Milan’s hidden courtyards: at Cortina Arte


My husband currently has 2 exhibitions at Cortina Arte in Milan and in nearby Busto Arsizio at Galleria Palmieri. Yesterday was the finissage of the exhibition at Cortina Arte and since a friend asked if I would be going, I decided to stop by with our daughter.

One thing I can say about Milan is that there are little surprises around every corner. Cortina Arte is located in a hidden courtyard, covered with uva fragola that makes an incredibly fragrant canopy in the summer. When visiting for the first time, most people are shocked to find such a location in the middle of “industrial” Milan. Ok, so Milan is an “industrial” business city, but you can turn a corner almost anywhere and find a Medieval church, signs of WWII bomb shelters and so much more. Milan, although much smaller, is like London; you can live here and go out every day, but it would still take years to explore the city and discover all her secrets.

The subject of my husband’s cycle of works exhibited this year is the city he was born in and has lived in his whole life: Milan. He has taken elements of the long gone Milan of his and his parents childhoods, parts that have been brought back to life again like the newly reopened La Darsena as well as the new skyline of Porta Garibaldi (La Nuova Babilonia, 2015, seen above in the first photo), in an exploration of Milan from the past to the present.

For me, beyond the paintings housed in the gallery (sorry, Giovanni, I see them so much, I have them memorised!) and the other small businesses and sculptor’s studio in the courtyard, this little location is “my” little enchanted garden. I’d love to live in this space. It reminds me of my time in England and of the fantasy I had that Italy was much more a richer darker green… oh, how mistaken I was. Of course having a space like this means also knowing how to be a real gardener, but my green thumb has a lot of learning to do first.


Vendemmia in about 3 months for those of you interested in some sweet grapes…

Am I the only one who chooses to live in the city, but dreams about an enchanted green sanctuary?


5 things you’ll learn to live without while becoming milanese


Disclaimer: After 10 years in Italy and the 4 previous years spent in the UK, I’ve been in training for a long time on this one, but coming from American Suburbia has it’s own set of “what we thing creature comforts should be” vs. reality. If you grew up in a city or a small town, this could be totally different for you!

1. A dryer – I spoke about my thoughts on the washing machine in a previous post, but the reality is that the “laundry room” in the house I grew up in was an actual ROOM. It even had an extra freezer (why did we need that thing?!) and a huge pantry, which make me feel so minimalist now. In our Italian city apartment, we have a washer in the kitchen, but even if we wanted a dryer, I have no clue where we’d have room for it. Since I’ve spent my entire adult life without a dryer, I’ve accepted that my living room and bathroom resemble various levels of the Laundry Amazon Forest most days. It’s got a certain charm about it.

2. 24-hour supermarkets – Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to your closest supermarket at 4 am. I bet it was during some high school or college sleep over ritual, right? Yes, I did that too. It was during my punk phase. However, unless you’re running a Bed & Breakfast and wake up in a cold sweat to realise you don’t have any eggs for your 7 am wake up call, I think you’ll survive.

3. A car – This is subjective, because I live in a city and I like to walk. My husband has a car, which I get a ride in about 2 or 3 times a month when we need to go somewhere out of town or transport something like a painting. If I need to go further than my walking distance (which is pretty far), I hope on a tram (obviously channeling my inner Judy Garland and singing The Trolley Song in my head as we depart). So, apart from the occasional trip to IKEA, or to a nearby town without a train station, I’m happy not having my own car.

4. A driver’s license – This is even more subjective now that we have carsharing services in Milan and I would have access to my husband’s car, but after 10 years in Italy, I still have not gotten my Italian driver’s license and my now very expired US driver’s license (um… 2010, I think) wasn’t even valid when it hadn’t expired yet. That’s right, no converting to an Italian license. Unless you’re renting a car as a tourist, you have to go back to driving school and it costs around 650+ euros, so I keep putting it off and I don’t miss driving anyway.

5. Air conditioning – ok, I admit it. The summer our daughter was 1 and I either carried her in my arms or in her carrier, had her napping on me or breastfeeding most of the day, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I caved and convinced my husband to buy a portable air conditioner. Of course, once we brought it home with us, we used it for about 4 nights and then the heatwave ended and last year we used it maybe 3 nights… oops! Since the AC unit cost about 330 euros, that works out to about 50 euros per night… Although itmight have been more cost effective to go on vacation during those heatwaves, now that the Italian meteorologists have started naming weather systems with scary names like “Ferox”, I want to be prepared! Nothing like a little meteorological scaremongering to get you to fork out half your driver’s license fund, eh?!

 Is there anything you thought you couldn’t live without before moving internationally? Or anything you can’t imagine living without now?