John Armleder for La Rinascente

Milan (Italy). Since my previous post apparently created a sense of discomfort related to what typically happens around Christmas (at least here in Italy, and more specifically in Milan), I think it’s a good idea to recreate the right spirit associated to this important day.

Cities have been preparing for Christmas since the end of November, with their lights and decorations. Milan – of course – couldn’t be different from all the others (including Florence, photographed some days ago) and the popular shopping mall’s brand “La Rinascente” this year hired John Armleder to perform an exclusive art installation inside its shopping windows.

I liked the idea of dedicating shopping windows to contemporary art: I think somehow it changes the perception of “being just a consumer”, and makes people feel a bit less “no-brained” then they are (me included), when they realize they are in the middle of the maddest crowd, running up and down the stories looking for the perfect(ly wrong) gift.

I took this photo on Saturday (although it was not “just a common Saturday”, it was a real “Panic Saturday”) and at the end I enjoyed a lot this uncommon day. I thought to capture an image with people crossing in front of my lens, simply because a shopping window is a shopping window if there are people…

The conclusion is the same: only art and beauty (and photography) can save our souls…

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Fuorisalone 2016 (Milan Design Week) – Missoni Knitown at Brera District

Milan (Italy). In these days, Milan seems “the place to be” – and not only for architecture lovers, trendy designers and unmissable hipsters. For sure, like every year around this period, the city attracts an incredible amount of people coming here to discover the latest tendencies in the sectors of furniture, lighting, decoration and home appliances.

I cannot miss the opportunity of keeping my eye (and my camera) on this interesting world of course, and I like to share what I’m seeing here in my photoblog (isn’t it its purposes?). What’s really impressive, for those people living here all the year, is assisting to a true and deep change in the city’s spirit: let me try to better express myself. Although I consider Milan as probably the most living, enjoyable, innovative and “sparkling” city in Italy (for sure, one of the best life quality), during the so called “design week” the “routine” goes through an authentic transformation, which means pulling out a completely new soul made not only of parties, events, vernissage, opening ceremonies and installations (these things are pretty normal – let me say) but made of a sense of general “discovery”. Yes, during the Fuorisalone’s week, Milan’s people (re)discover their city made of hidden courtyards, beautiful buildings (some of them exceptionally open to public), street decorations and so on. In other words, it looks like a sort of “inspirational wave” floods the city’s districts (not only the fashionable Brera or 5 Vie, but also Lambrate, Tortona etc.) to demonstrate that the urban environment can react to the daily routine, and transform the ordinary into something of extraordinary.

Of course there are critics: why it can’t be all the year? Why the next week – once the design events will be over – Milan will return to hide its beauty? I’m not in a position to answer; but as long as I see that this creative magma is still boiling under the city’s asphalt, the enthusiasm’s eruption of the design week is very, very welcome!

Missoni’s stand is a “must” of each Fuorisalone: every year, the popular Italian fashion house opens the doors of its atelier in Via Solferino to host psychedelic exhibitions highlighting their fantastic fabrics. The theme for Fuorisalone 2016 was “Missoni Knitown”, an installation made with a surreal and abstracted town built with geometric solids such as cubes, cones and parallelepipeds, creating a very original skyline “dressed” with the typical design by Missoni. All around, ambient music and soft lights – which challenged the ISO of my Leica Q camera, by the way.

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Cena Con Me

Milan (Italy). Imagine… thousands of people attending a dinner without knowing anything – really anything, including the location – since few hours before the scheduled time. Only few rules, being the most important one on the dress code.


Yes, this is the spirit of Cena Con Me, an event I already photographed a couple of years ago, but that every time is a surprise. The organizers create the event on Facebook and collects the requests. Then, it communicates the location (in Milan) 5 hours before the time. Since that moment, people start collecting all the items prepared in the past weeks and gather to the selected place.

It happens therefore that a pacific place suddenly becomes a mess: a “white wave” made of people, tables, chairs, plates, glasses, balloons, candle holders, flowers, accessorizes… everything is rigorously white.

Beyond the color, there are few more basic rules: respecting the location leaving the place as it was before the event – therefore carrying away any sort of garbage; and closing the event at midnight.

Under the tag “Cena Con Me 2017” I’m posting some photos of the event. The location is Piazzale Giulio Cesare, the heart of City Life, a very interesting new development, with the amazing skyscrapers of Zaha Hadid and Arata Isozaki in the background.

Milano. Immagina… migliaia di persone che partecipano a una cena senza sapere niente – ma veramente niente, compresa la location – fino a poche ore prima dell’orario programmato. Solo poche regole, tra cui la più importante riguarda l’abbigliamento.


Si, questo è lo spirito di Cena Con Me, un evento che ho già fotografato in passato un paio di anni fa, ma che ogni volta è una sorpresa. Gli organizzatori creano l’evento su Facebook e raccolgono le richieste di partecipazione. Successivamente, comunicano il luogo di svolgimento (a Milano) 5 ore prima l’orario programmato. Da quel momento, la gente inizia a prendere tutte le cose preparate nelle settimane precedenti e a ritrovarsi presso il luogo stabilito.

Succede quindi che una piazza tranquilla diventi improvvisamente un caos: una “onda bianca” fatta di persone, tavoli, sedie, piatti, bicchieri, palloncini, candelabri, fiori, accessori… tutto è rigorosamente bianco.

Oltre al colore, ci sono poche regole di base: rispettare la location lasciando il posto come lo si è trovato prima dell’evento – quindi portando via ogni tipo di rifiuto; e chiudere l’evento a mezzanotte.

Con il tag “Cena Con Me 2017” posto alcune foto dell’evento. La location scelta quest’anno era Piazzale Giulio Cesare, nel cuore di City Life, un nuovo sviluppo urbano molto interessante, con sullo sfondo i bellissimi grattacieli disegnati da Zaha Hadid e da Arata Isozaki.

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The Mercato Metropolitano in Milan

Milan (Italy). The Mercato Metropolitano is a new – and I think pretty successful – experiment in the vibrant landscape of Milano. It was opened some months ago, just before the summer season, but I think it will be closed soon because it’s largely open air – so do not wait too much if you have not been there yet.

I went to the Mercato Metropolitano some weeks ago and I liked it. It’s the the place to go if you want to eat some nice street food, with many regional cookeries in a very informal environment – as a “metropolitan market” can be. To be honest, I was expecting something more similar to the Mercato Centrale (Florence) or the Mercado do Ribeira (Lisbon), where the daily market in the evening is transformed into a large restaurant. But the concept – in terms of food quality and offer – is quite close to them.

The Mercato Metropolitano is close to Porta Genova: there is one metro line (the Green one) and several trams to / from there. It’s also a nice place to take some photos (as of course I did, with my Leica Q).

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Urban Spaces (MUDEC)

Milan (Italy). From a window at MUDEC (Museo delle Culture – or “Museum of Cultures” in English) in Milan. I found this glimpse quite interesting, and representative of Milan today: it’s an eye on a former city’s industrial area, which has been totally renovated and today hosts many interesting spots such as lofts, design hotels and restaurants. There are several places like this one (the Fondazione Prada in Via Isarco or the nearby Fabbrica Orobia 15 just to mention some), and they are part of a deep renovation, which is transforming Milan in one of the most lively cities in Italy.

Milano. Da una finestra del MUDEC (Museo delle Culture) di Milano. Ho trovato questo scorcio abbastanza interessante, e rappresentativo della Milano di oggi: è un occhio su una ex area industriale della città, che è stata completamente rinnovata e oggi ospita molti posti interessanti come loft, hotel di design e ristoranti. CI sono diversi posti come questo (per citarne qualcuno, la Fondazione Prada in Via Isarco o la vicina Fabbrica Orobia 15) e sono parte di un profondo rinnovamento che sta trasformando Milano in una delle città più vivaci d’Italia.


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Thomas Demand – Grotto Process at Fondazione Prada

Milan (Italy). Yesterday I finally had the opportunity to visit the newly opened Prada Foundation (Fondazione Prada) in Milan – Largo Isarco, 2. The Foundation is hosted in a former industrial site, amazingly redeveloped and reconverted in spaces for exhibitions and cultural activities. It includes also a very trendy bar, designed by the popular movie maker Wes Anderson (author of “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Grand Budapest Hotel”, just to mention some among his most popular movies).

I promised to myself that I will come to visit the Prada Foundation again soon to take photographs specifically of the buildings, the interior spaces and the architectures (only these things alone are worth a visit). The photo posted here represents the Grotto Process (Processo Grottesco): in order to realize the photographic work “Grotto”, Thomas Demand studied and reproduced a 3D model of a grotto using many layers of cardboard, which “simulate” the geologic stratification, including stalactites and stalagmites (in the lower left corner of the image, the stratification of cardboard layers is pretty evident). The final photo (displayed at the entrance of the room) demonstrates how something perceived as real, at the end is unreal and artificially reproduced.

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Milano “By Day”

Milan (Italy). I guess people are more interested in “Milano By Night”, but I think the city shows its best face early morning of a normal week day, when the sun shines, people make sport around the Castle – running in Parco Sempione or bicycling in Piazza Castello – and the big fountain shows its geometric spurts in front of the Castello Sforzesco’s façade.

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If Photography Is Freedom, Photographing a Prison Is…?

Milan (Italy). Last Saturday – after visiting the World Press Photo 2016 exhibition – I spent the evening at a friend’s home for his housewarming. I did not bring my Leica Q with me, but in my pocket there was room enough for the Ricoh GR. And I was happy to use it in front of this interesting urban landscape, glorified by a very intense sunset.

When I was preparing the camera to capture this image, I was becoming more and more thoughtful about the sharp contrast in front of myself: photography, for me, is the quintessence of the sense of freedom; so, what can be the sense of photographing a prison?

Yes, the large building photographed here is the San Vittore prison, located in the heart of Milan (it dates back to 1872) and hosting more than 900 detainees: it was a bit impressive watching its tall walls, and the two different sides of it. On one side, there was the city, its traffic, people: in one word, there was freedom. On the other one, nobody – except some guards monitoring the situation and a sense of discomfort. The sunset was painting this strong juxtaposition with a gentle tone of blue and orange, and the clouds were making the sky agitated and a bit restless. Like myself, thinking about what at the end became the title of this post.

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Bibilioteca Braidense (Library)

Milan (Italy). The Braidense Library is a magic destination: I have been desiring to visit it for long time, and I admit I feel guilty for not having done it before. But since in the weekends it’s open only on Saturday morning, I’m partially justified.

Anyhow, last Saturday I finally could visit and photograph it, and it has been really an amazing experience. The Braidense Library was founded in 1786 by Maria Theresa Archduchess of Austria opening to everyone the private library of Carlo Pertusati, and it is hosted in the seventeenth-century Brera building. Before, the only public library in Milan was the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, which was rich of manuscripts but not of printed books. In the years, through several donations and acquisitions, the Biblioteca Braidense arrived to have 1,500,000 volumes and still today is a place where for consultation, reading and studying (since that some in some rooms taking photos is allowed).

I think I will come back to visit this unique place soon. Libraries – and especially the Braidense one – have a very peculiar appeal: they are able to merge history with culture, technique with knowledge organization, and in a time like the current one, in which everything is at “mouse’s length” and with a string on Google it is possible to find every kind of information, thinking about how were the research and the cataloging is rather exciting. And just the fact that a place which has been arranged for the culture, can be thought not only to be functional, but also to be aesthetically beautiful, I think it’s something of extraordinary.

Probably, today’s generations – the so called Generation Z, but probably also Millennials – never opened an encyclopedia, made a bibliographic research or borrowed a book from a library. Today there’s Wikipedia, there are search engines, there are e-readers like Kindle (which I’m a big fan of, to be clear). However, I remember when I was at school and used to go to the library for my researches: at those times I was already so fascinated by all that knowledge so concentrated in such a small space, that I was at the same time enthusiast and unsuitable. Yes, this is the key! A physical perception of knowledge: internet does not give this possibility. A library does! And tomorrow, I’m sure of it, there will be tools to access to knowledge even faster and smarter than Google or Wikipedia; but there will still be also someone – like me – that on Saturday morning will decide to go and take photos at a marvelous place such as the Braidense Library

Milano. La Biblioteca Braidense è un posto magico: desideravo vederla da tempo, e riconosco la mia colpa per non averlo fatto prima. Ma dal momento che nel fine settimana è aperta solo il sabato mattina, mi ritengo parzialmente giustificato.

Ad ogni modo, sabato scorso sono finalmente riuscito a visitarla e a fotografarla, ed è stata veramente un’esperienza emozionante. La Biblioteca Braidense deve la sua apertura a Maria Teresa d’Austria la quale, nel 1786, aprì al pubblico la biblioteca privata del conte Carlo Pertusati all’interno del seicentesco palazzo di Brera, nell’omonimo quartiere nel cuore di Milano. Sino ad allora, l’unica biblioteca pubblica era la Biblioteca Ambrosiana, che però era ricca di manoscritti ma non di libri stampati. Negli anni, attraverso una serie di lasciti e di acquisizioni, la Biblioteca Braidense è arrivata ad ospitare 1,500,000 volumi e ancora oggi è un luogo di consultazione, di lettura e di studio (tanto che non tutte le sue sale sono fotografabili).

Credo che ci tornerò presto e spesso in questo posto unico. Le biblioteche – e la Braidense in particolare – hanno un fascino tutto loro: sono luoghi che fondono la storia e la cultura, la tecnica e l’organizzazione del sapere. In un’epoca come quella attuale, in cui tutto è a portata di mouse e basta una stringa di Google per trovare ogni sorta di informazione possibile, pensare a come era una volta la ricerca e la catalogazione delle informazioni è emozionante. E il solo fatto che un luogo predisposto alla cultura possa essere concepito non solo per essere funzionale, ma anche per essere esteticamente bello, secondo me è un qualcosa di straordinario.

Forse le generazioni di oggi – in primis la cosiddetta Generazione Z, ma probabilmente gli stessi Millennials – non hanno mai sfogliato un’enciclopedia, fatto una ricerca bibliografica o preso un libro in prestito. Oggi c’è Wikipedia, ci sono i motori di ricerca, ci sono gli e-readers come Kindle (di cui io stesso – intendiamoci – sono un grande sostenitore). Eppure ricordo quando ero al liceo e facevo le mie ricerche andando in biblioteca: già all’epoca ero così affascinato da tutto quel sapere concentrato in un unico posto, che mi sentivo al tempo stesso entusiasta e inadeguato. Ecco, forse è questa la chiave di tutto: la concentrazione del sapere e la sua percezione “fisica e sensoriale”: internet non trasmette questa percezione, inuttile illudersi. Una biblioteca si. E un domani, ne sono certo, ci saranno strumenti di accesso al sapere ancora più completi e rapidi di Google o Wikipedia; ma ci sarà anche sempre qualcuno che – come me – il sabato mattina deciderà di andare a fotografare un posto meraviglioso come la Biblioteca Braidense.

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