Of Bulls and Mice

Probably few spots in Milano are more well-known than Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, especially to tourists. Linking two of the most famed places in the city, piazza Duomo and piazza della Scala, this sophisticated gallery is an iconic passage itself, with its eclectic decorations, tiled floor and the bright dome arching over the central octagon.

Designed by at-the-time young architect Giuseppe Mengoni and built between 1865 and 1877, the gallery was inspired by those great iron buildings – like the Crystal Palace in London – that embodied the most recent technological achievements and a widespread, unwavering faith in the industrial progress. Its dome, in turn, would inspire Gustave Eiffel a few years later for his own architectural work.

As soon as it came into existence, the gallery became “il salotto di Milano” (‘Milano’s salon’), with all its caffè – Caffè Biffi opened the first, soon followed by Caffè Campari (today Zucca in Galleria) – and the many luxury shops, restaurants, and a hotel. People would gather there to discuss politics in the newborn Italy, even heatedly: and many intellectuals and artists, like Giuseppe Verdi, King Umberto I or Carlo Carrà, were regulars at those caffè.

An unorthodox lucky charm

There’s a very peculiar tradition regarding Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.

If you get to the ottagono, the gallery’s central area where its two branches meet, and stroll around it looking at the floor, you’ll notice five coats of arms. The central one belongs to Casa Savoia, the reigning family back when Italy was a monarchy (that is, up until 1946 when the people, via referendum, chose the republic instead); the other ones, in a circle around it, are the crests of the four cities that have been, at various times, capitals of Italy. In order: Milano (in the Napoleonic era), Torino, Firenze and Roma (under the Savoias).

You see Turin’s? The one with a rampant bull? Maybe you can’t properly make out the crest because there are so many people around it—and someone’s circling strangely around their own right heel, it looks dumb…

Get closer. Their heel’s actually on the bull’s lower region, and you’ll notice that person’s turning around exactly for three times.

Still puzzled? Just follow the example. It’s good luck. 🙂

The allegories

After you’ve secured your fate, have another stroll around the ottagono, only this time with your nose up in the air.

You’ll see paintings alternate with the arches under the dome. Those four frescoes are the so-called allegories. An allegory is like a symbol, where certain images represent an idea, a concept that you understand through a rational interpretation. In this case, they represent four continents: Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

Aren’t they beautiful?

There were also four other allegories by the two short entrances, representing the Human Activities: Science, Industry, Art and Agriculture. They’re no longer at their place, though—today they can be found at the GAM (Modern Art Gallery).

A mouse at the speed of light – Meet the ‘rattin’

Now keep your nose up. Have you ever wondered how the dome was lit when there was no electricity?

You’d be amazed to know the job was done by a mouse. Rattin (the dialectal for tiny mouse) was in facts its name.

It was not a real one, though. At the beginning, lighting in the galleria was still provided by round gas lamps (that are still visible today, between a shop window and another), often with the addition of hanging chandeliers. But this was only in the very gallery, alongside shops and cafes.

How the dome was lit was another matter.

For that, architect Mengoni found a brilliant solution. At the base of the dome was a series of jets to burn with an open flame. To set them on fire, he built like a mini-rail where a spring-loaded device would run, soaked in some inflammable liquid, lighting up the jets as it passed. Ever since its first appearance, this mechanism awoke the Milanese’s admiration, and stories are told about how people would gather at lighting time just to see the little thing run around—just like a tiny mouse. 🙂

More on the gallery can be found in Italian over at Vecchia Milano (here and here). Also, don’t miss the coolness of a HD virtual visit at the ottagono!

Venice in a Day!

Venice is one the most beautiful cities in the world and I recommend all Bocconians to visit it! However, we do not have much time to allocate, so we must be very efficient in our Venice tour. I will therefore give you the best schedule to enjoy the city in exactly 8 hours!

1) 7:05am Pick a day and buy you train tickets! I would recommend you take the Milano Centrale – Venezia Santa Lucia 7:05am train for the outward journey. You will be in Venice at 9:40am. Check the Trenitalia website for info on specials and student discounts. Price: €18-€30.00. Time: 2h35min.

2) 9:40am Visit the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute and the Peggy Guggenheim museum. Buy a 1-day vaporetto ticket from ticket machine for €20 (more info on the Venice transport website). Get on the shuttle line 1 at pier “Ferrovia” and get off at pier “Salute” (shuttle time: 35min). Price for basilica: free. Price for Guggenheim museum: €9 for students.

3) 11:30am Stroll around Piazza San Marco, visit the Basilica San Marco and climb up the Campanile. Take vaporetto line 1 from “Salute” to “San Marco Giardinetti” and you are now in Piazza San Marco! Time at Basilica: 20min. Price of Campanile entrance: €8. Time at Campanile: 20min.

4) 12:45pm Have lunch! Wander around the streets a little bit and avoid the tourist traps in Piazza San Marco, they can be super-pricey!

5) 1:45pm Visit the Palazzo Ducale! Price: €11 for students. Time: 1h.

6) 3:15pm Browse one of the exhibits showcased at the Palazzo Grassi Museum and have a cup of coffee at the museum bar. Take line 3 at “San Marco Giardinetti” and get off at “San Samuele”. You are facing the Palazzo, enjoy! Museum price: €10. Time: 1h.

7) 5:00pm Discover the furnaces of the legendary island of Murano! Take the shuttle back to “Ferrovia” from “San Samuele” using line 2. Then the orange line called “DM” at “Ferrovia” and get off the shuttle at “Murano Colonna.”

8 ) 6:15pm Have an early dinner one of the many typical trattorias or restaurants on Strada Nova. To get back to Venice from Murano take the DM shuttle the other way around and get off at pier “Ferrovia.” Then walk 15 minutes to get from the pier to Strada Nova.

9) 7:30pm You are back at the station Venezia San Lucia and you should be on train back to Milano leaving at 7:50pm, the last train of the day!

I hope you all enjoy you tour of Venice as much as I did with my friends. I know it’s a tight schedule but this is the most efficient way to have a great trip and and visit the best places of the city!

Protip: Prices, opening hours for museums/monuments and shuttle schedules may be subjected to changes so I advise you make sure the above-mentioned places are open.

What’s Happening in Milano in September 2014

September is a time for new beginnings. Students come back to school classrooms and university lecture halls, workers filter back into town after spending a few weeks at the beach or in the mountains. And the city of Milano comes to life with tons of cool events, from music to film to soccer to fashion. To find out about the biggest fests and happenings, read on!

MiTo logoMITO Music Festival
4-21 September
A yearly event held in both Turin and Milan, this festival brings music to the streets and halls of the city. Mostly focused on classical music, there are also jazz performances and other events like lectures, book presentations and exhibits. A closing dance party is also on the program, set for 21 September, at the Mercedes-Benz Center Milano. Ticket prices are different for each event, and can be purchased online or before the performance, if available. Don’t miss it!

Milano Film Festival
4-14 September
This annual movie fest has feature films, shorts, animated flicks, events and movies for kids lots of other side events. Films are from all over the world so lots of languages are represented, check out their website for more info. Ticket prices range from €4-8 and can be purchased before each screening. It’s a must for film lovers and a great way to enjoy the outdoor venues as the Milanese return to the city after summer break!

AC Milan logoSerie A Soccer Games at San Siro
14, 20, 24 and 28 September
AC Milan or Inter fan? The Serie A tournament kicked off at the end of August, which means the city’s soccer stadium will be packed whenever a game is scheduled: they’re typically on Sunday evenings, though games can also be on Sunday afternoon or Saturday evening or the occasional Wednesday evening game. The next matches will be:
– Inter-Sassuolo, Sunday 14 September, 3:00pm
– Milan-Juventus, Saturday 20 September, 8:45pm
– Inter-Atalanta, Wednesday 24 September, 8:45pm
– Inter-Cagliari, Sunday 28 September, 3:00pm
AC Milan tickets can be purchased online, at a Banca Populare di Milano branch or the AC Milan offices, near Portello. Get more info on the team’s website. Inter tickets can be purchased online or at one of the many Best Union sales points located in Milano and around Italy. Get more info on the team’s website.

Fashion's Night Out logoVogue Fashion’s Night Out
16 September
This event was created by the world-famous fashion magazine in NYC in 2009. It gradually expanded to include other fashion capitals and now events are organized in tons of cities around the world. What can you expect if you’re out on the town on the 16th? Lots of people hanging out in designer shops after-hours, some freebies, limited edition items, a fun look at the fall/winter fashions and maybe some celebrity sightings. What’s not to love to kick off fashion week?

Milan Fashion Week
17-22 September
Each fall after New York Fashion Week and London Fashion Week, fashionistas head to Milano to see  lots of great designers sending their newest looks down the runway. If you’ve got an “in” with the fashion world, you might be able to snag in invite to one of the shows. If not, you’ll have to settle for people watching outside the venues or watching live or taped fashion shows on the jumbo screens scattered around town.

Watching the World Cup in Milano

Will you be rooting for the Azzurri this summer? Or maybe The Three Lions? Or La Celeste or Los Ticos instead? For the uninitiated, these are all nicknames for national soccer teams that will face off during this year’s World Cup matches. 32 countries from all over the world are sending their men’s soccer teams to Brazil this year for the biggest championship in football. Don’t worry, you can still keep tabs on the action, even if you’re thousands of kilometers from the sunny coasts of Brazil in hot and humid Milano. Here’s how.

Students playing foosballOutdoor jumbo screens
Big-screen viewings of all the Italy games are scheduled in open-air piazzas around the city. But, before you make plans to watch some of the games outside, remember to check the weather forecast for possible rain or super-hot temps.

For the first game on Thursday at 10pm, Brazil vs Croatia, the first Italy game on Saturday at midnight (technically 12am on Sunday morning) and several other big games, jumbo screens will be set up at the following locations:

  • Alzaia Naviglio Grande – 3 screens will show the games, along with several related activities and stands. This is a cool location that will use the water creatively, and it’s right next to Milan’s biggest nightlife spot.
  • Piazza Castello – In the new pedestrian area near the castle, which has been home to food and souvenir stands for the past few weeks, a big screen will be set up to watch a different soccer match every day.
  • Idroscalo – Located on the outskirts of the city (take the 73 bus to Linate, then bus 183 or 930), this man-made lake is surrounded by a huge park and a few bars and clubs. It will host World Cup games on a 50m video wall, in addition to other related activities for sports fans.
  • Carroponte (Bicocca) – This is another locations that’s not close to downtown (Via Granelli 1, Sesto San Giovanni), but it’s not far from the Sesto Marelli/Sesto Rondò and the Bignami subway stops. Located in a large area with food stands galore, they will be showing all the Italy games and a few of the other big teams during the first round of matches.

TV options
If you’d rather watch the games in the comfort of your own home, Italy’s public TV station RAI1 will be showing one game per day, including all the Italy games. The schedule (available online here) is out for the first few days:

  • 12 June, 10pm: Brazil-Croatia
  • 13 June, 9pm: Spain-Netherlands
  • 14-15 June, 12am midnight: England-Italy
  • 15 June, 9pm: France-Honduras

And, if you or a generous friend happens to subscribe to pay TV channels (i.e. Sky or Mediaset Premium), you can probably catch all the other games too, even the teams that aren’t as popular in Italy.

Pubs and bars
The other option is, of course, to find a good pub with a TV or two that’s showing the game you’re interested in. And you can drink an ice cold beer and enjoy some pub food during the game. There are a few good sports pubs around town, and even regular pubs and bars often have a TV hooked up with premium channels for all the games. Remember, though, that for big games it’s always a good idea to call ahead and make a reservation.

Enjoy watching the games while you’re in Milan. And may the best team win!

April Fools!

Starbucks on Bocconi campusSorry, readers, but there are actually no plans for a new Starbucks at Bocconi in the near future. It’s just a little joke we came up with to fool you! No Venti Lattes or Frappuccinos for all of you living in Milano, just regular Italian espresso and cappuccino. Which, some people argue, is the best coffee in the world!

Today we’re celebrating April Fools’ Day, or pesce d’aprile in Italian, which literally means “April fish.” This kind of holiday dates back to Roman times and Italian traditions include taping a paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting victims. So why not join in on the fun and make some paper fish for your friends?

Espresso cup and coffee maker

If you want even more craziness for the first day in April, here’s a video that was shot right here on the Bocconi campus:

Kandinsky: A Journey Beyond Space and Time

Palazzo Reale in Milan is hosting “Vassily Kandinsky. The Centre Pompidou Collection” through 27 April.

The exhibit, curated by Angela Lampe – an art historian and curator at Centre Pompidou in Paris – and in collaboration with Ada Masoero for Italy, it is a wide-ranging retrospective focusing on one artist, with over 80 essential works of Kandinsky’s art, in chronological order.

The narrative of the artistic and mental journey of one of the fathers of abstract art, through all the stages of his course, is well-curated and very captivating. From the very first hall, visitors are immersed in a voyage that constantly changes viewpoint, following the growth and pursuit of painting of this great artist from last century. He was an artist who, in addition to painting, practiced art in other fields: music and theater, where he sought to defend the spiritual in art, the title of one of his most important essays.

The exhibition includes over 80 works of art: from Old Town in 1902 to Sky Blue in 1940, along with Windmill in Holland (1904), In Grey (1919), Yellow-Red-Blue (1925), Accent in Pink (1926), Colourful Ensemble (1938). The visitor can walk through the sections of the exhibit in an ideal journey through Kandinsky’s art from his debut to his culmination, from the years in Russia, to those in Germany and France until, savoring a unique and unforgettable experience and delving into a setting that will have the power to transport them beyond space and time.

Vassily Kandinsky. The Centre Pompidou Collection
Milan, Palazzo Reale, through 27 April
Admission: €11 – €9.50 – € 5.50
(Exhibit promoted and produced by the Councilorship for Culture of the City of Milan, Palazzo Reale, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE and Arthemisia Group)