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

Pietra e Preghiera

A recurring feature of my posts, seems to be Milan’s Duomo. The Cathedral is very much the centre of the city and is used as a frequent backdrop for concerts and events. You may have read my post Music by Moonlight about the opening night of Expo here in Milan and the wonderful concert featuring Andrea Boccelli and pianist Lang Lang.  Or perhaps the post A Roof with a Viewshowing some of the stunning views offered from the terraces of the Duomo.

Last week, once again it took to centre stage, this time for Pietra e Preghiera an evening of video-mapping on the façade of the Duomo. Using modern technology they projected lights and both still and moving images onto the building, accompanied by the beautiful music of Giuseppe Verdi.

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It really was quite a magical and mesmerizing evening! Sometimes we stop noticing the things around us and we take for granted historic and amazing buildings.  The Duomo is truly a fantastic piece of architecture and events like this make you stop and appreciate it once again!

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Have a great weekend!

Anna

p.s. Check out my Instagram for a video of the night!

Lake Como

Being a country girl at heart, I find that from time to time I long to escape the hustle and bustle of the city! To inhale long deep breaths of fresh, clean air. I dream of an English meadow, filled with wild flowers, or a quiet beach in the Essex countryside with my dog, an overgrown wood and spotting a sly fox on the path ahead, before it scurries away into the undergrowth. When I can’t make it home to England, luckily enough the Lakes are only a hop, skip and a jump from Milan!

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I think my favourite of the Italian lakes is Garda, as I have such lovely memories of my first visit there, but Como and Maggiore are both absolutely charming! In the last few weeks I have been to Como (on Lake Como) a couple of times and whilst I used to find it a little too busy and not particularly relaxing, it has grown on me!

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The first trip was with my two friends who were visiting from England. We decided that rather than take a boat trip on the lake, we would instead go on the Funicular Railway to see the spectacular views from the top of the mountains! The Funicular was opened on the 11th November 1894 and the slope is apparently 46%. It certainly feels very steep when you are going up and I wouldn’t suggest standing by the windows if you get a little vertigo!

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The views from the top though are amazing and just a short walk from the station is a wonderful spot to take panoramas of the lake. Conveniently there is also a charming little bar where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of Prosecco and take in the views!

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Cheeky little Guinness and Prosecco’s whilst enjoying the view!

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Spotted this little guy relaxing in the sun!

If you are feeling energetic, further up the mountain is a lighthouse which you can walk to, I did so in October when a friend came to stay with me. The views are outstanding, but from my personal experience I would advise you to make sure you walk back down to the Funicular before sunset! The terrain in certain parts is a little steep and lose off foot, so in the dark can be quite dangerous – however you get some spectacular photo opportunities watching the sunset from the lighthouse!

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My friend on the last stretch to the lighthouse

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Watching the sunset from the lighthouse was absolutely stunning!

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Only halfway back down and it was pitch black on the paths! A little spooky!

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‘Love boats’ – look like Noddy’s car to me!!

The second time I visited recently with my two friends from Milan, we were feeling like a little adventure and exercise, so we rented a ‘Love Boat’ which is really just a fancy name for a pedalo and went out on the lake! Despite my friends doubting whether I was the best person to drive the boat, they did let me and if I do say so myself I did a really good job – we didn’t capsize or crash! It was hard work though cycling for an hour under the boiling sun – so a refreshing cocktail was greatly appreciated before heading back to Milan, tired but happy!

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Look at those driving skills! Haha! Photo credit: Bri and Grace

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Photo Credit: Grace

Have you ever been to any of the Italian lakes? Let me know where, and what you enjoyed most! I need new inspiration for the next trip as I am dreaming of a weekend at the lakes soon…..

Anna

Piano City 2015

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you will know that a couple of weeks ago on another sunny Sunday afternoon, I went to the last day of Piano City Milano. This is a a three day event held every year with all types of piano concerts spread across the city! There are concerts held in parks, trams, houses, gardens, Piazza’s and museums to name just a few locations!  There is something for everyone with everything from classical, jazz and pop music to baroque and electronic! Not only is the music fantastic and all concerts are free, it is a great way to explore the city and discover new places!

For example last year, my friend and I went to a concert in the beautiful gardens of Villa Reale, which is the heart of the event and known as Piano Giardino (Piano Garden).  So naturally this year, I took my friends who were visiting there, to listen to some light Jazz and take a well needed break from all the walking we had been doing that weekend!

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The beautiful Villa Reale

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We listened to pianist Alberto Tafuri play homage to Neapolitan musician Pino Daniele.  A large crowd had gathered (luckily we found space on the grass to sit!) and we spent an idyllic hour listening to him play some beautiful pieces! You can hear a short clip of one on my Instagram page.

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There were lots of piano’s to have a little play on – all painted and decorated in funky ways!

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I especially loved this one!

 

Hope you are all having a great weekend!

Anna

A Roof with a View!

Hello everyone! I haven’t given up on my little blog…despite not having written anything for a while! I have just been super busy and so musings took a back seat – but I am back!

Last weekend I had some of my dear friends from home come and visit me and so of course I showed them all around the city and we took a little trip to Lake Como (more on this in another post)!  The best thing about having people come and stay is that I get to be a tourist and fall in love with Milan all over again!  I am a little obsessed with taking pictures at the moment and I honestly think I took more than my friends, despite having seen everything before – but that just means that now I can share them with you!

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So, one of my absolute favourite things to do in Milan, is to visit the terraces of the Duomo! Milan’s cathedral, the symbol of the city, lies in Piazza Duomo and is a pivotal and central point of interest for anyone visiting.  The Cathedral, commissioned in 1386, is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and took almost 500 years to complete! It features more than 3,500 statues and is a labyrinth of flying buttresses, pinnacles, 96 gargoyles and 135 spires.

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Since 1837 Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo has been responsible for the preservation and restoration of the Cathedral and thanks to its’ founder, Gian Galeazzo Visconti,  the Cathedral even has its own quarry! All the marble used for building and restoration comes from The Candoglia Quarries and has done since 1387 when they were given quarrying and transport rights. Originally the marble was transported by the Naviglio Grande but the boatmen were exempt from paying the tolls, as they used a secret password ‘AUF’ – ‘Ad usum fabricae’, ‘for the use of the Fabbrica’.

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La Madonnina – stood on the central spire of the Duomo and keeping watch over the city since 1774, the copper gilded “Little Madonna”

Inside the Cathedral there are some stunning stain-glass windows, but for me the best thing are the terraces!  You can either take a lift or walk up to the top, but me being slightly lazy and not a fan of spiral church staircases (I get too dizzy!) I took the lift, (it does cost slightly more)! Once at the top you are free to walk around as you please, although I will say that since Expo has started there seems to be a lot more people up there than ever before!

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A contemporary art exhibition: Tony Cragg, dialogue with the Duomo – running as part of EXPO

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I have always been extremely lucky with the weather when I have been up to the terraces and on a very clear day you can see the Alps and Apennines! It is always nice to see things differently and being up high looking out over the city gives you a new perspective! You can see all the streets running off from Piazza Duomo and every time I visit, I always notice something different, either about the city or the Cathedral itself – usually a new gargoyle or statue!

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Having fun in the sun on a roof with a view!

If you haven’t visited yet go now (or put it on your list if you ever visit Milan)…and if you have, what did you think?! I would love to hear!

Anna

 

Turn up the Music!

Last week I spent a whole day being irrationally annoyed and for the most ridiculous of reasons.  I would say I am a very optimistic happy person, but I have learnt that I can be irritated by the most obscure things! Last week it was because my headphones broke!  Yes….that’s all!  It is not the first time the same thing has caused me so much annoyance…last year on my overnight flight from New Orleans to London another pair broke and I had to spend the entire flight using the awful ones they give you for free – you know the crackly ones which never stay in your ears and are just so uncomfortable!

I do realise how silly it is to get so angst up about such a minuscule ‘problem’ but it made me think, why is it this annoys me so much?  Like when I forget my iPod, or can’t find anything good to listen to on the radio?  Don’t get me wrong, I also love talking to my friends (or strangers on the metro for that matter) and sometimes I just love sitting quietly, listening to the world around me or eves dropping on other people’s conversations! (Hehe!) But for the majority of the time whilst I travel around the city for work or am on a train or plane or driving somewhere, or cleaning my house, or working at home, or cooking…what I most enjoy is listening to my favourite songs, or having a singing session or dancing around like a lunatic!

I wasn’t one of those typical British teenagers who grew up listening to Backstreet Boys or Take That! I started liking more ‘popular’ music when I was a bit older! But what I did love was 60’s music and basically anything my Dad played in the car! I loved The Shangri-Las, The Shirelles, Louis Armstrong, The Monkees, The Kinks! I also fell in love with classical music and jazz…basically anything you can sing along or dance to!  But I think it is thanks to my musical upbringing and influences from all my family that now I have a very wide range of musical interest!

I also had not only piano lessons, but also flute, saxophone and singing lessons! I sang in choir and chamber choir at school and played in band and the orchestra. I also took dance classes and one of my favourite parts of this, was seeing what music the teacher had chosen for our new show or exam dance! Three of my personal favourite choices were Bjork ‘It’s oh so quiet’, ‘Move on’ from Chicago and ‘Mack the Knife’ – I will take any version of this song, one of my all time favourites!

So, what I am trying to portray is how important music has always been to me and I feel has become a fundamental part of who I am!  I listen to music if I am happy, sad, angry, stressed, need to relax, can’t sleep…there is a song or a genre for however you are feeling! I truly believe this! Therefore this must be why I get so annoyed when I can’t use my headphones – it has the opposite effect on me…perhaps I should start carrying spares…or invest in better quality ones!?

One final thought…pianist Vincent Corver commented last week on a video I put on my Instagram page of Andrea Bocelli saying that ‘Music is an art that connects us universally’ and I could not agree more.  It is one of the most powerful tools we have in life and one which can break boundaries and connect us all together in one moment!

Would you agree? How important is music in your life?

I leave you to reflect with Louis…

Anna

After the riots…

After the wonderful concert on Thursday evening in Piazza Duomo and a spectacular opening ceremony for Expo on Friday morning, Milan was filled with hope and happiness! There was definitely a sense of triumph and pride that finally Expo was here and a fun party atmosphere!  However this was to be short lived, as Friday afternoon protesters took to the streets of Milan and whilst some were there as peaceful  protesters, others were there to riot and quickly it turned into guerilla warfare.

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The left-wing protesters, who came not only from Italy but other European countries too, included anti-globalization and environmentalist activists as well as students and anti-austerity campaigners. Many of whom see Expo as a symbol of corruption (there have been accusations of Mafia involvement) and waste.

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It is unfortunate they cannot spell ‘system’!

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Whilst I sympathise with some of their ideas, I cannot accept violence as a form of protest and yesterday evening the city was in a state of shock and the sense of hope had been replaced by anger and sadness.  They set fire to cars, broke bank and shop windows and defaced many buildings throughout the city. To make matters worse, when interviewed some of these so called ‘protesters’, seemed unable to string a sentence together to defend or rationalise their actions, but instead stated it had been a great experience.

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‘Against power, against the authorities’

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I saw a few cars which had been damaged during the riot, but by the afternoon most of the debris had been cleared away.

But today, as the sun shone brightly there has been an immense clean-up effort and a new sense that Milan will not be defeated and the people of Milan will take back their city!  In fact a ‘meeting’ in Piazza Cadorna (where a lot of the worst damage happened) has been arranged for Sunday afternoon with the hashtag #NessunotocchiMilano #NoonetouchesMilan. The people of Milan will gather to show support for the city and Expo and help in the cleaning up effort! The facebook group already has more than 9000 likes. There is definitely a sense of community here today and I feel proud and thankful for all the people who are working and volunteering to help revive the city!

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Anna

Music by Moonlight

Last night in Piazza Duomo under the moonlight, I was serenaded by the amazing vocals of Andrea Bocelli and the phenomenal talent of Chinese pianist Lang Lang! Well in reality, me and around 20,000 other people, along with a live TV audience….but still it was amazing!

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Milan really is beautiful at night and the Duomo looked stunning!

It was the opening night of Expo2015 Milan, a six month World Exposition which starts today and runs until the 31st of October. The theme of which is ‘Nutrire il Pianeta, Energia per la Vita’ – ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’.  The idea is to bring together countries, ideas, people and cultures from all over the world, to talk about sustainability and providing food resources for everyone world wide, working towards an end in famine and poverty.

There has been speculation as to whether a large scale exposition, where millions has been spent in preparation, not only building an enormous exhibition space, but also on improving the city, is the best way to tackle these issues, but if it raises awareness then surely that is helping?  Still, many people are against the Expo and there have been many protests and I’m sure they will continue throughout the next six months.  And of course, this being Italy there has been talk of corruption and all sorts of questions arising, including would they finish preparation in time? But, we will have to wait and see before anyone can decide if Expo will be a success!

I am personally quite excited about it all, there are 148 countries taking part, many who have had their own pavilions built in order to showcase the best their country has to offer.  The UK’s pavilion for example, features bees (and I love honey!) to show how Britain is a ‘hive’ for business, creativity and science! Also lets not forget as an exposition focused on food, all the countries participating will be offering up some of the best of their cuisine and I for one am excited to try some new food and take a culinary trip around the world!  Plus there are hundreds of other events taking place in Milan’s museums and all over the city under the guise of Expo, even though many take place every year, such as one of my favourites Piano City.

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But back to last night and Andrea Bocelli serenading me…oops sorry ‘millions of people’ in Piazza Duomo! He was joined by not only Lang Lang, but also sopranos Diana Damrau and Maria Luigia Borsi, tenor Francesco Meli (wow what a voice!) and baritone Simone Piazzola. They were accompanied by the Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala and the Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala Academy and played homage to Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini and Gioacchino Rossini, amongst others. It really was a magical evening and the musical talent of these people is simply outstanding! Andrea Bocelli’s voice is surreal and for me it was a dream to hear him sing live, as I have always admired him!  Plus I had serious piano envy as Lang Lang played the most beautiful Steinway & Sons Grand Piano!  Maybe one day I will get to play one…..

I have put two short videos on my Instagram page of Andrea and Lang Lang, which you can access from the side bar!

Are you planning on visiting Milan for the Expo?  What is your opinion about it all? I would love to hear from you!

Anna

The Seven Heavenly Palaces

A little while ago when I went to see the ‘bau bau‘ exhibition at Milan’s Hangar Bicocca, I also visited (once again) my favourite permanent exhibition there, I Sette Palazzi Celesti.  The Seven Heavenly Palaces by Anselm Kiefer was a site specific installation created for the opening of the Hangar in 2004. The name of the installation comes from the ancient Hebrew treatise Sefer Hechaloth – the Book of Palaces/Sancturies.

Kiefer is one of the best known contemporary artists and his work pays reference to ‘German philosophy, Romantic symbolism, Germanic mythology, Judaic-Christian religiousness, alchemy as the ability to transform the world and the metaphor of art and its role in interpreting reality’.

The Seven Heavenly Palaces, made using reinforced concrete, each weighing 90 tonnes and varying between 14 and 18 metres in height are supposed to interpret the ancient religion of Judaism, while representing the ruins of the West following the Second World War and movement into the future, while asking us to consider the ‘ruins of our present’.

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Each tower is themed and named individually:

1.) Sefiroth  – representing the ten instruments of God in Hebrew mysticism of Kabbalah

2.) Melancholia – featuring glass and strips of paper at its base, which signify “falling stars”

3.) Ararat – this tower takes its name from the mountain where according to the Bible Noah’s Ark ran aground. It symbolises peace and salvation.

4.) Magnetic Field Lines – features a film of lead running down the tower – a material which repels light and therefore stops any image being created. In the exhibition guide it suggests this represents Kiefer’s own idea that each new piece of work cancels out the previous one.

5 & 6.)  JH&WH – these letters join together in Hebrew phonetics to form the word Yahweh meaning God, but which Jews consider too holy to verbalize.

7.) Tower of the Falling Pictures – the name of this tower is quite literal, it features picture-less picture frames, some shattered on the ground.

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Sefiroth Tower

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Sefiroth Tower

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Glass and Paper strips with numbers on which correspond to the classification of heavenly bodies used by NASA – at the foot of the Melancholia Tower

The reason I find this installation so fascinating, is the sheer size of it! When you stand in the Hangar amongst these giant, overwhelming towers, you feel very insignificant and small. It does as the artist intended, make you think about the ruins of the Second World War, but also stays relevant to our ‘ruins of the present’ as it could easily be the remains of a modern building in any of the war torn countries in our world. It certainly makes you reflect upon what you are seeing, and as the space is so immense, the sound in the Hangar as you walk around is quite eerie. Whilst there is no music, you can hear your footsteps and the whispers of other visitors reach you around the corners of the towers, but the way they are positioned, often restricts your view of the speakers.  Whilst you wouldn’t immediately think that reinforced concrete would be the most aesthetically pleasing material, there really is beauty in the towers and they way they are lit and what they are supposed to represent.  Definitely worth a visit!

Have you visited the exhibition or another by Kiefer? What did you think?

Anna

(All pictures are my own except for 1 and 6, for which I must thank my friend Anna! :))

Mooching around the Market!

One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Milan, is Navigli in the South of the city. Milan used to rely heavily on its network of canals and its harbour La Darsena for supplying water and materials to the city as well as for transportation. Over time as roads and railways were further developed, usage of the canals diminished as traffic travelled too slowly and their condition deteriorated. Gradually parts of the canals were filled in and the harbour become less important for the city. Today three of the canals remain, Naviglio della Martesana in the North-East and the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese in the South-West.  The Grande and Pavese join together with the Darsena in the middle, which when I arrived in Milan was quite a run down, desolate sight. However, shortly it will reopen following a major redevelopment project as part of EXPO Milano. The new Darsena will feature a covered market place, walkways and a waterfront for tourist boats!

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The Naviglio Grande

I used to live really close to the Navigli and would pass by almost every day! It is one of the coolest and busiest areas in Milan and has some great restaurants and bars, as well as lots of vintage shops. There is also a great antique market held on the banks of the canal every last Sunday of the month (this month brought forward, due to Design Week). So I thought what better excuse to head over to the Navigli than to have a mooch around at all the market stalls?! Plus it was another beautiful sunny Sunday!

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If I had a garden I would put this little dog out there – maybe even his penguin friends!

There is literally everything and anything you can think of available to buy – (if you have deep pockets!) I for one could have decorated a whole apartment with all the antique furniture and fittings! They were stalls selling vintage clothes, jewellery, shoes and bags, people selling fabrics and fur coats. Retro children’s toys, antique musical instruments, old advertising prints, jewellery, books and pottery as well as people selling artwork.

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This was one of my favourite finds, there was a button in every colour you can imagine! You could jazz up some old clothes with these!

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For anyone who enjoys antiques or vintage things, make sure you put this on your list if you find yourself in Milan! In my opinion there is something for everyone! Plus it is another chance for a spot of people watching…Navigli is full of cool street style and well dressed Italians…and a lot of cute dogs too!

Have you been to any great antique markets?  Discovered any interesting finds or bargains?

Anna