Sunday 23 February 2014

Fashion week essentials

Walking home on Thursday morning along via Solari, it was the cluster of police who first caught my eye, but then I saw THEM...

The Fendi fans. How could I have forgotten?  It was fashion week in Milan.
The Fendi showroom is just a block, or two, from our apartment. Usually the footpath is empty and boring, but not this week.  
If I'd been wearing one of my collection of loud coats, or outrageously high pair of stilettos, or on-trend silver sneakers, I think I could have bluffed my way into the Fendi parade. 
Or if I'd thought to step into my maxi leather Fendi skirt, then I'm sure I would have bravely followed this model down the runway.  Sorry, roadway!
And if I owned a chihuahua or four, I would have popped them into my Fendi bag to bring along to the parade.
 But strangely, I wasn't wearing any of those items on Thursday morning, so I was relegated to mingling outside with my iPhone.
But next Fashion Week, I'll be more prepared. I'm on the look out for a big headband, starting now! 
I'm not totally convinced that I'll be joining the bare legs brigade. I think I'd need the temperature to have reached double digits at least, before I could contemplate that winter fashion trend. 
Luckily, I've got six months to plan my Fendi fashion mingling outfit. 
Wish me luck!

Sperando in più sole la prossima settimana!
Click here if you want to see what they wore on the runway inside.

Monday 17 February 2014

Love a local

No surprises for guessing that Valentine's day is very popular in Italy. We don't celebrate it, but being the old romantic that he is Stefano thought that a quiet lunch might be a nice way to pass another misty, Milanese Sunday. I happily agreed as I love lunch out anywhere, but especially in our local area, Zona Tortona.
After a short stroll around our neighbourhood we spotted a newly opened restaurant, Al Fresco, on via Savona.
The entrance, filled with rustic boxes of cabbages, intrigued us. 
It seemed busy so we took a gamble and joined the crowd following the Italian tradition of pranzo della Dominica con la famiglia.
Surrounded by families dining with their gorgeous bambini!
On Sundays, Al Fresco offers just one set menu of five courses with wine by the glass, a generous glass Stefano noted happily. Outside the rain drizzled as we enjoyed some interesting dishes, not the usual osso buco with risotto Milanese.

This was my favourite.  A soup of chickpeas and beans so thick that we ate it with a fork! Really delicious. All the courses were delicately flavoured but very tasty, and thankfully the portions weren't too large. 
And to finish, I enjoyed the home-made vanilla gelato, of course, 
while Stefano tried the rice pudding, which he proclaimed was nowhere near as good as the one his mother makes.  Hmmm a very Italian comment from Stefano!
Although 40 Euros is fairly expensive for lunch in Milan, we thought it was good value. The setting in a renovated factory warehouse looking onto a beautifully landscaped garden was an unexpected treat. So we've discovered another local to love and look forward to returning in the spring, to laze in the deck chairs while nibbling some more of Al Fresco's seasonal offerings.

Walking home from lunch we popped into our local PAM supermarket where they were shooting a springtime TV commercial. While we stopped to watch the 'young talent time' dance routine happening in the fruit and veg section, other shoppers seemed a little more blase' about the young people jumping and jiving in the background.  Perhaps the "real locals" aren't quite ready to celebrate the arrival of spring, just yet.

Spero per molto il sole questa settimana!

Sunday 9 February 2014

Celebrating the 5th

In Italy, the 5th of February seems to generate quite a buzz.
Image from
Some celebrate at breakfast by lathering on Nutella, as they enjoy the hazelnut chocolate topping that is "more than just a chocolatey spread, it's a way of life", according to the founder of World Nutella Day, Sara Rosso. In 2007, Sara, a fervent fan of the Italian breakfast staple, designated the 5th of February as World Nutella Day and she's been spreading the news ever since.

Creative commons image sourced here
In the south of Italy, particularly in Catania, the 5th is part of a much more expansive celebration which goes well beyond breakfast.  From the 3rd to the 5th of February, the relics of the town's patron saint, Agatha, are the focus of a spectacular festival. An elaborate series of  rituals culminate in a procession over two days, during which a huge silver carriage, containing the Saint's relics, is carried through the town.
Creative commons image sourced here
Image from here
While the story of Saint Agatha's martyrdom is particularly gruesome, the celebrations commemorating her sacrifice sound incredible and definitely worth seeing. (To read more about this festival and the special minni di virgini- virgins' breast cakes, eaten at this time throughout Sicily, go here and to the comprehensive blog, Baroque Sicily .)

This year for my 5th of February celebrations, I enjoyed a delicious dinner with Stefano at Tagiura, a lovely restaurant only a few minutes walk from our apartment.
While in Sydney, the celebrations were a little more exciting!
Is that a Nutella chocolate cake?
Buon compleanno mia sorella gemella. Il prossimo anno vi piacerebbe andare a Catania?

Saturday 1 February 2014

When in Rome...

Recently I had the chance meet my friend, Liana, in Rome. She was passing through on her way to Sydney after a  three week study tour for Italian language teachers. We had just over 24 hours to see the 'eternal city'.
I'd never tried a tourist bus before, but the hop-on, hop-off 24 hour bus ticket, proved to be the perfect way to tick off the sights.  

First stop, the Colosseum. Tick.
Then a quick dash across the road to the Arch of Constantine and the Roman Forum. Tick. Tick.
Then back on the bus to enjoy views from the top-deck.
A short rest on board but the clock kept ticking.
Time to get off and enjoy speed-walking past those familiar postcard sights.
Coins tossed in the Trevi fountain.  Tick.
A brief wander through the Pantheon. Tick.
A quick gelato in Piazza Navona. Tick.
Then on we walked.
It seemed that there was still time to climb the Spanish steps. Tick.
And to window-shop at speed down Via del Corso. Tick.
Before we needed to hop back on the bus for a ride to our hotel.

Well we could have, if we'd checked the time of the 'ultima corsa'. The last hop-on was at 5pm.  Perhaps it was just as well that we missed the last bus, as we worked up an appetite foot-slogging it back to the hotel.  
A glass of refreshing proseco and our tired feet were soon forgotten.
It's hard to eat badly in Rome and we didn't. Only a block from our hotel, on via Torino, was a delightful Roman restaurant, Target. While the name was ordinary, the food hit the mark.
Although the buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto was delicious, Liana picked the dish of the night by following our attentive waiter's suggestion to be adventurous. 
She was still raving about the sensational pear and truffle ravioli the next day, when we hopped back on the bus to the Vatican. Tick.
Recent graffiti from the Vatican streets Published in The Telegraph UK  29th January 2014
If you zoom in you can just see Il Papa in his white robes, under a white umbrella.
The rain poured down, but to our surprise as the bus pulled up we realised that the Wednesday morning Papal audience was being held outside. 
Some in the crowd leapt fences to get a closer glimpse of Papa Francesco, but unlike his superhero image, His Holiness stayed firmly on the ground. 
See the Pope. Tick.

Our 24 hours was almost up. Our last hop-on, hop-off was back to the hotel for Liana to rejoin her colleagues before leaving for the long, long, long flight home.
It was an action-packed, whirlwind of sight-seeing for 24 hours, filled with stories of home and much laughter about the challenges of learning Italian as a middle-aged student.

When in Rome for 24 hours, try the hop-on, hop-off bus. 
But on second thoughts, when in Rome, STAY LONGER! 

Grazie mille, Liana. Ci vediamo prossima volta a Roma.