Milan smells like jasmine

Today we visited an amazing house after wandering around an equally amazing shopping precinct not far from our hotel. And it was the hottest day so far this trip. The temperature tripped over the 30 degree mark.

The shopping precinct is high up, overlooking the Corso Como, a giant skyscraper (the one that looks a lot like a hypodermic needle) towering above as if it was the end point to a curling piece of paper. Up at the top, there is a circular piazza, surrounded by shops and cafes, a big fountain and shallow pool burbling around in the middle. There were plenty of kids splashing around in it (and a few oldies as well).

The entire place looks ultra modern and yet not intrusive as there are natural elements as well. The aim is to create something that combines the real and the not so real in a harmonious whole. I think they’ve succeeded exceedingly well.

Also, a short wander from the piazza stands the two towers full of plants that Mirinda heard about on Gardener’s World the other day. Together they are called the Vertical Forest (Bosco Verticale) and look extraordinary.

Mind you, I do wonder how many birds fly into their lounge rooms. As well as birds, I bet there’s more than a bit of jasmine in there among the foliage. I say that because Milan seems to be in love with jasmine. It is everywhere, hanging over balconies, dripping from trees, smelling up the streets to the delight of us all.

We decided to stop for a coffee outside an extraordinary bookshop in the piazza. It was the cheapest coffee I think I’ve bought for ages. We sat and drank and watched the Italian world go by before heading down to the tram stop to catch a number 19 tram.

And, what luck, it was completely empty.

We rattled along until it was time to change to another one which only had a few people in it. The thing is, I’ve read that the public transport in Milan is very crowded. Well, not today it wasn’t. In all we caught four trams and we never had a problem getting a seat. Each ride was a delight from start to finish. I don’t think I can state just how much I love travelling on trams.

Oh look! Another one!

Our first stop today was at a house from the 1930’s. It is now run by a foundation and has guided tours every hour or so, some in English. We booked onto the 2:30pm tour and sat around the pool to wait. We did think we’d go and have lunch in the garden restaurant but they were booked out (which annoyed Mirinda) so we just sat by the pool and read and waited.

The house is the Villa Necchi Campiglio and it was designed by the architect, Piero Portaluppi. He designed it for sisters Nedda and Gigina Necchi and her husband Angelo Campiglio. They were ridiculously rich. They actually lived in the country but wanted a house in Milan so they could be closer to the social circles they frequented. An even richer (and older) family was selling off a bit of their garden so the Necchi Campiglio triumvirate bought it and plonked the villa in the middle.

The house remains as it was. Mind you it was used by the fascists during the war then the Axis powers afterwards before being returned to the family who instantly went in and had huge bits changed. On the death of the final member of the household, the whole place was left to the foundation to maintain it and have it opened for visitors to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ in turn.

And it’s amazing. Almost stuck in aspic, you feel like you’ve stepped into the past, the faint whiff of tobacco rising up from the carpets, the clatter of ladies heels on the parquetry.

The library

Tatiana was our guide and she was fantastic. Her English was perfect – she even joked – and her patter perfect. From the lower floor devoted to entertaining to the upper floor devoted to sleep and family, she kept us informed and interested.

Possibly my favourite part was in the ‘Prince’s Room’ where they have on display a donated collection of drawings by Picasso, Fontana, Modigliani and Matisse. In fact, they have a number of Picasso drawings of Cezanne’s picnic painting that we also saw versions of in Paris earlier in the year. It meant I recognised them instantly. Then, the Modigliani’s were also recognisable from the exhibition I saw at Tate Modern this year as well. I love the interconnectedness of it all.

Though we weren’t allowed to take photos of any of the precious pieces so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Our 50 minutes were excellently spent but, as all things well spent, it came to an end and we had to move on. Originally we’d planned to go and visit another place but tempus fugit, as I’m fond of saying, so we decided to take a couple of trams back to the hotel for a bit of rest-up before the big night event.

Mirinda had wanted to go on a tour of La Scala. Actually I’d wanted to as well but it’s just that she did more than me. We had sort of planned to go on Saturday but things changed when she discovered that the ballet school had its final performance on tonight. This is the Italian version of the Royal Ballet. How could we not go? Well, actually, I could easily have not gone but…well, I had to, really.

So, having rested up, we showered, changed (not at the same time) and ordered a taxi to take us down to La Scala.

I had managed to get us front row seats. Little did I know that they were seats for people with no legs. They were so close to the orchestra pit that you could just see over the low wall to the front of the stage. Eventually we moved back a few rows but before then it was almost as if the dancers had no feet.

La Scala from the front row

And I have to say that, basically, I enjoyed it all. Though I really enjoyed the expressionist Gymnopedie (not just because I love Satie’s work) because the dancers were incredibly controlled and expressive, though I did think the girl smiled too much. Even so, technically I thought all three of the dancers were superb. Mirinda said I was right, they were all three superb.

The final piece which was the entire second half, was a piece called Gaite Parisienne Suite which seemed to borrow a lot from different French music. It didn’t make a lot of sense – it seemed to be about a young lad who was destined to be a ballet dancer but had to work hard and not have time for love. He dances with his mates a lot and that’s okay but his haggard old mother gets a bit tetchy whenever he shows any interest in the girls. Eventually the mother dies and the boy drifts away.

Now, what I found really annoying in this piece wasn’t so much the lack of a proper narrative (that’s a weakness I have) but the fact that it highlighted all the males in the company and not really any of the girls. Afterwards I found out that Mirinda thought the same thing.

Later I discovered that the original story of Gaite Parisienne is completely different and actually features more females in the central roles. I find it very disappointing in this day and age. Still, who am I?

Afterwards we headed out to the Galleria for a salad and ice cream supper at il Salotto di Milano where we were both offered a lovely chilled Limoncello as a farewell to Milan. It was then onto a couple of trams to get back to the hotel.

A memorable and very enjoyable final Milan day.

I almost forgot! For lunch we accidentally ended up at Martini at Dolce e Gobbana and had a delicious meal. Especially for Monali, I took a photo of my lunch.

It was delicious. It was calamari (not deep fried), baby octopus, saffron potatoes and tapenade.

And, finally, here’s a short tram trip through Milan.

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One Response to Milan smells like jasmine

  1. mum says:

    That was great pity I could not have a look at the dancing but never mind, loved most of the buildings but not keen on the one that has hundreds of plants all over it. love mum xxxxx

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