Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walk a mile in my may have to...local transportation strike, Oct. 2, 2012

Hankering for a quality pair of handmade shoes, but your wallet snaps shut like a clam just at the thought?

Tremble no more!

In the Navigli quarter of Milan you can find a wonderful pair of shoes at a 'normal' price...More......

Having complained to my friend about my difficulty in finding good shoes for my poor feet, "I know just the thing!," she chirped, and dragged me down Viale Col di Lana to "Ago e Spago" at number 12 with its little old-fashioned store front packed with beautiful traditional and youthful shoes for men and women. (Here she is reflected in the storefront window.)

Just taking a pair in your hands, you can feel the quality and care that go into their shoes. There are lots of ready-made models available to choose from, or, as you can see from their web English!...on "Vamos a cliccar" (a good source for Milanese store information) it also is possible to commission a handmade pair of shoes just for you. (If you want to see the "Ago e Spago" website, where you even can order online, go here, but it's only in Italian.)

So, if you're thinking about coughing up the (reasonable) dough for a quality shoe experience, you'll be asking yourself, "What did she mean by 'normal' prices?"

It hurts, it hurts, but Euro 125+ for a good pair of ready-made lined leather dress shoes that, with care, will accompany you down the path of life happily for years is not unreasonable. Can't tell you what a custom-made pair of shoes might cost there, though I suspect probably about thrice that price, but being able to choose a pair of shoes just like I like them, and with the conditions to support my feet's very tempting to try at least once.

Oh man! In looking over the web site, I'm getting an (almost) irresistable urge to splurge! (And remember, I get no kickbacks of any kind for these heartfelt plugs!)

I might make a trip to their other store on via Plinio, 16, time for the next public transportation strike scheduled for the 2nd of October. In Milan, the local trains, busses, trams and metro will experience stops and slowdowns, especially from 8:45 A.M. to 3 P.M., then again from 6 P.M. 'til the end of service.

To further favor getting to and from work on this difficult day, the spy cameras for the "Area C" restricted entry zone in Milan will be shut off.

"Always look on the bright side of life!" (Can you hear the tune from the movie, The Life of Brian, that accompanies this phrase? I can! If you haven't seen this movie, it's great!)


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Innovation Running: 1st annual (they hope) run in Milan in favor of blood donations

Innovation Running: B2Blood. That makes me a bit squeamish, but the cause is good. Raising awareness and increasing participation in blood donations through today's short run, the first of--they hope--many to come, from about 8:50 A.M. to 11:30 A.M....More......

Good cause.

Will disrupt public and private transportation, though, so if you have to be somewhere at a particular time, forewarned is forearmed.

Want more info? You'll have to read Italian, but if you want more info about WHERE the run will go, scroll their page down, and click on the map:

They didn't advertise this very well. I only chanced to see the notices on the bus and tram stop poles, yesterday. Better late than never.

Sunday outing planned with the family? We should have some cloud cover, with temps more typical of the first days of autumn, but some hot Indian summer weather should pop up after next week's predicted downpours.

A short consolation before the long winter months.

Despair not! Usually the bad weather lasts just a couple of days, spelled by a few lovely fresh blue days with big white puffy clouds...just enough to lift the spirits, and arm them for the next few days of cold and rain, the latter necessary for the crops and replenishing the water supply.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A taxi! A taxi! My kingdom for a taxi!...AKA 'Women's Readymade Wear Week' in Milan

You know it's women's fashion week in Milan because it's cold and rainy. No wonder giornalists call Milan a gray city. (What consistently rotten luck they have. It's often gorgeous just before and just after their fashion week, here. What are the weather sprites trying to tell us?)...More......

It isn't crummy all year 'round, though. By tomorrow, all should be able to taste Milan's Curaçao-blue skies and snuggle into its flannel-warm temps.

For the next few days, though, forget flagging a taxi.

Need to get somewhere, and you don't drive? (Once you get there, you'll probably not find a parking spot, anyway, even without the convention center events.) Try the "GiraMilano" feature on the English-language (yeah!) version of ATM's/Milan's public transportation site: Just input your point-of-departure in the top field and your point-of-arrival in the lower field, then press "Calculate." If you'd rather take as few steps as possible (oh dear, oh dear, what terrible English, my friends, "Few short walks" indeed...why, oh why, do companies with big budgets always try to scrimp on English by having the director's uncle's nephew's half-sister's neighbor's hamster do the translations? It's bad for their public image!), or prefer to avoid the metro, or making too many changes, click first on Advanced Search, then make your choices. Use this feature to figure out the schedule to the new convention center (Fiera) in Rho-Pera, a suburb of Milan. Beware: since it's outside Milan's city limits, there is a surcharge on the ticket.

Have umbrella and rainboots, will travel! There's a special charm about Milan when it's rainy.

I shot this fashion snap on the 31st of August, 2010, at around 10:40 on the escalator in front of the Stazione Centrale.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

What I did with my (2012) summer vacation (n. 1)

It's irresistible, the repeated elementary school habit too strong, so here's my "What I did with my summer vacation" in a photographic nutshell (so don't panic...I'm not going to bore you with hours of shots of people you don't know, or notes about the new words in English I picked up for my students...see, if you're learning English as a second language, don't worry if you have to keep your ears open to learn new vocab...language changes, and so we native speakers have to, too!)....More......

First off...I'm getting too old for this.

The flight from Milan to San Diego, California, was--door to door--about 28 hours long.

I was so exhausted by the time I got to my aunt's house (thanks sooo much to all the friends and family, who put me up a few days here, a few days there, so I could go) that I could barely pour myself out of the car, up the walk and handful of stairs, through the house and into the guest bedroom. Surprisingly, I had almost no trouble with jet lag, probably because I arrived soooo exhausted a bit before midnight that I was able to get into the local waking-sleeping rhythm easily.

For the next couple of days, I spent most of the time just hanging out with friends and family (this, you'll see, was the leit motif of the entire trip, since I hadn't been back in soooo long), so no details interesting to the uninvolved there. Ain't I thoughtful?!

Did arrange to meet some other friends halfway between L.A. and San Diego at delightful San Juan Capistrano, easily and comfortably reached with the Amtrak train from the old Santa Fe station in downtown San Diego (don't get confused...there is another train station in the historic part of downtown that preserves some Spanish-era buildings, also worth visiting). Fear not! Does the morning look dreary and cloudy? This is typical of southern California coastal areas in the summer. By noonish it was all burning off, and we had lovely weather for the rest of the day. Helps to keep things from getting too darn hot.

The train station is on the SDMTS red trolley line, though to be honest, good public transportation is pretty scarce in Southern California, where the areas are so spread out. Visitors and locals alike pretty much have to rely on driving cars, though efforts at improving the systems are being made.

The station is a historic building (now that I live in Italy, I have to confess, it makes me laugh a bit when buildings from the 19th century are called "historic," but it's all in one's point-of-reference, isn't it?), and is in the typical "Mission Style" of architecture, with lovely fittings, including beautiful wall tiles. (Sadly, how times have changed. Before the Twin Towers terrorist attack no one would have thought twice about someone taking pictures in and around public buildings, but while I was wiling away the time before my train's departure, a very nice guard tensely sauntered over, and pretended to chat with me to find out just what the heck I was doing and who I was. After he was reassured that I was just a tourist taking shots of the pretty bits of the building for innocent reasons, he left me with a kind goodbye.)

What's there to see and do in San Juan Capistrano? Our visit was dedicated to hugs, chatting, eating lunch, a visit to the old Jesuit mission...

...a view of the monastery's central courtyard from under the porch...

...inside the monk's chapel, still a working church...

...what's left of the cathedral, brought down by an earthquake not too many years after it had been built (what rotten luck)...

...and a refreshing soda pop on the cute wooden porch of the little Hidden Coffee Shop in an old sideboard house just on the opposite side of the train tracks from the downtown historic center and the mission. Also on the other side of the tracks from downtown is a fun and tasty restaurant, the Ramos House Cafè, in a reconverted typical low wooden house of the area down a shabby-chic small road lined with the pepper trees I remember so fondly from my So Cal childhood.

Well worth a day.

These pictures were shot for your personal, non-commercial fun. Enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Movies in Milan

Films from the Venice and Locarno are being shown in Milan, but I sure hope you can read a bit of Italian because--boooo!--the site's not in English:

Milan's Film Festival is starting, now, too at the Strehler Theatre, Largo Greppi 1, web site page in English--yeah!--but the info is pretty limited (better than nothin'!):


Glorious Milan...and a hint for your Sunday

Milan is soooo gorgeous right now! With crisp sunny days and clear blue skies, this early fall weather is my absolute favorite. The sun is still warm enough, unlike feeble early spring, yet the cool air makes everything frizzy.

So, while you're planning your marvelous weekend in Milan...More......(I just checked the CNN weather pages for you, Milan should be just like this all weekend, yeah!), here's a hint: plan to use public transportation on Sunday.

There will be a traffic block from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M.

Instead of complaining about it, as so many Milanese do, why not see it as an opportunity to relax, and enjoy the city, family and friends?!

After all, as Marcus Aurelius would say, "It's only what you make of it!"


(I snapped this photo for your personal non-commercial enjoyment while in the Piazza of the Duomo on the 8th of April around 3 P.M., but the weather is just the same these days, and in the flurry of back-to-work after vacation, I haven't had much walking time with my camera,'s hopin'!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today's semi-random thoughts from Marcus Aurelius

'People seek out retreats for themselves in the country, by the seaside, on the mountains, and you, too, are wont to long above all for such things. But all this is unphilosophical to the nth degree, when you can at a moment's notice retire into yourself. For nowhere can we find a retreat more full of peace, or more free from care, than our own souls, above all if...More......

...we have peace within us, a steadfast look at which and we at once are at ease, and by "ease" I mean nothing other than order. Make use, then, of this retirement continually, and regenerate yourself....

Why with what are you discontented? The wickedness of others? Take this conclusion to heart, that rational creatures have been made for one another, that forbearance is part of justice, that wrong-doing is involuntary, and think how many before now, after passing their lives in implacable enmity, suspicion, hatred, and at daggers drawn with one another, have been buried. Think of this, I say, and stop fretting.

But are you discontented with your share in the whole? Recall the alternatives: either heavenly intervention, or just atoms, and the abundant proofs that the universe is one state....

But will that paltry thing, Fame, distract you? Look at the swift approach of complete forgetfulness, and the void of infinite time on this side of us and on that, and the empty echo of acclamation, and the fickleness and uncritical judgment of those who claim to speak well of us, and the narrowness of the arena to which all this is confined. For the whole of earth is but a point, and how tiny a corner of it is this the place of our sojourning, and how many therein and of what sort are those who will praise you.

From now on, therefore, remember to retreat into this little plot that is you, yourself. Above all, don't distract yourself, don't be too eager, but be your own master, and look upon life as one possessed of high values, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature.

Among the principles close at hand upon which you concentrate, let there be these two. One, that objective things do not lay hold of your soul, but stand quietly outside of it, while disturbances are but the outcome of that opinion that is within us. Second, that all this visible world changes in a moment, and will be no more, and continually remember the changes of how many things that you have witnessed.

"The Universe: change. Life: opinion".(*)'

Dear Marcus usually isn't so long-winded, but much of the essence of his helpful and comforting thought, expressed in his jottings to self that we now call his Meditations, is distilled into this somewhat paraphrased passage (IV:3).

Perfect for remembering, for today and for my dear dear Mario, whose passing away two years ago took the light from my life.

Contemplate. Contemplate again. And again. Draw comfort from wisdom.

(*Here, Marcus is quoting Mundi lex seu Natura, according to my Loeb version.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Special FAI visit to Palazzo Cusani

Heads up! Tuesday, the 18th of September at 10:30 A.M., it will be possible to visit Palazzo Cusani--otherwise closed to the general public--with FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano.

Here's what my Touring Club Italiano has to say about the mansion:...More......

'The mansion was erected by Giovanni Ruggeri in 1719, and now is the seat for the Terzo Corpo d'Armata [a branch of the military]. The courtyard and grand stairway are in a 17th century style reminiscent of the work of the architect Ricchini. The Neo-Classical façade facing onto the garden is by Giuseppe Piermarini. The mansion contains some important paintings, as well as the allegorical fresco in Tiepolo's style in the Grand Salon. The furniture comes in part from the Royal Palace [in Milan] and the Ca' Morosini in Venice.'

The visit to this building on via Brera 15 will be guided by Barbara Pasolini, and costs E. 25 for non-FAI members / E. 20 for FAI members.

For more information, you may visit the FAI website in English (yeah!):


(Note to self: finally find time to organize your digital snaps better so you actually can FIND what you're looking for)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tired? Want a soda or sandwich with a view (and AC)? Look no more: Le Jardin d'Histoire

There we were, my friend and I, walking (preferably on the shady side of the street), chatting, getting caught up after the holidays, and I got so thirsty all I could think of was a cool soda in a cool place where I could sit. Our first choice was closed, heading back in the general direction of home, our second choice was way too crowded and noisy. A light went on over my friend's head, and she said, "Hey, there's a café on the top of the Natural History Museum, and it's just over there!" (Cosmos bless her!)...More......

We went up the steps of the front entrance (Corso Venezia, 55, on the park's corner with via Palestro), told the ladies of the Biglietteria (Ticket Counter) that we wanted to go to the "bar" (don't get confused, they're what we would call a kind of "coffee shop" with a bit of eats), so she sent us to the (service!) elevator and to the 4th floor, where this delightful little place, not quite chic, but certainly not shabby, awaits. (Heading the other direction sends you into the museum for which there is a reasonable fee...and lots of fun and interesting stuff to see, so go there, too!)

You have your choice of typical bar tables and chairs and a teeeny glimpse of the towers of San Carlo and the Duomo from the open air porch (which, on Saturday, was tooooo hot), or...

...the semi-frozen AC'd interior with surprisingly stylish wicker furniture (not quite visible in the photo due to the blast of light) and large glass window disturbed a bit with Johnny-come-lately tacky bits...just enough to make the chic palatable and fun.

It was just the right place, quiet and cool with chairs and tables, at just the right moment.

Want more practical info about the cafè? Here's the official civic web site (the museum belongs to the city) which isn't in English--booooo!--but it does have the phone number and hours (the cafè is inside the museum, so observes their hours):

As usual, all pictures are mine, and are for your personal non-commercial enjoyment. The first photo of the Renoir exhibit in nearby Pavia was a wonderful stroke of luck: shade from an overhanging tree perfectly aligned with the shade of the lovely lady's umbrella. Fun!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Business is Business: trade fairs in Milan, September 2012

Are you coming to Milan for fun?

Milan is almost always full of trade fairs, and that fills up hotel rooms and taxis, but there's nothing like the annual fashion trade fairs (especially for female fashion) to snarl Milan's traffic and curl a few lips.

Avoid these times, if you can. How?...More......

Try looking up your planned travel dates in a couple of trade fair web sites:

M+A trade fairs, Milan page for Sept. 2012 (in English, yeah!).

Fiera Milano (official page, in English, yeah!)

Hope this helps!
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