Saturday, March 31, 2012

This time, it's pleasure before business: art with a social purpose

"SLA-Start Living Again" is open until the 15th of May at the Centro Diagnostico Italiano in via Saint Bon, 20 (link in Italian).....More......

The exhibit, promoted by a photography group (Circolo di Cultural fotografica) and sponsored by the Bracco Foundation, takes its name and inspiration from "SLA," the Italian acronym for the disease commonly known in English as "Lou Gehrig's disease." The exhibit shows glimpses of life, of hope, of nature and of dignity in fifty-five photographs realized by fifty-five Italian and European photographers to recount "movement," the very thing difficult for those afflicted with the disease.

Proceeds from the sale of the photographs and the catalogue of the exhibit sustain research to combat the disease.

I snapped this movement-oriented "light painting"--NOT in the exhibit!--on the 15th of January, 2012, at about 4 P.M.

While I'm on an "art with a social purpose" roll, at the "House of Energy" (Casa dell'Energia) of Milan's semi-public electricity utility, AEM, from the 2nd to the 12th of April there will be an exhibit geared to helping us understand autism, a permanent neurological condition that interferes with communication and social interaction.

Born of collaboration between the parents of children affected with autusim and the "Art Among the People Association" (Associazione Arte tra la Gente), the exhibit, open in Piazza del Po 3 from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. (except for the 7th-9th of April for Easter) is in honor of the world day dedicated by the U.N. to this syndrome.

I've no pictures to show you for this exhibit on autism because I prefer to use my own, and the exhibit isn't open, yet (even when it opens, they may not allow photographs), so you'll have to go check it out for yourself, then tell us about it.

For more info about the House of Energy (in Italian):


Friday, March 30, 2012

It's darkest before the dawn...Saturday, March 31, from 8:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M., WWF "Earth Hour" in Milan

If you're in Milan, and everything goes dark this Saturday from 8:30 to 9:30 P.M., you're not in the middle of an alien's WWF's "Earth Hour" during which the organization encourages the private and public sectors to shut off all electricity to highlight environmental problems, and what we can do to fix them (even when the solution, as in this case, isn't really very practical).

Plan a pyjama party, and use the hour to snuggle with friends and family.


(I snapped this picture on the 22nd of November, 2008, at around 6:30 P.M.)

Monday, March 26, 2012


It's rather art historian of Italian Renaissance art and architecture, who'd never been to Ferrara...but I finally remedied that on Sunday, with a small delightful group of friends.

Now I wonder why I'd waited so long! (Truth to tell, getting there with public transportation is MUCH more pleasant, now that there's a FAST train from Milan to Bologna, where you have to change.)

Lovely, and VERY much worth the little bit of effort to go. More......

A trip to the Palazzo Diamante (so-called for the diamond-shaped points on the mansion's exterior) to see the exhibit of the works of the Spanish Impressionist Sorolla (marvellous!) was the occasion. No picture-taking allowed, so you'll have to look him up for yourself.

Este ruler portraits literally put up on pedestals right across from the Duomo...just in case you weren't clear who was in charge.

A pair of scary lions and sphinxes to protect the Duomo.

Churches galore (this one's San Francesco), which we didn't have time to explore...have to go back!

And the other reason for going: Palazzo Schifanoia ("Get Rid of Boredom Mansion"), though I have to confess that the famous Renaissance frescoes were much less impressive than the somewhat later frescoes in the ducal palace in Urbino, in large part because of the poor state of conservation of most of them. Still, it was important to go and see for myself.

So, 'here my are!' in Ferrara!

Star's for the trip? 4.5 out of 5 (nibbling a bit off for the fact that one has to change trains once, but really it's no biggie)

Go, and enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hope you're free this weekend (March 24-25)

Running, but wanted to get you the skinny for your weekend plans: nosy around gorgeous Italian places usually closed to the public.

FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano is a non-profit organization set up twenty years ago to preserve and open to the public not just historic places and monuments (the first things, frankly, that come to my mind), but also precious territories, such as wetlands and special gardens.

Will you be in Italy this weekend, and have some time on your hands? Here's the regional map (only in Italian, sorry folks!) of what will be open and where:

Hey, why not become a member, too? It's about the same price as a "Friends" membership for your local museum.


P.S., Italy "springs forward" to daylight savings time this weekend.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Flowers and "Footing" in Milan

Are you out and about, today, the 13th of March? Did you see S. Barnabas marching into Milan to combat all the pagan idols? Did you see him plunge a cross into a Celtic pagan stone carved with a sun with 13 rays? If you did, sit down, and take it easy because......More......'ve been wandering around town for 1961 years!

The stone once was in S. Dionysius, one of the churches founded by S. Ambrose (our patron saint, who lived in the 4th century A.D.), but that church was torn down in the late 18th century to make way for a public park, and some of its bits were installed in other churches. The donut-shaped stone with the sun's rays is now set in the pavement of the church called Santa Maria al Paradiso, erected or rebuilt in 1590 (the façade was redone in 1896) because it is to this church on Corso di Porta Vigentina that the monks were moved from S. Dionysius.

A picture of the stone is available on the city's tourism website, but the page is among those not translated. (Thank you to my English student, L., for this link!)

Crazy enough (in my opinion, of course!) to like going jogging and running? Then the 25th of March in Milan is for you. About 9 A.M. the "StraMilano" (i.e., "SuperMilano") will start at the Duomo, and wind its way through the city for about 5 hours. You can go "footing" (as jogging sometimes is called, here) at your own pace, and at least this page on the city's tourism site is in English.

Do you, by the way, know what this tree is? I snapped this in the spring a year, or so, ago...and still wonder what it is. No particular smell, good or bad, just lovely pink flowers all over this medium-sized puffy-topped tree. (How's that for an accurate botanical description?!)


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yes, I honestly do love Milan...

Was talking with another ex-pat the other day. Her jaw dropped, and her voice raised in stupefied wonder..."You really do like Milan?! What can you possibly like about it?!"...More......

It's beautiful, folks!

Stop seeing the city through the gray-colored lenses of prejudice.

The city is lovely...snippets of ancient, medieval and Renaissance lives peek out from around the corners of the more present Baroque, Neo-Classical, Belle Epoque, Liberty (that's Milanese Art Nouveau, in case you haven't been following my blog, yet), Novecento and modern (and some of the post-war stuff is even decent, too). (Yes, yes, yes, there are some pretty dull and, I hear, dangerous rabbit warrens in the suburbs, but there are enough people complaining about Milan, you don't need me to do that.)

The city is also fascinating and lively (though I'm [repeatedly] told it was even more wonderful and lively in the 1960s, but we don't choose when and where we're born, do we?!). There's so much to do, and for so many different interests, that I don't even scratch the surface.

It's pretty easy to get around...I love not having to drive a car. Thank you ATM! (Could you please stop striking so often, though? Get your act together, and TALK sufficiently before deadlines, please. I know striking is a legal right in Italy, but it should be a last option, not an omnipresent club hovering over the heads of the poor and middle class, who can't afford private drivers and taxis up the wazoo. Thank you for listening, I'll get off my soapbox, now....)

The people used to be polite...ahhhh, that sounds too much like an incipient complaint, so let's move on.

The city even can be picturesque! Ain't that picture urban-cute? (I snapped it with you in mind a few Saturdays ago, around 9 A.M. for your personal, non-commercial fun.)

I could go on and on and on, but then what would be the point of any future posts?

So, why do so many people--Milanese, imported Italians and ex-pats alike--goggle, when I say that I love Milan?

Here's the historian in me coming out.

Personally, I think that Italians haven't had their "Mount Ventoux."


Petrarch is often cited as one of the turning points in modern occidental thought. Why?

Because he literally had his Mount Ventoux.

He climbed to the top of the mountain to see the view (already cited as something "new"...who ever heard of going to all that trouble and fatigue just to look out over the surrounding area? "You mean, he's not even going to gather mushrooms? The man's nuts!"), and for the first recorded/significant time realized that there was an immense gap between him and antiquity.

He felt the gap.

He felt a longing for what was no longer his: classical culture.

He felt nostalgia.

At least until recently, for the period prior to Petrarch scholars talk about a continuity of mentality, rather than a rift.

The Early Christians--aside from their new religion, and there were other "mystery" religions proliferating, too--felt fully Roman, fully Greek, fully whatever they were. Changing religion didn't change the fact that you and your family had been born, lived and died in Ephesus, Rome, Milan, Jerusalem, or even the tiniest waterhole on the way to Timbuktuu.

The Carolingian renascence refreshed, rather than revived, ancient culture, where it already had existed, and spread it (also for socio-political reasons) where it hadn't.

Medieval images of ancient and biblical people were cast in then modern clothes. "They are just like us; we're just like them."

Then in a literal (or was it a topos?) flash, Petrarch saw.

He saw that he was separate from the classicism he so dearly loved.

He saw that he was different.

He appreciated the classicism, and mourned the gap.

And so today's Italians have not yet had their Mount Ventoux.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries--so evident in Milan because they were a fervent period of economic booms and busts...ring any bells?...--is still seen as a part of them (and the good things about the Novecento period are still swept under the rug along with the bad).

"What's so special about this? It looks just like my grandma's house," I hear while I'm at work at the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum (via Gesù 5), a marvelous authentic magic window onto our recent and traditional aristocratic past.


So, give yourselves a shake.... No, not that kind of chocolate, or vanilla, shake.

A wiggling from side-to-side, clear your head of cobwebs.

And see beautiful Milan for what it is.

It helps if you raise your eyes from the sidewalk....

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