And so it is, fifteen months of living abroad and attending business school, I am now headed home. The English family of course came for my graduation, it was their third trip to Milan since I arrived last year, and we did some relaxed travel to Florence and Pisa in the week before departing.
Milan around Christmas is a cheerful place, insofar as the Milanese can be. Lots of sparkly lights and decoration, and temperatures cold but not frigid. For Chris’ 40th birthday, we took dinner on the ATMosfera restaurant streetcar while getting a thorough tour of the city while eating three courses plus dessert and several bottles of wine. If you haven’t heard of it or tried it, I recommend the experience, if for nothing other than its old world charm.
I also made a point to steer us toward some of my Milan favorites: Marchesi pasticceria for aperitivo, Excelsior Food Market, and Panini Durini for quick lunches. Since coming last March, dad and Susan have come to love the Triennale design museum for its rotating exhibitions on subjects like Mies van der Rohe, Alessi, 100 years of humans’ objects evolution, and famous Italian jewelers. On the roof the Triennale, there is a fabulous restaurant and bar, with panoramic views of Parco Sempione and Castello Sforzesco.
I was sad that we missed visiting the Fondazione Prada and Hangar Bicocca, other temples of modern art and design. We did however host my friend Salvatore for goodbye burgers and beer, who works for Prada in the Galleria; he gave me a monogrammed portachiavi as a memento of Milan.
In Florence, we arranged a fabulous AirBnB penthouse flat, outside the historic center, across the street from the train tracks where Trenitalia, Frecciarossa, and Italo high-speed trains come and go constantly.
We each had our own bedrooms and terraces and commodious beds with fluffy white duvets. With the daylight at a winter minimum and me preoccupied with job searching and graduation prep, we collectively adopted a relaxed attitude about sightseeing and lounging, so the week in our apartment, cooking and drinking and sleeping in, was a much-needed respite from the hectic schedule of my past year.
Occasionally, we did leave the flat though and see what Florence had to offer. I hadn’t been there since 2008 and remembered virtually nothing. The fine art and renaissance history is famous, but I mostly enjoyed the food and browsing in shops like Giorni Libri, where I found a coffee table book photographed by Peter Lindbergh on the spring-summer 1997 collection of Giorgio Armani. While these types of books by Rizzoli and Taschen are quite common now, I appreciated that this one was from an era of aesthetics that I myself like, and which also reminds me of my mother.
Il Santino is a thimble of a bar we happened onto one night, just spacious enough for a few cocktail tables and a long bench where patrons can enjoy wine and various bruschetta pairings. Definitely a place for the locals, which we loved!
In the center of Florence, most everything is tourism-oriented, and so it was crowded and generically Italian. It dawned on me that with some exceptions, almost every first and second tier city in the world has the same set of expensive stores: Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermès, and more and more, Prada, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Fendi, and Valentino. Luisaviaroma is unique to Florence, but based on its well-curated website, a letdown in person.
In theory this universality for shopping, from Shanghai to Stockholm to San Diego is good for market penetration and accessibility, it goes against the very qualities fashion is based on, e.g. exclusivity. When you see Ferragamo in the airport, he becomes a bit less charming.
A visit to the Gucci Museum is however, not so widely possible, and so we did, and it was awesome. Whatever you think of Gucci today (i.e. Alessandro Michele), the brand is rich with history, from custom Cadillacs in the 1980s to the best of Tom Ford…
See my Florence Spots map here for more details about the destination.
After bouncing all over Europe to see some of its most important cities, I’ve had my fill of old, crumbly buildings and baroque design. Florence is probably quite charming to the uninitiated, but I found myself pining for the modernity and bustling nature of Milan, however impersonal it can sometimes be. Milan is grander and cleaner and tends to attract fewer tourists but more international expatriates. And, my preferred kind of art spectating is modern rather than classical.
Nevertheless, we returned to Milan in order to see me through graduating from SDA Bocconi. Friday was rehearsal and a haircut, Saturday the ceremony and a party in the evening, and Sunday we hosted my closest pals at Tizzy’s N.Y. Bar & Grill. Monday I spent the day packing up my apartment, all while under a slight haze of cold/flu sickness. Thank god for imported Mucinex from Florida.
At the conclusion of this chapter, it was gratifying to tour the family around Milan and Italy, knowing a bit more than when I arrived about where to go and what to do. I can easily order in restaurants and navigate the daily interactions of life. And, in a few places, I’m known by name, which tickled my family. Being an authority on anything is enjoyable, while also a responsibility.
So now, it’s destination unknown, via Tampa. Spend some time with the family and revel in being around friends—my native element.