Musings on things to come…

Good morning to you all from (finally) a rather wintry, bitter cold Milan! Still no snow though! I am excited to get writing again this weekend and over the coming weeks and building my blog, which I think needs and deserves a little more of my time this year. Less procrastination and more productivity is definitely the key! We are all victims of this from time to time and I often more than others it would seem! But alas, I am full of ideas and determination, so lots of writing to do!

Including in the next couple of weeks a further post on my last trip to Venice, a book review and a focus on posts all about Milan, places to go, what to see, what to do!

For now, I leave you with a photo of the Bridge of Sighs – Ponte dei Sospiri – in Venice and will be back soon!

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Anna

Things I Love Sundays

With just under a week until Christmas, there is a lot of festive cheer in the air and I landed back in England yesterday afternoon to spend the next two weeks here in Essex with my family.  This time of year is perfect for giving thanks and being grateful for all we have, so the perfect opportunity to get back into writing my Things I Love feature.

So here is what has been making me smile recently…

 -New starts, new friends and my new apartment – Christmas lights all over Milan – Singing with my gospel choir – Laughing with friends – My dog waiting for me at the airport – ‘Driving home for Christmas’ listening to Chris Rea with my Dad – Home-made mince pies – Blazing fires and being warm and cosy – Dinner with friends – Catch-ups – The prospect of quality family and friend time – Cinema trip with my Mum to see The Lady in the Van, which I highly recommend, Dame Maggie Smith is such an incredible actress – Seeing stars in the sky (something I miss in Milan!) –

I would also like to say Happy 1st Wedding anniversary to my dear friends Kate and Chris!

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Spontini Christmas Tram in Milan! Why can’t all trams look like this!? It would be amazing!

Have a lovely Christmas week everyone!

Anna

Christmas Spirit and New Beginnings!

Oh dear! I have not done well at blogging recently…with almost a month between my two recent posts! But I am feeling really positive and excited for the future at the moment, what with all the Christmas spirit in the air and so many new opportunities and beginnings springing up, not only for me but my friends too!

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Here I am in Piazza Duomo, Christmas 2013! Photo credit: Anna S

I am sitting writing this in my new apartment! I moved last weekend and it is finally starting to feel homely as the boxes and suitcases slowly disappear (and I get an internet connection again!)  I consider myself a quite positive and chilled person, but I definitely found this move (my third in Milan) rather more stressful than I had imagined. Not the actual move (for which I am extremely thankful to my friend for all her help!) but for all the other admin and organisational stuff! However, It is the first time I have taken an unfurnished flat and I am so excited to inject my style and personality – it is a complete blank canvas! I have longed for the opportunity to do this for a long time and finally I get to and I couldn’t be happier! My bank balance definitely could though!

This move has given me a renewed sense of admiration for my Dad and all those weekends he spent putting together beds and tables and cabinets and garden furniture! You know…when you hear those dreaded words…’Anna can you come and hold something for me for five minutes? I need your help.’ Oh how I would moan and try to excuse myself only to met by those words every child hates to hear..’It is good for you’.  To which you think how can helping fix the bannister, or mend the broken chair possibly be good for me?  Just like when children think…’Why do I need to learn another language, everyone speaks English.’ or ‘Sir, why do we have to learn maths equations…I am never going to need it.’  The truth is, it really was good for me! It taught me to be precise and read the instructions…to make sure I have everything I need before I start and that if you get stuck walk away, take a break and come back to the task again…because nine times out of ten, it will seem a lot easier and you won’t end up throwing things across the room in anger!

This year Milan is looking rather beautiful and festive, with some absolutely stunning Christmas lights, pictures of which will follow in another post. Every area and main street has its own theme and design and is definitely getting me in the holiday mood! This weekend is Sant’Ambrogio, a holiday which takes place every year on the 7th of December in honour of Milans Patron Saint, followed by The Immaculate Conception on the 8th, meaning a four day weekend! Since living in Milan I have always seen this weekend as the real beginning of the count down to Christmas. On the same day the ‘Oh Bej! Oh Bej!’ Market starts, which is a lively and fun Christmas market, with stalls running from the piazza Duomo all the way down Via Dante to the streets surrounding the castle!  I remember the first year I lived in Milan, a friend and I were exploring the stalls near the castle when it started to snow and in our child-like excitement at the prospect, we ran all the way to the Cathedral as we wanted to see it with the snow falling gently around it.  Later that day the snow came heavy and we made snow angels on the terrace of my first apartment here!

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Duomo in the beginnings of a very snowy weekend, Christmas 2012

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Snow angels!

I have lots of posts planned for the upcoming months and hope to get back  to posting regularly.  I hope you are all enjoying the beginning of the festive season and keeping warm and cosy! If you aren’t, stick on some Christmas songs, heat up some mulled wine and have a mince pie or a slice of cake!

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The magnificent Swarovski Christmas tree last year in Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, Milan

What do you have planned for the season? Are you visiting any Christmas markets or going away anywhere? Travelling home to be with your family or jetting of to a warmer climate?  I would love to hear!

Buon Sant’Ambrogio a tutti!

Anna

Back in Milan – Things I Love Sundays!

Ciao da Milano!

I am back in Italy after the summer and back at work.  So things have been a bit busy this week, what with my birthday, packing, flying, unpacking, work…which has meant I haven’t done much writing!  However, I plan to get myself more organised this week and get back on track!

So I will make it short and sweet! It is nice to be back and getting into a routine again, but I am already missing all my family and friends. However, as I am writing from a cold and rainy Milan today, I could be tricked into thinking it is England!

This week I have been loving…

Amazing chocolate birthday cake my Mum made me! Delicious! My suitcase weighing exactly 20kg at the airport (Phew! – No excess baggage costs! I am still to learn the art of packing light!) Starting My Best Friend by Elena Ferrante for my Read Around the World feature…I am already hooked!  Speaking and hearing Italian again Catching-up with my friends Dinner and drinks for my birthday Sunday brunch with my friend Grace Wandering around Milan Making plans and predictions for the year ahead!

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Eggs benedict at brunch today – with Green peach and mango tea! We went to Living by the Arco della Pace – one of my favourite places for brunch and they also do a great aperitivo and delicious cocktails!

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead!

Now Milan…where is the sunshine I have been dreaming of whilst I was away…..

Anna

 

Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life: Expo 2015 Milan

Milan is currently playing host to Expo 2015, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life‘. The very first Universal Exhibition took place in 1851 in London at the forefront of industrial growth and was titled  ‘The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations‘ or ‘The Great Exhibition‘ – less of a tongue twister!  This famous World Fair brings together countries and nations from all over the world, to showcase and discuss Culture and Industry.  The development of the World Fair can be divided into three principle eras, starting with the era of Industrialisation, moving on to the the era of  Cultural Exchange and now the era of Nation Branding.

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The Great Exhibition 1851, Crystal Palace, London

The 1851 exhibition which took place in Victorian London was at the heart of Industrialisation and the fairs during this era, focused heavily on showcasing new and exciting developments in Science and Technology from around the world.  The era of Cultural Exchange no longer focused on technology, but instead was based on cultural themes and upon exchanges of innovative ideas to help us move towards a better future for our society. The era of Nation Branding provided countries with a platform to improve their national image, by creating impressive pavilions.

Milan Expo 2015, is a combination of each of these eras. With over 140 countries taking part, they are able to each show the best their country has to offer in terms of new technologies, whilst also trying to provide answers to the question of how can we ensure that everyone the world over, has access to healthy, safe and sufficient food, while respecting the planet itself.  Not an easy question, but one which is so very important, as even today there are still people suffering the world over from famine and poverty.

With thousands of events organised over the six months of the Exhibition, they hope to create the opportunity to exchange ideas and solutions for a more sustainable planet. Some people have questioned whether an event sponsored by corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s can really be taken seriously when discussing sustainability and healthy living and there has been a lot of people against Expo for various reasons, including corruption (this is Italy after all).  There were even riots after the opening night of the fair, which I wrote about here.

However, surely the important thing is that we are made to consider and discuss these issues and that events like this create funds and awareness for the problems they are hoping to solve? Yes, maybe the money spent on building the pavilions and all the events organised could have gone directly towards aid and helping people who are suffering, but then it can be argued that each  Expo leaves a lasting legacy, not only for the country it is held in, but for the issue it addresses. ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life‘ – will hopefully make us think about our relationship with the planet, the land and the food it provides us with. Essentially, if we don’t take care of our planet, we won’t have food or energy for the future and the Planet and its inhabitants will suffer.

When I started writing this post, I didn’t really intend for it to have such a serious tone to it, but I think it is an important theme and I had read quite a lot about this years Expo as well as its history. I think it is a great event and has amazing potential to influence many people.  You can see that by the number of people who have visited already!

Unfortunately, I have only been once so far and that was on an evening ticket, which is so convenient and only 5 Euro. However I plan to visit in September and October a few more times and hopefully for a full day too!

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If you are visiting prepare to walk, queue for individual pavilions and be utterly exhausted by the end of it! My friend and I had completely underestimated the sheer size of the place and for me this was one of the most exciting and impressive aspects. There is a main ‘walkway’ running through the middle with pavilions either side for each country. They vary greatly in size, some quite simple and understated, others elaborate and distinctive. There are, of course, as the theme is centred around food, endless opportunities to  try all sorts of cuisine from all around the world. There are musical acts, fabulous costumes and I found the smells, sights and sounds so enticing!

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The pavilion for Germany

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The Chinese pavilion – which I haven’t yet been in, but admired from the outside!

We visited relatively few of the pavilions, which is why I must go back again, but we did make it to Korea, England, Germany, Qatar, Morocco and America.  Each pavilion features information about things such as their farming methods, food production, culinary traditions and sustainability and technology within their country. Some provide lots of really interesting information, such as Qatar and Morocco, while others seemed a little vague, for example (and I feel bad saying this) England. The concept of England’s pavilion was lovely, you enter through a zig-zag meadow and see an amazing structure built to represent a bee hive, but there wasn’t much information and what information there was, wasn’t represented in the most interesting way.

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England’s pavilion

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Looking up at the dome of the English pavilion

We had some great food, sushi from the Korean pavilion and vegetable curry from Morocco, plus there was free water throughout the site (both still and sparkling) which was a great bonus.

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Mock spice market stall outside the Qatar pavilion

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Table of traditional food inside the Qatar pavilion

By far, however, my absolute favourite thing, was the Tree of Life! If you go, you must stay to see the light show in the evening, as it was stunning! I stood mesmerized watching the tree light up perfectly in time to the soundtrack, water sprouting up peacefully…it was as if the tree and the water were dancing to the music! It really was quite magical, I was completely fascinated by it – I will be making sure I see the show again next time I go!

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Have you been to visit? What did you think/enjoy/dislike? What is your opinion about the event? I would love to know what you have to say…or if you have some advice for what to see next time!

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Outside the Moroccan pavilion

Anna

 

Armani Silos: Sophisticated and Sleek

As I mentioned in my recent post on the wonderful Prada Foundation in Milan, the same weekend I also visited the Armani Silos. The building was originally used for food storage, hence the name ‘Silos’ and Giorgio Armani decided to maintain the name, as he explained that for him, fashion is as essential to life as food! The large space  of 4500 square metres is spread out over four floors and the collection exhibits clothes from the 1980’s to today, as well as a digital archive on the top floor.

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The clothes are organised in themes and you start with the Stars and Day-wear section on the first floor, moving upwards to Exoticism, Colour-Schemes and finish with Light and the Digital Archives on the fourth floor.  What I really liked about this layout was that it meant you could see how Armani has been influenced by certain things again and again throughout his career.  They had grouped together pieces, for example from the 80’s and 2000’s which featured similar exotic fabrics and colours,  insects and intricate beading. It was interesting to see how fabrics, cuts and styles have come back into fashion or been updated years later.

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Armani is such an iconic brand and for me is the epitome of style! His designs are so perfectly cut and flattering to the body, minimalist and understated but so chic and elaborate at the same time.  The Stars section of the exhibition featured a video showing the numerous famous faces who have worn Armani throughout its’ history, from Diane Keaton accepting her Oscar for Annie Hall, to Sophia Loren, Richard Gere and Lady Gaga.

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I have a somewhat special love for Armani, as whilst on my Erasmus year in Italy, I completed a six month internship at the company’s production offices in Modena. I was so excited when I was accepted and offered the opportunity, as I absolutely love fashion and it was an experience I will never forget. I learnt a lot and met some amazing people! (Sadly not the man himself!) The main design offices for Armani are of course in Milan and the city is definitely his city! Not only is there the Armani department store, featuring all their lines, as well as a florists, but next door is the Armani hotel! Armani Caffe is a great place too for a light lunch or coffee and cake – they once had an amazing melting chocolate pudding! It was divine! And I have always found the staff in both the Caffe and Department store very friendly and helpful, so don’t be put off by the slightly intimidating style of the place!

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Love this dress! The colours are amazing, so vibrant and I love the delicate embroidery!

Back to the exhibition and luckily for myself and the two friends I went with, Sunday seemed to be a particularly quiet day, so after clearing airport style security, we enjoyed the space almost entirely to ourselves! There were endless members of perfectly groomed and very good looking staff on hand to help…for example when all three of us could not work out how to call the lift…it was too high tech for us! Haha! After we had spent a couple of hours exploring and appreciating all the beautiful clothes, we headed to the Navigli for a walk around the Darsena, before enjoying delicious cocktails at Ugo on Via Corsico.

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Another perfect day in the city!

Anna

A stylish afternoon: Fondazione Prada

I have always had a passion for fashion and have been reading Vogue since I was about fifteen and as you will have seen in my previous posts, I also love going to exhibitions and galleries. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that two new exhibition spaces were opening in Milan, one the Fondazione Prada and the Armani Silos.  Obviously we expect anything connected to these two iconic brands to be not only luxurious but elegant and stylish. So a couple of weekends ago, a friend and I decided we needed a weekend of culture and to finally visit both spaces.  I will talk more about Armani in another post, but first we headed to the Fondazione Prada in the South of the city.

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The Fondazione (foundation) currently doesn’t feature any fashion exhibitions, but it does have a selection of permanent and temporary exhibits. I was particularly interested in a film interview they were showing with director Roman Polanski, talking about his earliest inspirations and what shaped the future of his film making.  The film was really interesting as it gave a great insight into the process of how Polanski works and how he has incorporated ideas from films, which inspired him as a young film student, into his own movies.  Plus the cinema had the most amazing mustard yellow/greeny velour seats and were super comfy! All that was missing was the popcorn!

We then mooched around the other exhibits, including two floors of Greek and Roman art, which talked about the relationship between originality and imitation of artworks. There was also an exhibit we looked at which explored the link between everyday life and art, however it was slightly too modern for me and I struggled to understand the full meaning of it, despite my friend offering up some rather excellent on the spot interpretations for me! One piece was a burnt out car, covered in neat, uniform lines of cigarettes, which she claimed showed a link between death, smoking and driving! It kind of made sense and maybe she was correct…but there wasn’t enough information available to read so I am not sure!

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If anyone can tell me what this represents? A tar covered car with carefully placed white feathers!?

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This is the burnt out, cigarette covered car I mentioned! Any ideas?

However, my favourite thing about the whole Fondazione Prada was the architecture. It is on the site of an old distillery dating back to the 1910’s and during transformation of the site they kept some of the original buildings and added in three new spaces; an exhibition pavilion, a tower and a cinema.  Each building is so different from the last and all built using different materials and colours. It was really quite fascinating and oddly beautiful. The juxtaposition of materials and architecture styles has created a space which you want to explore and I found myself touching all the walls and taking my time to appreciate each building from the floors to the ceilings.

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I would really like to live in a gold tower!

Furthermore, there is a charming bar (with delicious panini and iced espresso!!) designed by the director Wes Anderson. It also is a slight mismatch of colours and textures and was designed in the style of a historic Milan Café with features evocative of the 1950’s and 1960’s. For me, it brought to mind a mixture between an old Parisian Café and an American diner (sorry Wes if that wasn’t your intention)!

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I really love sitting in busy Café’s and listening in on lively conversation between friends, accompanied by the clink of cutlery and glasses and the smell of fresh coffee.  There is something so intriguing about the sounds, smells and atmosphere it all creates and of course I love watching all the well dressed Italians coming to and fro for a quick espresso at the bar or a glass of prosecco!  I read that Wes Anderson said about the bar, “While I do think it would make a pretty good movie set, I think it would be an even better place to write a movie.” I can see what he means…I intend to return more than once – even if just to sit and drink a coffee and indulge in some people watching!

Anna