Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat!

"That which you will be, we are now. He who forgets us, forgets himself."...More......

So reads the inscription over a little late Baroque chapel now facing onto Piazza Aquileia, but once part of a small cemetery in use from the late 1600s until the late 1800s.

Originally just outside the city walls in the Porta Vercellina area, the cemetery's position lost this distinction when the city's defensive Spanish Walls (begun in the mid-16th century and continually augmented) were torn down because considered useless during the peace established by the Empress Maria Teresa of Hapsburg in the second half of the 18th century.

This picture was snapped with your personal non-commercial enjoyment in mind on Saturday the 28th of October, 2012, around 4 P.M.

Trick or treat!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's time to fall back in Italy...and snippets from today's walk

Italy falls back tonight to standard time (called "solar time," here), tonight. So, until your local area changes back to standard time, the time difference is one hour less or more depending on where you are in relation to Italy. For example, when both the U.S. and Italy are on the same time system, New York time is 6 hours earlier than Italy time, but until the U.S. changes, NY will be only 5 hours earlier.

Italy changes back to Daylight Savings Time (called "legal time," here) on the 30th of March, 2013.

Together with the time change, the cold and rain is moving in, today, but a nice long walk still was in order......More......

It's sad and scary, so let's get it out of the way. Small- and medium-sized stores continue to close, even on busy streets with good foot traffic and public transportation. Lots of people are looking at things in store windows. Despite the fact that some economists have said that the worst is over and the long slow recovery has begun, it still seems like there are many fewer people actually in the stores buying things. The prices of goods in Italy--except maybe for good local table wine and extra virgin olive oil--always have seemed exorbitant, even ridiculous, to me (partly due to the extremely high energy costs that trickle down quickly to the consumer), but they must be seeming ridiculous to more and more people with less and less in their pockets.

A glimpse inside the courtyard of a typical Milanese "ringhiera" (wrought-iron balustrade) condo of the end of the 19th century. This one's in the Navigli area. Once considered housing of the poor, many of these buildings have disappeared around town, and where they survive often have been gentrified. This one is still home to working class, as well as white collar, families, and got a fresh coat of paint just last year.

After lunch with a friend, we got a yummy cup of espresso here under the tall portico in Piazza XXIV Maggio.

Never ceases to amaze me that people want to eat ice cream when it's cold. Just as well for the ice cream stores.

It's been awhile since I've included a "Here my are!," so here it is!

Must be perennially shady, here.

And, finally, a lovely private garden before making a quick stop for some groceries, and then home with the goods.

It was a nice long walk, I hope you enjoyed it, too, despite the gray chilly weather. Bundle up! Tomorrow we're getting blasted with winds literally from Siberia.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Another lovely Sunday walk in Milan...are you coming?

It was close.

There's so much work to do, I almost didn't go.

But the last days of nice weather, the need to stretch my legs and the desire to snap some photos for you finally convinced me.

"But where should I go?," I asked myself. "Down via Monti, let's see how the light is," and off I went, first past the park with the first hints of autumn scattered on the thin grass under the trees....More......

Next, past--according to my Sicilian student--THE BEST sweet shop in all of Milan...that sounds dangerous...I haven't been inside, yet.

Next, past a costume jewellry shop with nice stuff...but I want that mirror!

It's almost Halloween, a holiday Italians have started to adopt these last few years.

Past the monument in Piazza Cordusio to Abbot Parini, who wrote a long satire about the noble classes to whose children he gave private in-home lessons (for those of you who like art history, his opus is like a literary version of Hogarth's series of paintings...I wanted to read it, but I'm told it's in dialect, sigh). The statue has a plaque saying that it was done by Luca Beltrami, but the handy-dandy Milano book of the Touring Club says it was by Luigi Secchi, the same sculptor who did the Savoy equestrian portrait on the castle's front tower, while the very brief Wikipedia page dedicated to Beltrami clarifies--though without citing sources, so take it with a grain of salt--that Beltrami designed the pedestal, and reaffirms Secchi as the sculptor...which makes more sense because Beltrami was an architect. The sculpture makes me think of a traditional take on Rodin's Balzac of about the same date. Who was transforming whom? Was Rodin in Milan when the sculpture was mounted? Was Secchi in Paris? Did images circulate? Were they both inspired by yet another sculpture? Or is the similarity a complete coincidence? (The latter sounds less probable, and we're tempted to assume that Secchi was inspired to one-up Rodin, but it ain't necessarily so!)

Opposite Parini are a handful of turn-of-the-century buildings in this historically important piazza (for starters, "Cordusio" comes from "Court of the [Lombard] dukes," invading masters of Milan from the mid-6th century to their defeat at the hands of the Lombard king's frankish erstwhile son-in-law, Charlemagne, on the 5th of June, 774). The building in the background is the "Credito italiano" by Broggi, 1901, an expression--together with the other buildings in the piazza, including the original stock exchange, now the post office--of financial confidence after a late 19th century crack...sound familiar?

A fun lion on via Dante (around n. 8).

The Sforza castle's Rivellino (defensive structure), or what's left of it, in the sun on the verge of fading.

And home again, in one of the 1928ff trams refurbished for use after the devastating bombings of August 1943. For awhile, placards in the trams, celebrating the history of Milan's public transport company, ATM-Azienda Trasporto Milanese, told the story: then-modern trams melted in the ferocious heat of the fire bombs, but the skeletal structure of these 1928 models survived intact, and were quickly refurbished to get the masses moving, again. I love those trams, not just because they're smaller, more intimate, and have wooden interiors--so beautiful, so comforting--but also because I can imagine my dear sweet husband popping around town in them, when he was a young man.

It's like chatting with the ever-present he-who-was.

And that's comforting, too.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Oh, fig!


Picked, rinsed and...


Aaaahhhh, memories of sunny warm summer on a gray chilly Milanese autumn day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Planning to come to Milan?

Milan is great. You know this. You wouldn't be thinking of coming here, if you didn't.

Did you know, though, that you could save yourself a lot of grief, if you plan to come when there's no trade fair at the convention center? Or at least one of the bigger ones (especially women's wear)? They really clog up the city's hotels and taxis.

But how!?...More......

Go to the English (yeah!) pages of the convention center (it organizes events in the new "Fiera"/convention center in the nearby suburb of Rho-Pero and in the now much smaller Fiera in town):

I snapped this picture on the (unfortunately overcast) 1st of April (yup!) in 2005 when the new Fiera was opened just for a few days for a preview before opening commercially.

The (very hard to keep clean and rather bizarre) architecture by Fuksas is a whole other can o' worms. Want to see more of his work? Go here, click on the title on that first page, and it will take you to a menu at the bottom of which you can click on "English"...the text automatically changes to English, though the website address remains the same.

Enjoy my snap for your personal non-commercial viewing pleasure.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What I did with my (2012) summer vacation (n. 5)

Last stop to visit a couple of dear friends on the way back home. Here we are on the Massachusetts coast. The day started out a bit dreary, but lightened up, and the days passed really quickly there, too....More......

It even got warm enough to eat outside at least once.

One day was spent getting reaquainted with one friend, who lives in a nearby (absolutely adorable) town (perched on the promontory in the distance).

Another day was gobbled up by a road trip to a nearby town to see a Russian icon museum (very interesting). The inbetween times were spent going to a few museums in town and just chatting and hanging out with dear friends, one who put me up while there, the other who came out to see me. My dearest thanks to you both.

Vacation was so exhausting--three days with this relative, four days with that, a handful of days with friends--, that, once back in Italy I had to spend a quiet week with other friends just to recuperate. Heartfelt thanks to you, too!

Snapped on the sly during a restaurant dinner, this shot of my friend's snazzy shoes is one of my favorites.

Finally peace and quiet...time (not on a plane or train) with a good before the storm of going back to work.

"I'm back in the saddle, again!"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Streetcar Named 4721

So much for good intentions.

I had planned on walking all the way back home from my afternoon appointment, yesterday, even if it was a bit gray.

As the appointed time got nearer and nearer, the prospect sounded less and less inviting, and Fate decided for me by having a tram pull up just then, so......More...... are some shots snapped on the way home.

Our poor Madonna all bundled up with scaffolding, awaiting many Prince (and Princess) Charmings to buy those blue snails to finance her repair.

Streets busy with people and fashion ads.

Bicyclists taking advantage of pedestrian zones (we're sadly lacking in bike lanes).

People smoking and shopping. (It doesn't seem like as many people are smoking these days as before, but there still are some, and it always surprises me when I see young people could they not know what it does?!)

Inviting pastry shops...(that man had only moved closer to the window then stood there transfixed during the whole time the tram was stopped).

And finally, a relatively new gourmet take-out place. Intrigued before I saw the prices, I popped in...and popped right back out. Can go to a restaurant, enjoy the ambiance, and get table service for that.

A pretty typical peek at life in downtown Milan. It's not all sophistication and sparkle, though. The streets always need sweeping, there's more and more graffiti (I won't ennoble it by showing it), and fewer and fewer people are dressing of the things I liked so much about Milan. Sigh. The times they are a-changin'.

Friday, October 12, 2012


"The care of the lawns and the plants is entrusted to the good manners of the citizens"...but who's responsible for taking care of the signs?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What I did with my (2012) summer vacation (n. 4)

Next stop? North Dakota, and a whole slew of childhood memories! Including the siren-like smell of freshly baked bread, as we used to pass a bakery on the way to my kindergarten. The bakery is still there, and the freshly baking bread still smells as heavenly as before....More......

Here lives the whole reason for the trip: my dear dear grandmother, who just turned 99, and who's planning on hitting 100, and being the belle of her birthday party/family reunion, next year. Go, grandma!

Here, too, just a handful of days, too few, to get reacquainted, to enjoy each other's company, and to take a handful of snaps, like this one down the street on which was my grandma's and grandpa's house (and where I got lost...but, ever on the look out for good ice cream even at the age of four-ish, talked a nice lady into giving me some while we waited for someone to pick me up...those were the days....)

Here's the grain silo just down from my uncle and aunt's house (really! I'm not kidding!). Two delightful people, it was a joy to get to know them, better; last time but one that I spent any quality time with them was when, at the age of four (me, not them!), I was sent along on their dates as a chaperone. Got some ice skating, movies and popcorn out of that deal!

I was sure I had taken some snaps of the bison burgers on the BBQ for you, but can't find hide nor hair of them, so must just be in my imagination (the pics, not the bison burgers...very good, by the way, just a little tastier than beef, not "wild" tasting at all, and I'm told it's leaner than beef). In compensation, here is the view across the narrow road in front of their kidding!

My answer to their very kind "What do you want to do while you're here?" question was the Viking cultural center. A local fellow of Scandinavian descent got a bee in his bonnet to built a replica of a Viking ship, then sail it back to Norway. He managed to make it to the maiden voyage of the ship--after years of construction--from their area out to the coast following a trail of rivers and lakes, but cancer got the better of him before the ship could (and did) successfully make the trip back to the old country.

In the same complex is what is called a "stave" church because it's out of wood (I suspect it has something to do with the origin of our word, "staff")

Another bee, another bonnet: this time to create a replica of an authentic Norwegian Romanesque period wooden church in this complex, complete with exterior ambulatory.

The gent with the bee and bonnet did all the handwork himself, even the crude, but evocative, carvings.

Despite its relatively diminuitive size, it does possess a kind of majesty.

Thanks, again, so much to my aunt and uncle for putting me up, for all the rest, including my dear dad and his nice wife, Jo, for coming back to our hometown for a visit while I was there, and here's hoping to see you all (and more) next year for Grandma's 100th!

Until then,...Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Blue snails for the Duomo's Madonna

From the 8th to the 13th of October, it will be possible to see the blue plastic snails (about knee-high, it seems) placed around on the top of the Duomo. After that date, these pieces of contemporary art will be sold in order to fund, at least partially, urgent restoration work on the Duomo's characteristic and much beloved Madonna sculpture on the tallest spire.

Want more info? Here's the official page on the Duomo's English! (Yeah!)


Sunday, October 7, 2012

A cheesy opportunity to help the earthquake victims in Emilia Romagna

When I heard about the potential for enormous loss of one of Italy's national treasures, Parmigiano Reggiano, and its consequent economic blow to the cheesemakers and the related businesses, I thought, "Why don't they get organized, and sell their wheels of cheese at a discounted price?"...More......

That happened pretty quickly.

IF you had a car to get there.

And IF you were willing to buy an entire wheel of real parmesan cheese. (Don't ask me how many pounds they are...surely as much as a medium-sized dog...and seventy-million times more expensive.)

So, my next thought was, "Why doesn't some big supermarket chain step in, buy up bunches, cut them up, package them, distribute them to local stores, and sell them for the cost. Making no economic profit on it would be a big PR boon.

It's been how many months since the earthquake, and I hadn't heard anything along these lines until I gave into temptation (time to confess!), and stepped into McDonald's the other day.

For only 5 Euros you can buy a reasonably-sized piece of real Parmesan cheese. 4 Euros covers the costs. The remaining Euro is donated free and clear to the cheesemakers.

Good goin', McDonalds!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lovely afternoon walk...are you coming along?

Finished work, took the metro home, set down the briefcase and gulped a quick lunch. Was afraid to sit for too long. Afraid that I'd get too relaxed, and give up going out for a walk with my camera. Wanted to go especially because I haven't been for quite awhile, and Saturday afternoons are one of my best times for walks, but next Saturday might be rainy. Glad I went. Hope you will be, too....More......

Skirted the construction area in front of my house to get to the area on the other side of the 'vecchia Fiera' ('old conference area'), still partly in use, but...

...being turned into a super expensive residential area (so far from downtown? without--to-date--good direct public transportation to downtown? the planned metro doesn't look like it's going to be all that helpful except for getting to the Monumental Cemetery, called an open-air museum for the beauty of its monuments). Heaven help us, one of the designer-name buildings-in-progress has windows like a car. This one has oddly formed ugly balconies (why do things have to be asymmetrical and odd to be considered modern?).

Lovely little snarling lion passed along the way in the 1930s neighborhood on the other side of those horrors. The buildings have clean modernist lines touched with an Art Deco taste for stream-lining and with a hint of figurative art to soften the geometry. (There are lessons to be learned here, calling all architects.)

My kind of plants.

Detail of a historical style building on Piazzale Lotto (graced, too, with the 1930s "Lido of Milano" sports structure), not far from San Siro and the so-called horse of Leonardo da Vinci.

Porta Teodorico of what's left of the Fiera in the city of Milan (the new convention center is in the nearby suburb of Rho-Pero)

Almost back to Piazza Domodossola, here's a snippet of the 1920s original entrance buildings. Looks like they're going to refurbish these, rather than tear them down. Yeah!

Almost home, here's the form, affectionarly called a "panettone" after the traditional Milanese Christmas-time dessert of the same name, to block car traffic.

As great as stretching my legs in the warm sunny air of an Indian summer afternoon was, after an hour and a half it was time to get home, make some calls, and download my photos.

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