Last weekend, my loving husband, moved by my struggles with the remodeling and increased housework load, gifted me with a weekend in Milan to visit my uncle and relax! We found a bargain with Ryanair and, since I managed to pack super light, were able to do a round trip with direct flights for less than 40 Euros! That, my friends was a BIG reason I was down with uprooting my life and starting over as a nobody in Europe! The idea that in 2-3 hours and for not much money I could be in ITALY or some other great destination. Not that we didn’t have great options in Brazil, but in 2-3 hours by plane, you were still in Brazil and here, you can be in another universe in that time! Back to Milan! So, this was my second time in Milan and my fourth time in Italy. I have always been attracted to Italian art, culture and FOOD! Italy has many layers so it was nice to revisit a city with less of that tourist pressure of having this huge list of sights to knock out and allow myself to relax and perhaps take in a different side of the city. My uncle, Julio, is a diplomat and works at the Brazilian consulate in the center of Milan. He lives very comfortably in a fabulously decorated downtown apartment, about 10 minutes’ walk from the Duomo and was kind enough to host me. We caught up, I hung out with my cousins and we had some great meals together. It was kind of cool to be in his apartment, not only because he has great, eclectic taste and knows how to create a home that could be in a magazine and also feels like a home where humans live and relax in, but also because, for as long as I have painted, Tio Julio has always supported my art and has purchased many of my pieces along the years. I got to revisit several past works and, in a season where I am sort of in between projects and not in my best creative groove, be reminded that “hey, maybe I do have some talent” and my work does look good in people’s homes!
Milan’s identity as a Fashion Capital is unmistakable. Everyone on the streets is well dressed. Everyone. You could tell who was a tourist from a mile away. Elegant boots for all, fur, flawless hair, black is definitely in. The women are thin, the men are all so put together, they all look like they could be gay in any other context (and I mean that in the best possible way!), and a ride in the metro could give you avant-garde fashion ideas for a year! It’s fabulous! And I’m glad I can now appreciate fashion without being intimidated or deem it is as trivial like I once did. A wonderful exhibition at the store/gallery/fashion complex 10 Corso Como featuring the work of fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez really brought to mind the idea that fashion, like fine art, is a reflection of culture and human experience. Fashion shifts and evolves as a result of how our society is changing and all the great designers are aware of and inspired by art history. I may not want to be immersed in that world, but I can definitely respect the “backstory” and though that goes into a single design, color choice, and an intentional “look”.
Yes, the Duomo is amazing, worth the line and the hike up to the terrace, the Scala theater is a spectacle, the Sforezesco Castle is worth a visit, there’s lots of important renaissance art to be seen in Milan and I especially enjoyed the Pinacoteca in Brera, both the art museum and the school, but I had already seen these things. So, this time, with some helpful tips from my aunt, I got to peak into some new spots. I think my highlights from the trip, besides spending time with family and that visit to 10 Corso Como, were going out to dinner in Noviglio (a hip, canal-filled neighborhood with lots of restaurants and bars), just walking around and people watching in the Brera neighborhood where I enjoyed an authentic Italian cappuccino at a cute café, and choosing which Italian flavor samples I would bring home for Simplicio at Eataly! Milan may not have as much old world charm as Cortona or even Florence, but it is still a very inspiring place, uniquely blending modern fashion, history, and, like any Italian city, GOOD FOOD! Let me just make a little side note about Italian food: I think time has also taught me a bit about this too. I used to have this expectation that food in Italy would CHANGE MY LIFE. I kept waiting for that one plate that would just knock me off my feet, but perhaps my Brazilian-American taste palette has deceived me into thinking that intense flavor, salt and spice are what makes a plate taste amazing. The beauty of Italian food is the quality of its ingredients. Maybe the plate only has tomatoes, cheese and olive oil, but the tomatoes are THE tomatoes, they don’t need much because they are already delicious, as well as the cheese, the olive oil, etc. The ingredients are simple, but they are GOOD. The taste may sometimes be more subtle than what you’d expect but the quality of the food is really something unique. And the simple plates, in my experience, are usually the best. I think my best meal in Milan was at a student café in the Brera district. I just pointed to a plate through a glass counter and they brought it to my table. It was divine and I don’t even know what it was called. A simple, cheesy pasta with tiny bits of ham, but it just melted in my mouth, I could seriously have eaten about 5 times the serving so I am grateful my trip was just 3 days or I would be in trouble in Italy!