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

The Thrill of Learning

I fell in love with Italy the very first time I visited with my family as a teenager.  We spent an idyllic week on Lake Garda, eating Italian ice cream and pizza and going on little jaunts around the lake!   One day I was sitting outside a small church sheltering from the blazing sun, when an old Italian Signora came over to me and pulled out from the paper bag she was carrying, the largest peach I had ever seen! She insisted I took it from her and wouldn’t leave until I had taken a bite! (I will admit this sounds a little like the story of Snow White, but luckily for me I didn’t end up in a deep sleep in a glass coffin, surrounded by the seven dwarfs! Except my Dad was there…so I guess I could say Grumpy made an appearance!! Sorry Dad!) Anyway…it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted and now every year when the peaches arrive and I gorge myself on them, I always remember that old lady and my first holiday in Italy which sparked my love affair with the country, culture, food and people!

Luckily for me, during the following years as I began studying Italian and before my eventual move to live here, I was never short of fantastic films or TV series to watch, which further fuelled my love for the country. Even now when I watch any program about Italian food, art or cinema I can not help but smile and be inspired by what the country has to offer and so grateful that I get to live here. I especially love programmes where the presenters are overtly enthusiastic and passionate about the country, as I find I feel even more drawn into what they are talking about. Which is why I was really excited to be able to attend a talk from Art Historian and critic Andrew Graham-Dixon on my recent visit to Venice.

Andrew presented BBC’s ‘Italy Unpacked’ with Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli, in which they travelled through Italy exploring the art, history, food, landscape and culture of the country’s different regions.  His passion for art and Italy itself is really quite captivating and in the talk he did for us in Venice, he concentrated on the idea of ‘desgni’ or in English ‘designs’.  Most of the people attending the talk were architects and interior designers, so he wanted to express to us the sense that this one word, can have multiple meanings. For example we can design a building, or a garden, scenery for a play, clothes or a beautiful ceiling or wall, but just as equally the same piece of art can be read differently depending upon the viewer.  An example which Andrew showed us, was the Dome of Parma’s Cathedral. In 1520 Antonio da Correggio, was commissioned to paint the dome of the Cathedral and what he created is awe-inspiring. He painted the assumption of the Virgin Mary being lifted up and taken to heaven to meet her son Jesus Christ after her death. The way he painted the dome creates a whirling effect like a spiral, so that if you are to stand underneath it, you feel as if you too are being lifted up to heaven.  The Dome which took Correggio eight years to complete was very innovative for the time, when most domes were being painted very simply, for example blue with stars.  To link back to the point Andrew was making that designs can be viewed and thought of differently and have multiple meanings, he told us about the immediate reception Correggio’s Dome received. While Titian, considered to be one of the greatest painters of this time, remarked Correggio’s work was incredible and that if you were to turn the dome upside down and fill it with gold it would not be enough to pay him with, the Canon of the Cathedral itself, said the work to him resembled little more than a ‘stew of frog’s legs’!  Maybe a little harsh, but it perfectly illustrates the idea that something beautiful and meaningful to one person, can create little or no effect on someone else.

The thing I found most interesting about the talk, was learning about the Franciscan movement and how during the time of Francis of Assisi and the order of the Franciscan Monks, the representation of Christ through art changed quite dramatically.  The movement saw a change in the representation of Christ on the cross change from an untroubled Christ to a bleeding Christ. The idea was that the art needed to speak to the people and be more realistic as opposed to idealistic, the result being that it would make the stories from the bible seem more relevant to the viewers of the time. It was all about taking art to the poor and making them believe the stories of the bible and feel connected to them in a way previous art had not. This is also relevant now, as the current Pope decided to be known as Pope Francis, in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi. He chose this name as he is especially concerned about the poor, just as Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan movement was.

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Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi

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These are just a few of the ideas Andrew discussed and are, in particular, the ones I found the most striking or interesting. I don’t know much about art as I have never studied it, but I love learning about it and will definitely be putting Parma’s Cathedral on my list of places to visit! I also highly recommend visiting Assisi, it is a beautiful place!

Unfortunately I didn’t get any good quality photos during the talk, so I have included some from my visit to Assisi in 2011.

Anna

A Sunday Stroll

Happy Sunday everyone!

Finally the weather here is warming up, the flowers are out, the sun is shinning and you can’t help but have a smile on your face! Spring always makes me feel happy (especially as it means Summer is on the way!) and what better way to enjoy a Spring Sunday than with a stroll in the park!?

I met my friend this afternoon to do just that in Milan’s Parco Sempione, which covers (as I learnt today) 40 hectares from Castello Sforzesco to the Arco della Pace. Apparently it was designed in the style of traditional romantic English parks – which really surprised us – and features watercourses, paths and small rises! I personally love the park as it offers up some excellent people watching opportunities, which is one of my favourite things to do on a lazy weekend!  Milan is abundant with interesting characters to spy on, especially when the sun comes out! Hehe!

After a leisurely walk around, we sat down in the sun on Corso Sempione, to enjoy a refreshing Aperol Spritz.  This is a typical Italian aperitif, particularly popular in the North of the country and is made using 2 parts Aperol (a rather bitter liqueur), 3 parts Prosecco and 1 part Soda! Delicious!

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Absolutely love this! Genius idea to bring your own hammock to the park!

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Castello Sforzesco

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Hello there! Look at this little fellow…he has got the right idea, chilling in the sun!

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Aperol Spritz

We are definitely going to try and make this a new Sunday ritual!  Have a great week everybody!

Anna

Home for Easter

I have been a bit behind with posts these last two weeks, but I have just got back from a lovely Easter weekend at home in England! Each trip home always seems to take so long to arrive and I wait with anticipation and excitement for the time to come to make my way to the airport, then when I am finally there, time absolutely flies by at a rate of knots!

This weekend was no exception, but I had a lot of fun and managed to squeeze in so much, including seeing all my family and friends, catching up on the gossip – mainly provided by my Grandma – a spot of shopping, some fresh air and walks in the Essex countryside, eating lots of yummy food (including my Mum’s roast beef! Delicious!) and of course plenty of chocolate! It was Easter after all!

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Typical English countryside…super muddy!

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An old ship wreck on the banks of the River Stour in Essex

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Easter eggs galore!

See you in the Summer England!

Anna

The Year of the Bridesmaid Part 1: A New Orleans Wedding

If one word could sum up 2014 for me, it would definitely have to be ‘weddings’!  I took a total of 12 flights across Europe and America in the name of hen parties, dress fittings and of course the weddings themselves!  I also exchanged well over a hundred emails, texts and Facebook messages, concerning dress colours and measurements, shoes, wedding hair and make-up and hen party organisation! No, I am not a wedding planner (although I think I would love this job!) but I was instead honoured to be bridesmaid at three weddings and for three of my closest and dearest friends!

The first wedding was for my friend K and her now husband B. K and I met at the Univeristy of Urbino in Italy, where we were studying on our year abroad.  Within minutes of meeting I knew I had made an amazing friend and we spent the next four months attached to one another like glue, before K came to spend a week in England with my family and then headed back to New Orleans.  Two years later in 2013 I flew to stay with K and her family and she asked me to be her bridesmaid the following year when she married B!  I remembered her talking about him when we were studying together and how their parents wanted to set them up but it had never happened, so when she got back to New Orleans and was still mentioning him, I knew this was going somewhere!

It was the first wedding I had been to outside of the UK and I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was so great to be a part of their day and experience a ‘New Orleans wedding!’ Growing up I watched countless films and TV series about America, and used to be fascinated by the trends for Sweet 16 parties, Prom, engagement parties, engagement photos, bridal showers, bridal luncheons and rehearsal dinners to name but a few! When I reached the last year of high school, prom was starting to become much more common in the UK and now, is more or less a given to celebrate the end of year 11, but we are still to catch on to many of the other ‘American’ traditions! So after hearing K telling me all about the many bridal showers she was thrown, by her family and friends, but being unable myself to attend any of them, I was super excited for the bridal luncheon and rehearsal dinner.

After running errands all over town, stopping off for a pedicure and having a dress fitting, we got all dressed up and headed to her Bridal Luncheon! The idea of the luncheon, is to bring together the female members of the bridal party, so the bride and grooms’ mothers and grandmothers, bridesmaids and a few close family and friends. We all met at Commander’s Palace, a New Orleans landmark in the Garden District of the city and which has been open since 1880!  The lunch took place in a small private room, with floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the tree-lined street and we feasted on some delicious creole cuisine.  Note to self: If you haven’t eaten much all day, go steady on the welcome mimosa’s before lunch…or you end up a little tipsy! The rest of the day was spend doing last minute preparation, before we drove the next morning to a beautiful house on Bourbon Street in the centre of the city, where I stayed with K and her family for the wedding weekend!

In the early evening, we got all dressed up again,this time for the rehearsal dinner which takes place immediately after the rehearsal at the church.  This was completely strange to me! In England of course we have a rehearsal, but then for the majority of brides and bridal parties, the evening is spent relaxing at their homes or in a hotel and getting an early night! Not the case on this occasion! After the rehearsal we all walked back to the house on Bourbon Street to be greeted by a large party of K and B’s close family and friends. The party is traditionally hosted by the Groom’s family who provided a wonderful spread. A further surprise to me was that there were speeches at the rehearsal dinner rather than on the day of the wedding! So we toasted the bride and groom before a group of us headed out to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar and then to Pat O’s for a few more drinks! Eventually we crawled into bed and caught up on our beauty sleep before the special day arrived!

The wedding itself took place in the early evening, which meant we had all day to be pampered and slowly prepare ourselves. K had her dress made for her, based on one she had seen and fallen in love with and she looked absolutely beautiful! Everything she had chosen was just perfect, the bridesmaid dresses, the flowers, the Church – Saint Mary’s Italian Church. The service which for K and B really meant a lot, was a very emotional affair and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the church! As soon as the service was over, we were back in the cars and making our way to the reception at Gallier Hall, escorted by the police! I thought this was pretty cool and very ‘American’ but apparently in a city where parades and heavy traffic are part of the daily life, it’s quite a normal thing to have.

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K and B both come from Italian American families and so this was reflected in the food they served for their guests! All the food was prepared by the families and they did a superb job, it was mouthwatering! There was a buffet style meal, with dishes including mini muffulettas – (a classic New Orleans sandwich with a Sicilian twist), crawfish pasta and artichoke balls. This was followed by not one, but two enormous wedding cakes! The traditional three tiered one and then a Groom’s cake, for which B had chosen a Cassata Cake with Sicilian Cannoli on the top! But probably one of my favourite things about the wedding, was that in the traditional cake, they had placed cake pulls for the bridesmaids and K’s cousins. We all stood around the cake and chose a pull at random, which were in fact, freshwater pearl bracelets with a charm attached to each one. Then on the count of three we all pulled them out, to reveal the charms, each signifying something different, like love, luck or money. I just so happened to pull out the charm of a street car which apparently signifies travel or traveller – which seemed very apt for me!

The rest of the evening was spent dancing and singing away to BRW a wonderful jazz band – because lets face it, it really wouldn’t be a New Orleans wedding without some jazz, would it?!

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B’s Groom’s Cassata Cake with Sicilian Cannoli – delicious!!

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The cake pulls ready to be pulled by K’s bridesmaids and cousins!

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The wonderful BRW

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Thank you to K, B and CG for the fabulous photos!

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The Beautiful Newly-weds outside Gallier Hall!

When it came to say goodbye once again and head home to Milan, I was very sad to leave K, B and their family, as I have always been made to feel so at home and they couldn’t have shown me more kindness. However, as is true with most weddings, they are very family orientated and for the first time in a long time, I was feeling a little home sick, which is why wedding number 2 a little later in the year was the perfect antidote!

Anna

L’altra Venezia

When one of your dearest friends messages you to ask whether you are free to meet them in Venice for the weekend, it really would be rude to say no! So on Friday morning, I popped myself on a train and less than three hours later, pulled up at Santa Lucia station.  My friend Grania was there for an event with the company she works for, so I was really lucky to be able to join in with some of the things they had planned, such as a presentation on Italian Art from a well known art historian (more on this in another post) and a beautiful dinner on the Island of Torcello! However on Saturday after the event had finished and before I had to catch my train back to Milan, we went on a little adventure!

Hello Venice!!! #venice #catchup #Italy #wheninveniceswiminthecanal #musingsinmilan @graniachesterton

The two of us had lived together whilst we were on our Erasmus year in Modena and had both previously been to Venice on more than one occasion, so when Grania’s friend asked her if we wanted to go with him to meet his friend and go on his boat, we jumped at the chance! It wasn’t until we were at dinner on the Friday night that he told us it was a rowing boat and to be honest, this did fill me with a little bit of dread! I had rowed once before with a friend at Flatford Mill in Essex and we spent nearly the entire hour getting tangled up in weeping willow trees and crashing into the sides of the river. Much to the disapproval of the cows grazing on the river bank!  I was imaging the four of us in a situation like this, seated with two oars each and me being utterly useless! However, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

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After a speedy twenty minute water taxi ride from our hotel to Sestiere Castello, we meet Luca’s friend Walter.  Walter is a Venetian tour guide and runs ‘L’altra Venezia’ – The other Venice – a company which offers visitors to Venice something a little different, like tailored tours of the North or South Lagoons or their “Murano Exclusive” tour, visiting the Murano glass factories. We however, had a Venetian Rowing Lesson and what a fabulous experience it was!

As we walked along to meet Walter at the boat, I realised my expectations were completely wrong! The boat was larger than I had imagined, and had only two oars, meaning two people row at a time whilst the other two sit, one in the middle and one at the front of the boat (maximum 4 people).  Have I mentioned you row standing up?! At this point I resigned myself to the fact I probably shouldn’t even try rowing as I am extremely prone to falling over even when on dry land!

After a few minutes working out how best to jump down into the boat, we set off out into the open water!  Luca first tried his hand at rowing, with Walter at the back of the boat instructing him on everything from posture and wrist movement to the position the oar must be in when it hits the water, but it was not to be his forte, so Grania stepped up and had a try.  Well, she was like a duck to water and within a few minutes was rowing like a pro! Walter was an excellent teacher and helped coach her to move her body with the oar rather than her arms and anchor herself with her right leg forward and left leg towards the back of the boat. At this point we were in the open water in front of the Island of San Michele, but we now were moving inwards to the tricky narrow canal streets of Venice!

As we worked our way through the quiet, tourist free streets, we asked Walter lots of questions about the buildings and palaces we passed and life in Venice.  He was extremely knowledgeable and it was really interesting listening to his stories and anecdotes!  Soon we emerged out into the open waters again, right by Piazza San Marco, where all the traditional gondolas are harboured.  But we didn’t hang around for long and took a new route back into the winding streets of the city. I was feeling super relaxed but as we made our way back, I decided to have a go at rowing too, so I took over from Grania. After an initial few minutes of adjustment and coaching from Walter, I soon got into the rhythm of it and found out it was really fun and not as difficult as I had imagined!  It is so true that time flies when you are having fun and before long we had to make our way back to the hotel.  I had just about enough time to grab a coffee and warm up a little before heading to the station to catch my train back to Milan.

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#Venice #Italy #venicerowboats #laltravenezia #travel #musingsinmilan

If you are planning a trip to Venice and are looking for something a little different to do, I can not recommend highly enough a tour with l’altra Venezia! It really was a unique experience and fabulous way to see the city! If a Venetian rowing lesson isn’t for you, they have plenty more options to check out on their website and next time I’m in Venice I will definitely be trying another one out! http://www.laltravenezia.it/

Anna

An afternoon of interactive art

One of the great things about having friends in town, especially ones who used to live here, means they are usually keen to go to an exhibition or gallery with you.  So last Sunday my friend and I made our way to one of my favourite exhibition spaces in Milan, Hangar Bicocca, to see the first solo exhibition in Italy of Céline Condorelli.  The title of the exhibition “bau bau” is a play on words, relating to the Italian meaning of ‘bau bau’ as the barking of a dog and the German word ‘bau’ for construction.

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The works which were presented by Condorelli, offered up physical encounters between the art and the viewer and we were encouraged at various points to sit and climb on specific pieces. This is one thing I particularly enjoyed, as I often find modern art quite hard to understand and to see the vision behind it, but getting stuck in and really experiencing the art definitely helps – and leaves you in fits of giggles when you get scared climbing back down the ladder – it was higher than it looks!

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Built using several separate pieces of furniture, each piece becomes reliant on the others and therefore can’t stand alone. Once you are on the ladder, it acts as an extension to the human body.

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My friend looking very at ease with the art….on the other hand, I, in her words, look like I have been put on the naughty step!

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The exhibition featured installations as well as sculpture, video and text and it showed variations in light and time, black and white, daytime and night-time.

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This gold curtain blows gently in the wind and separates dark from light, hot from cold, inside from out.

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This was one of my favourite pieces, showing an Egyptian cotton field from around the 1930’s. It was enormous and really quite beautiful – and hid an archive containing material on the textile and rubber industry.

Whilst I didn’t understand the meaning of all of the installations, I learnt a lot and certainly had a lot of fun…plus before heading home we got frozen yoghurt! So all in all a successful Sunday!

Anna

Hello!

So, here I am writing my first ever post! I am pretty excited as it has taken me a while to finally start this blog. I think I first mentioned the idea when I was in my last year at university.  I have no real reason for having taken so long to finally get around to it, just pure procrastination, but all that doesn’t matter as I am here now.   I am sure I have a lot to learn so I hope you will be patient with me but I am super excited to get going!

Obviously, January is the time for setting new years’ resolutions, but I’ve never been one for them anyway, so instead I want to lay out some of my hopes and aims for this year. I feel it is going to be a good one and this is a good starting point for my musings in Milan!

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  • First things first, start my blog (so far so good!)
  • Get back to studying German, which up until the age of 18 I was pretty good at until I decided Italian was the way forward and more than neglected my German.
  • Do lots of yoga, which I only discovered I love just before Christmas!
  • Spend a week in Greece at a yoga retreat with my dear friend Grace and leave feeling fabulous
  • Make my way to the South of Italy – Sicily or Sardegna
  • Make the most of EXPO starting on 1st May in Milan and running all the way through to October 31st.  Based around nurturing the planet and renewable energy resources, it is set to bring millions of visitors to Milan and offer up tons of exciting things to see and do.
  • Visit Sienna
  • Return to Modena where I lived on my Erasmus year for 6 months
  • Spend the summer in Essex with my family getting plenty of country air and going for long walks with our crazy Staffy Robbie.
  • Finally make it to Zurich to visit my friend who I haven’t seen in nearly three years
  • Have a father and daughter day in London at the Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon exhibition

I will be sure to keep you all updated on which of these I manage to achieve, I am hoping most of them, always optimistic!

Anna