Friday, August 30, 2013

Need bread? Like to help others? You're in luck! The "House of Bread 1921" reopens after the summer holidays

I've talked about the Società Umanitaria, before. It's a super space and place, where you can take inexpensive, but great, classes for work and/or fun, and meet interesting people, and maybe even make some wonderful friends. It's always been focussed on the socially useful, and so they recently resurrected "La Casa del Pane 1921,"...More......

...which provides practical work experience for the disadvantaged by teaching them how to make bread. Amazing, but true, there are ever fewer bakers in Italy, these days, because it's hard work getting up hours before the crack of dawn every day.

The bakery program aims to cover as much of its costs as possible by selling the bread to the general public, and that's where you benefit, too. The prices are reasonable (though, rightly so, not cut-rate, don't expect to get something for next to nothing), the bread is wholesome, and you'll walk away feeling smugly happy with yourself.

How can you beat that?!

Reopening Monday the 2nd of September, open Monday to Friday 11 A.M. to 5 P.M., you can buy bread, foccaccia and--as I recall--simple sandwiches and pizza by the slice.

Getting there won't take you through the gorgeous part of the ex-monastery, so don't think that you're lost. (For that, enter--at least until the work on via Daverio is finally finished--at via San Barnaba, 48.)

The bakery entrance is at via Pace 10 behind the Tribunale (Milan's main justice court). The courtyard looks a bit industrial. Head pretty much straight through to the second courtyard, and in the glass-paned walkway there's a small unassuming door marked with a small sign "La Casa del Pane 1921". You'll think you're in the wrong place because the first room is small, dark and used for storage, but just keep heading straight back. A couple of rooms later, and you'll be in the small, but light and cheery room where they sell the bread. (O.K., the signage and location could be better, but who asked us before opening it?)

For more info, call (in Italian) 02.5796.8300, or write (in Italian) to


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Want to ring wedding bells in Italy?

Want to get married in Italy? Is it possible?

Upshot: yes, it's possible, it's a gigantic headache, but it's possible. It'll be easier if you're already at least 18, otherwise there's another document you'll need (and you shouldn't be getting married so young, anyway!)....More......

You'll need an official passport and the "Nulla Osta" ("no obstacles") from your national consular authorities in Italy, or...'the appropriate authorities in your own country'...whatever that means.

If you're an American citizen, instead of the "Nulla Osta," you'll need to go to the U.S. consulate in control of the Italian city where you want to get married, and in front of the consol declare that you are free of any obligations that would prohibit you from being married (i.e., you declare that you're single, divorced, or widowed). The declaration will need to be in writing/typed, but you'll need to sign in front of the consol. The consol will co-sign your document, and this substitutes the "Nulla Osta". The American Consolate in Milan is in via Principe Alberto 2/10 (the Turati stop of the yellow Metro line n. 3), general: tel. (+39) 02.29035.1; Fax (+39) 02.2900.1165; U.S. non-emergency Citizen Services by appointment only, tel. (+39) 02.29035.1, Monday through Friday 8:30 AM – 12:00 PM, fax: (+39) 02.2903.5273, email: (I found nothing on their web site about getting married in

Once you have the "Nulla Osta"/official U.S. declaration of no current marital obligations, you'll need to get the signature officially recognized at the "legalization" office of the local prefect (a kind of's the web site in Italian only for the one in Milan located at Corso Monforte 31 (tel. +39.02.77581, e-mail: This might be where they notarize the document, too.

Once you have the authenticated "Nulla Osta," you and your spouse-to-be will need to go in person to the Italian city hall to the "Anagrafe" office (where things like this are registered), and you'll need to bring the following documents:

--the authenticated "Nulla Osta"/"no impediments" documents for both of you
--valid photo ids for both of you
--birth certificates for both of you, authenticated by your consular authorities in Italy
--if you want to get married in a church, a copy of the request made to the officially recognized priest/pastor.

At this point, you'll be given an appointment to appear before an official of the Italian state to mutually declare your intention to marry each other. The official will see that this official promise to marry each other is posted for 8 days (obligatory 2 Sundays) in the public place set aside for this purpose (in case your current spouse chance's by that bulletin board buried in the City Hall's corridors to run to the official to affirm that you lied when you said you were single/divorced/widowed. Yeah, right. Oh well, even in this age of airplanes and internet, some things have to be done the old-fashioned way).

Once those 8 days have gone by you can go back to the office where you made your pledge, and get the official certificate of the publication of your pledge. You have 180 days to do if you get cold feet in the meantime, you still can back out!

Once you have this document in hand, you go to the "Ufficio di Stato Civile" of your local City Hall, and schedule your wedding date...presumably they mean only for civil ceremonies, since you obviously have to coordinate your church wedding date with the priest/pastor. Or maybe they'll want you to take an official document from the priest/pastor to this office so that the day can be officially registered. Who knows? Italians are very big on bureaucracy.

As I recall, there were fees to be paid for the paperwork...and I hear tell that the priests "ask" for a "donation," but I couldn't tell you how much.

So, you've gotten all the documents, and you're ready for your big day!

For the ceremony, you'll need two witnesses who are Italian citizens, or who have a valid "permesso di soggiorno" (the Italian version of a "green card"). Hey, how do you get these witnesses, if you don't know anyone in Italy? I dunno.

Those who don't know Italian well, may be accompanied to the civil/church service by a translator (it doesn't say that the translator has to be an officially recognized one).

The civil ceremony takes place in the place designed by each city in the presence of the two witnesses. It's quick--about 15 minutes--and touching.

The documents are signed and registered immediately, and you're official!

The typical Catholic wedding mass takes place in a church, and lasts about an hour, after which the documents are signed, and you're official...for the church...only. You'll be official as far as the Italian government is concerned ONLY after the priest (or whoever does it for him) officially records the ceremony with the state at the City Hall.

You can see from this that, if you want to get married by a priest/pastor in a church, just be sure to ascertain first that the officiating priest/pastor in question is officially recognized/empowered to conduct the service also on behalf of the state (agreements between the state and the Catholic church in the 1920s stipulate that church marriages performed by officially recognized religions are officially recognized by the state, too...the agreement surely is extended to other officially recognized religions, but better to be safe than sorry).

Want to get married on the beach? Go to California. Italian weddings are not that flexible.

Whether an official civil ceremony or an officially recognized church ceremony, the marriage is legally binding, and can be transcribed in your home country depending on the arrangments between the countries. Contact your local city registrar beforehand.

After all this...can you see how it would be easier to run away to Las Vegas, get married there, then take your honeymoon in Italy?

If you're determined, I'm sure that a search on the internet will find reputable travel agencies with experience in organizing weddings in Italy. Let them do all the paperwork!

A WORD TO THE WISE: this information is provided for general purposes, only, and is not to be taken as an official list of documents and things to do. Sources--not checked for accuracy--: Stranieri in Italia (in Italian, only); official Italian government info (in Italian, only); Official info in English on the web site of the city of Turin (no such luck on Milan's pages)

Do I hear wedding bells in your future?!


(I took the snap of the lovely baldacchino and golden altar in Sant'Ambrogio--one of Milan's oldest churches--on the 2nd of July, 2011. I see that I haven't dedicated a post to this church, yet...I feel one coming on!)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Garibaldi station, the Bicocca university campus, the Arcimboldi theater and some practical notes

I went on an adventure with you in mind (well, for me going some place new, even nearby, is an adventure), and it didn't turn out at all like I thought it would, but it was productive, nonetheless.

It starts at the Porta Garibaldi train station......More......

...that is under these two new large towers (the area is being built up rapidly with high rises). The goal? An outlet that I'd seen in an ad. Not that I'm fixed on shopping, but knowing outlets can be helpful. Destination? The Greco-Pirelli-Bicocca train station.

Before leaving Milan's train stations, it's a good idea to get your return ticket, too. If the destination station is really small, there won't be an open ticket counter, and there might not even be a working ticket machine. Better to be safe than sorry! Touch the screen on the English flag, and follow the fairly easily comprehensible instructions...the ticket won't be much for such a short hop to the first station on this line. Maybe a few Euros. As long as the station is inside the city limits and is served by the light rail system called the "Passante," your normal Milanese bus tickets and passes will work on the Passante trains, too. Beware: some of these ticket machines take cash, while others only take "bancomat" cards (their version of our Automated Teller Machine cards), credit cards and pre-paid cards.

So, my platform was number 19...head straight out to the train lines and turn right, or left, as the case may be, right? Wrong! It's very VERY poorly marked until you actually know where you're going, and turn into the stair well, but all platforms here from 15 to 20 are on the other side of the lines going further into town, so you need to go downstairs, under those rails, and back up on the other side platform by platform.

Literally about 5 minutes later, and the train pulled into the station. Got off the train, and this is what I saw: bushes, an infinite stretch of rails and tall condo buildings. Behind us? A really small station.

Signage stank, so good thing I'd looked on the internet and at maps before going: I turned right, and figured that that white building--whatever it was--in the foreground was about where I needed to turn left into town. Yup, it was.

In the meantime, it turns out that that building is the famous Arcimboldi theatre that was the seat for La Scala operas while that opera house was being renovated, and now houses plays and the very popular Zelig live comedy show. Good to know that it's so easy to get to,, if they only had early afternoon showings, I'd be willing to go.

Forging ahead a short walk, I found the street I was looking for, nestled in Bicocca's open campus of school and dorm buildings (Bicocca is the University of Milan's suburban campus). Turns out, though, that the outlet was a kind of single tag-ends store, not the mall I expected, and it was closed at that (well, it was Sunday afternoon).

Now what to do? A question to a welcome face in this area deserted like the piazzas in a De Chirico painting ("It's packed with people during the school year....") directed me to the two malls in relatively close walking distance, but, with the blazing sun, a quick bus ride away. Not really big on shopping malls in Italy, but, man, was I thirsty and hot. Names? Bicocca Village and Centro Commerciale Bonola. Both what Italians call "cathedrals in the desert." Must be the university summer vacation that creates this eery effect. Here's a snap of the purposefully rusty modern sculpture in front of the Bonola mall...which is not what you see in the background. That must be an office building. Sun wasn't in the right place for a snap of the outside of the mall.

Bicocca Village is a few minutes closer to the train station than the Centro Commerciale Bonola, but there's that eery De Chirico effect. The center at Viale Sarco (corner of via Chiese, set back a bit from Sarco) has a cinema. Stores open 11 A.M. to 10 P.M. Monday-Thursday, and until 11 P.M. on Friday and Saturday. Sundays in August most of the stores are closed (though the mall, itself, was open when I went, and a few stores, mostly the food stalls, were open); during the rest of the year, the stores close at 9 P.M. on Sunday. Other closures? August 15 and September 01. The restaurants stay open until midnight. The cinema also has its own hours. How to get there? You'll have to muddle through the Italian page, but it's laid out well enough, so hopefully you'll not have too many problems recognizing the names of the bus, tram and metro stops.

Centro Commerciale Bonola (via Quarenghi 23) is just a bit farther, and inside is a perfectly normal shopping mall with a do-it-yourself store called Brico (look in the yellow pages to find these handy stores in Milan) and an ENORMOUS supermarket-Walmart-style store combo. How to get there? It's not in English, either, but laid out clearly. Hours? Monday - Thursday 8:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M., Friday and Saturday hours are a bit longer (8:30 A.M. to 9 P.M.), Sunday's a bit shorter (9 A.M. to 8 P.M.).

Nearby the two malls is the old abandoned Falck company steel factory. They keep talking about renovating it, and I hear that a small part has been opened, and rented out to up-and-coming businesses. Here's a sneak peek between the boarded up wall at the side walk.

Upshot of the afternoon?

I wouldn't go to all this trouble just to go to one of these two malls...what they offer is easier to get in town...but if you want to go to the Arcimboldi Theater, or you will be going to the Bicocca campus, now you know how to do it! Isn't that reassuring?!


Friday, August 16, 2013

The Natural History Museum of Milan...thanks, ENI

Dear You,

ENI has been so kind as to offer you free entrance to Milan's civic museums this summer. Have you gone, yet?

Next one on our list is...More......

...the Natural History Museum in the Porta Venezia public park, at the corner of Corso di Porta Venezia and via Palestro.

Outside, the building retains its late 19th century style,...

...inside Rationalism makes the hall and stairwell a light-filled and clean-lined delight.

There are collections of all kinds: minerals, mankind, bugs and...

...animals big and small in new dioramas...

...and the kind of old-fashioned cases that I remember from my childhood...

...and fascinating tidbits, such as the creatures from which the different kinds of scarlet--and their appraised qualities--come from. For the portrait of a cardinal, they have reproduced a painting by Raphael, without any credits, naughty naughty!

Dinosaurs and fossils, of course!

The museum is fairly kid-friendly...what kid doesn't love dinosaurs?!...but there also are a few displays for them, with the help of accompanying adults.

Tired and thirsty? There's a cafè upstairs, and it's handicap accessible (as the museum is...with a bit of difficulty and sending someone upstairs to get the little wheelchair lift going...if it works...). Don't wait too long, though. It closes shortly after the museum.

Right now, some rooms are closed; they're being set up for the popular traveling* "Brain" exhibit that will open in the fall. (*American English doesn't double the "l"...)

Their website isn't in English...goodness, but they'd better get on the ball in time for Expo. Here's a bit of info to help you get started: Tues.-Sun., 9 A.M. - 5:30 P.M. (last entry, 5 P.M.), closing days: all Mondays and Jan. 1, May 1, Dec. 25. For more info: +39 02 88463280.

Entry costs are reasonable (or free, for certain typical categories), but the surprise is that anyone entering the museum from 2 P.M. on a FRIDAY, or during the last hour of any day the museum is open (i.e., from 4:30 P.M.)...gets in FREE!.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy Ferragosto!

Ahhhhh, much needed and appreciated R&R!

For the skinny on this much-loved holiday, go to my other post.

Have a lovely and relaxing day!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Museum of Ancient Art--the title misleads, the collection delights

Today's turn? The "Museum of Ancient Art"...More......

So, thanks to Eni's "Arte aperta" sponsorship of Milan's civic museums' entrance fees, we've seen the Archaeological Museum, and we've touched on the Acquarium, the Novecento Museum, and the Egyptian, Celtic and historic musical instruments collections in the Sforza Castle (the goldsmith, ceramics and ivory collections were closed that day for lack of funding for personnel, but if they are open when you go, they are worth a look).

I thought I had done a review of the Risorgimento Museum, already, but can't find it--have lots of pictures, just have to find them!--ditto for GAM-Gallerina of Modern Art (i.e., 19th century prior to wasn't the best title choice), the Museum of Milan in Palazzo Morando (also revisited the other day) and the Natural History Museum, so those reviews hopefully will be coming, soon. Today, it's the turn of the equally misleadingly entitled "Ancient Art" Museum in the Sforza Castle, which concentrates principally on the arts of Milan from its beginnings up to the eve of the modern period.

Just about where the front gate of the castle is, that's where the ancient Roman walls passed, and the gate dedicated to Jove was.

The medieval military fort was built a bit farther out, aligned with the slightly larger circle of walls built to repulse Frederick Redbeard of Hohenstaufen, the Holy Roman Emperor as intent on the submission of the Milanese as they were to retain a bigger say in their daily affairs. The gate was just about where this one is, today. (The tower was added during a turbulent period in the late 15th century, after the dukes of Milan had moved their official residence from the palace next to the Duomo to the military fort, turning a part of it into a princely palace...some of whose goodies we'll be seeing, soon!)

Don't miss looking down into what was the moat--part of Milan's canal system--where you can see the stone cannon balls fired--probably by the French at the end of the 15th century--and the castle's cats. Go through this gate, and after passing through, turn immediately to the right.

The entrance hall, revamped a few years ago, has the gift shop, too. Toilets down below--prosaic, but helpful, info. If the handicapped elevator is working, it's here, too. The stairs head up to the goldsmith, musical instruments and ceramics collections. The Arch of the Ironworkers--one of the real arches from Milan's medieval walls--is the marker between our banal everyday world and the sublime of the "Ancient Art" museum.

Heaven starts with a few lovely ancient Roman bits and pieces (that man is blithely walking on an ancient Roman-Milanese mosaic!), and races too quickly through Milan's Longobard phase (why didn't I take any photos this time?...if I find one in my stock, I'll insert it, later) and...

...its Byzantine's the sculpted head reputedly portraying Theodora, Justinian's Empress. It's a good shot, too, of the exhibit layout by the famous architectural studio BBPR for the most part still lovely and effective, today (except for the set-up for Michelangelo's Rondanini Pietà, a child of its times, setting the work apart as the fruit of a genius, precluding instructive comparisons with almost contemporary sculpture in French Milan that still breathes a Gothic air; the Pietà's display is slated for change).

A couple of rooms dedicated to medieval sculpture from Romanesque to the late medieval periods delights with sculptures, such as this 12th century dragon, and...

...the imposing equestrian tomb monument for that ol' rascal Bernabò Visconti, originally intended for under the crossing in his palace grounds church, San Giovanni in Conca (official web page available only in Italian), in today's Piazza Missori area (in that period, the government of Milan was shared between Bernabò and his brother, who lived in the other half of town), and the more Renaissance-inspired monument on columns for his wife Beatrice Regina of Verona's ruling La Scala family (we've mentioned her in previous messages)...the sarcophagus you see on the right, intended for the crypt of the same church, directly aligned with her husband's monument. The ceiling is lovely, but dates to the 16th century, the first decades of the (very long) Spanish occupation.

The ceiling in the next space, the Ascension of Christ, dates, instead, to the 15th century, and seems to indicate the space where the castle's first chapel was.

This couple of rooms also offers the fascinating possibility to see the mid 14th century sculptures by Giovanni di Balduccio once on Milan's medieval gates (only two of which survive, today),...

...the fragments and the giant print showing the façade of Santa Maria di Brera, mentioned in my post about the Pinacoteca di Brera, and...

...the spectacle of an almost complete Gothic tomb (the effigy--or reclining portrait sculpture--is missing). Just think, Italian Catholic churches were filled with these medieval beauties until that party-pooper St. Charles Borromeo appeared on the scene in the mid-16th century...he was important in the Catholic Reformation, and had as many taken down as he could manage because he thought them distracting. O.K., they were. They focused attention on the wealth and importance of the defunct, but they also were testimonies to hope.

A small room divides two larger ones, and too often is overlooked. The 14th century sculpture of Christ on the Cross (there are others upstairs) is relatively rare due to the delicate nature of the wooden material. If you look closely, Christ looks like he's taken to shaving his head...but the sculpture probably had a real hair wig.

The next room has some of the most fun things in the whole museum. As well as gorgeous, of course. Here, the two upper friezes of the Porta Romana gate of the medieval walls celebrating St. Ambrose's throwing the Arians (one of the kinds of Christianity popular until what we know as Catholicism began to win about four to five centuries after Christ's death) out of Milan...just like the Milanese had tossed out...

...Frederick Redbeard Hohenstaufen the Holy Roman Emperor also depicted on the town's gates seated elegantly crossing his legs...over a devil..., and...

...on Porta Tusa (pronounced "TOO-zah," Gate of the Girl) a woman cutting the hair off of her pubis--as prostitutes did--presumably a reference to his wife. "You're a devil, and your wife's a..." If you're going to insult someone, you'd might as well go whole hog.

The next room has tapestries (ho-hum...sorry!) and this gigantic embroidered and appliqued banner designed by Meda (who also drew up the plans for Milan's Darsena, or in-city harbor) with Milan's patron saint, Ambrose; it was carried by lots of men (darn heavy) in processions.

Be sure to peek through the windows at the "bridge," a series of rooms and a covered portico reportedly designed by Bramante for Ludovico il Moro to get a bit of fresh air while in the castle.

The next room will knock your socks off...or it should. It was Ludovico il Moro's throne room, and was decorated with a bower, landscapes and architectural ruins by Leonardo da Vinci (though it's not clear if it had been finished, completely, before the French tossed the Sforza out). The room is being restored.

The next room's frescoed ceiling is gorgeous, too: the Sforza ducal crests.

In this room, we first begin to enter the Florentine-inspired Renaissance in the Milanese dukedom. Here's a putto from Castiglione Olona, about an hour and a half car...on the freeway. The Gothic-inspired tradition will continue alongside the Florentine-inspired Renaissance, and the two will share characteristics in Milan, examples can be found in this room. Go, and see for yourself!

The next room also has a lovely frescoed ceiling (red with a golden flying dove pattern in imitation of a tent) and more precious Milanese Renaissance era sculpture.

From it, you can step into my favorite room in the museum...even if they have ruined it... installing a stand for an admittedly lovely painting of the period. The room was the new (late 15th century) chapel of the princely palace. The frescoes are a wonderful example of this blending of courtly Gothic and Florentine- and Padua-inspired Renaissance. The former are represented by the heavy use of gold gilding,...

...while the latter are easy to see in the classicizing motifs of the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.

Interested in fashion? Look again at the preceding photo with the standing sculpture of a turns out to be the late 15th century adoring Madonna del coazzione, or "Madonna with the long special pony-tail." The "coazzione" was a very very long (often bound) pony-tail stretching down to the woman's calves.

Even the rich brocade of her gown is rendered.

The subsequent long gallery offers lots of fun for the guys...and gals: arms and armor of the centuries past, as well as Renaissance portals and reliefs coming from buildings in town.

Next comes the room with the enigma of the BBPR display of...

...Michelangelo's Pietà purchased in the 1950s, and put behind a gigantic wooden room divider,...

...separating it from this almost contemporary, yet thoroughly old-fashioned, effigy of the French king's nephew, a brave commander who fell in battle at a young age.

Exiting you pass a precious source of water (especially during a siege!) in the shape of the decoration on a warrior's helmet, or maybe a chess piece...or both!

Exiting, turn left twice, and go up the (long and shallow for horses in the absence of elevators!) steps to see the decorative arts and eventually the painting collections, for which one example each is going to have to suffice.

This sleeping putto is from 17th century Germany. It tops a coffer, or little precious box.

O.K., I said one, but I couldn't resist. Here's a 16th and 17th century automaton that probably scared the heck out of its observers. Nevertheless, each time I see it, the creature's well-modelled and beautiful bust, shoulders and arms remind me of the representations by Sodoma and by Bramante (the latter at the Pinacoteca di Brera) of Christ being whipped at the column.

This detail of d'Oggiono's wedding feast at Cana will show you how artists were LOOKING at their surroundings. The sleeve is bicolor because the fabric is cangeante, changeable in color (a factor depending on the way two colors of threads are woven together).

Leaving by the eastern gate reminds me to point out two things to you: (1) look at the newer, fresher appearance of the brick in the crenellated area...those have been restored, and (2) (paid) guided tours of them are available...probably only in Italian, but check here, and call, just in case.

I do so hate to leave you after having so much fun together, so as my good-bye present here's an extra snap that takes in one of the ruins of the larger complex defensive structures and walls that ranged around the castle and the castle, itself. I hope you've had fun, too, and been stimulated to visit the Sforza Castle and its collections for yourself.

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