oh-so-vast reading public of ten, the central web site connecting an enormous number of all of the Italian libraries, public and private, large and small--Famiglia Meneghina included--is:

As hard as I try, I will never be a great writer until I can resist pat phrases: a lovely time was had by all, as proven by the enthusiastic applause of those in the large full room.

Oh, and what does "Famiglia Meneghina" mean, you ask?

In the Milanese dialect, "Menego" is one of the nickname forms for "Domenigo/Domenico," and was adopted as the name for that Italian comedy figure of the Milanese manservant. The figure became so popular, that the name mutated into an adjective, and, added to the diminuitive form, identifies the "Famiglia/Family" of Milanese in a tender, affectionate and culturally-laden way.

If you're a scholar of things Milanese, this library--multum in parvum--is a must.
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