Friday, March 30, 2012

Parma Vacation

It is spring break and no one was in class yesterday. This morning I woke up extra early to take the train to Parma. When I arrived I was awarded with the above view. Luckily for me, Ashley sent me a camera so I could take a photo of it for you.
I had an appointment with the Museo Bodoniano, in an amazing library in the Ducal Palace. The museum is free but you have to make a reservation. I don't think there are long lines out the door to see the history of book printing in Parma. Too bad for them! There was a huge collection of works he printed including manuals for printmaking and my favorite, Mr.Gray's Poems. I don't know who Mister Gray is or anything about his poetry but, as sometimes happens, it doesn't matter since the presentation was so lovely. There were also printing tools, a press, type, casts for type and a drawing of how he designed Bodini typeface. His wife continued printing after his death. There was an exhibit about that, celebrating unrecognized achievements by women, though that is all I could understand from the poster.
I walked around Parma for a few hours before returning to Milan. I found the botanical gardens, which was hosting a celebration of violets, which smelled amazing. I love spring. In the garden, there was this weirdo installation hanging from a tree.
I also found a few churches to peek inside and I don't like to use flash so all my photos seem to capture the Light of God. Or blurry wonder. I got a little lost, shot down two offers for friendship with lonely men in the park and almost missed my train home. Now, with all the windows open and birds singing, I can pack for my spring break vacation. Now that I have been starting to understand what people say to me if they speak slowly, or bits of overheard conversation (my neighbor just yelled for a spoon) I thought I would go a few places where I won't understand the language at all. Here I come!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blurry Odd Things

These are the last of the photos from the point and shoot trouble camera. Sometimes the screen would die and you would have to guess what you were taking a photo of. It was exciting but not as exciting as getting a camera from a friend in the mail that she doesn't need anymore. Tomorrow my Spring Break will begin and I will be trying out the new camera. These are all from walking around town. The first is of Corso Como 10, a very fancy design shop started by a former editor of Vogue. I can't even afford a real photo of it. The courtyard is amazing. I would love to have a drink there one night. Their bookshop was on a website of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world.
Alicia and I were walking down town the other day, a little lost, and found this tower, built in the fifties. It gets wider at the top, not because of awesome design, but because they needed more space. I like it because I can't believe the sides hold up the top, it seems way too heavy. Though Milan is not prone to earthquakes, I will not stand under it.
I was on the outskirts of town and saw this which reminded me of home...banana trees growing inside an abandoned roofless storefront. Milan is gritty and dirty and I have seen some fallen apart buildings but here they seem to have been falling apart since 1945, so I am never sure. But this one was straight up neglect. Or public art.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two Grottoes and a Nap--Florence Part 2

So if you are keeping track, I was in Florence weeks ago but I still have these lonely few images to share. While I was there, I walked a lot, which has always been one of my favorite pastimes (until I got a bike). In Florence there is a Palace, the Pitti Palace. I was tired of museums and it was beautiful outside and so I explored the gardens, where I discovered these two grottoes. Last year, a friend was telling me she had always wanted a grotto and I did not know what she was talking about. The grottoes here are man-made, as far as I can tell, at least I know the goats were not carved by nature. Here, i am only showing you the top half because the bottom was poorly lit and I couldn't get any closer .
As for this third photo, this is another image from the top of the hill at San Miniato, as I was waiting for vespers to start. Now, if anyone has any ideas beyond a netti pot for my sinuses, I have been napping on and off all day and maybe I am just lazy and afraid of the outside world, but it had never seemed so before. Also, the snot is an indication that something is amiss. I mean, it is nice to be posting all these photos and sleeping but there is so much happening outside.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alternating Waves of Panic and Exhilaration

Oh spring! Now that I have walked a million miles in Milan, I comfortable getting lost on a bike. I have yet to not get a little lost and it is even more exciting in the evening as I hurry home for dinner. In case I have not explained, Milan has a bike rental system called BikeMi where you pay a little for a membership, then you can borrow a bike from a hundred stands downtown and pay a little when you use it. You get a lock, a light, a basket, an adjustable seat and three gears. No helmet, but you can get a free map too. There are even bike paths here, like in Montreal, on the street but separate. However, they seem to end suddenly but so do the streets here. More than once I found myself at an intersection of multiple cobblestone streets with trams and no idea how to get to where I wanted. Oh, and one bike path seemed to send at a busy tram stop. However, nobody got hurt. You can't keep the bike for more than 2 hours and I still have to take the metro to get to the closest bike stand but it is worth it. Bikes and outdoor cafes...I may never go to class again.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Milano Città Aperta

Yes, this is a Roy Liechtenstein image reproduced in candy, in the window of my favorite pastry shop.

Recently I have dreamed that 1) I dyed blue streaks in my hair and 2) I got a C on the project I have yet to write. (I am actually in the middle of starting it/procrastinating right now!). My dreams are boring but lucky for you, my waking hours are more exciting.

Everyone who told me Milan is not as awesome as other Italian cities forgot to tell me that it still all right. This weekend, the city opened a bunch of museums and historical sights and places that aren't usually open to the public, for free. The lines were long but Alicia and I found a few empty sites where members of the Italian Touring Club were ready to tell you anything you might want to know. In english, too! Sunday there were musicians playing at some of the sights, including my favorite museum.

Sunday was also a car-free day downtown. No kidding. I borrowed a bike and managed to find the bumpiest route via cobblestones to every place I wanted to go. It was sweet sweet chaos of families on bicycles and pedestrians and teenagers on skateboards. It was daylight savings (a few weeks behind the US) and spring! I have no photos of the streets because I was too busy getting lost.

I spent all weekend wandering and one night, not ready to go home, I took this photo of the castle all lit up. My camera works half the time, which half explains this random-seeming collection of photos. There is a replacement on the way, but for now, this is what I have. With nothing to show for the hours I spent printing Saturday night while my roommates slept but new postcards are ready for addressing. But first I have this short paper to write.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Milan's winter was colder and longer and snowier than I am used to but they have a real live spring! It was grey when Kerry and I walked around a neighborhood I had never really seen before. Fancy architecture, balconies, shiny tiled walls and blooming blossomy trees.

And graffiti! There is lots in Milan, and some of it is made of odd figures wheatpasted to walls. I liked these robots and this piece high up on a wall somewhere near the park. School is good, my classes are interesting but I think I might need to go outside a little more.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend Walk

My friend took the train from Munich to visit for the weekend. I have been tired and cat-like lately but I brought home this tray of treats yesterday morning that fueled a wonderful afternoon walk.

First we went back to the Cimitero Monumentale, which I have proclaimed my favorite place in Milan. It was supposed to rain all weekend and the grey light through this stained glass was amazing. Not only is the sculpture interesting here, but also are the many ways people want to be remembered. And all the ways light is part of that. With stained glass, candles, skylights, relief sculpture and this huge tomb at the entrance with a dome and rose windows, I could spend all day here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Looking Through the Books

At home I have a giant old dictionary I found in my studio space in New Orleans. I keep it partly because it is an excellent paperweight and partly because it has great secrets hidden inside. Not just the definitions of english words but newspaper clippings and scraps of wrapping paper. How do I recreate this greatness while far from home? While posting aa million postcards you sent to me last year, I have rediscovered old letters and these two images I took with my camera one day. Hello LSU outside the studio at night (why wasn't I at home) and cat-on-desk. There are still a few hundred postcards to post but stay tuned. I'm getting there.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Without Even Looking

The screen on my digital camera crapped out the other day. We've had some adventures; this is our second trip to Italy together. It is really A's camera but I have borrowed it to keep in my bag at all times for travelling. Now I have these photos without looking. Like this sunset while walking home from the train station this afternoon.

And this shot at Centrale Station in Milan. I figured out how to borrow a bike in this city and I am unstoppable. I can get lost so much faster on a bike! And since there are no traffic laws, it is very exciting! I had enough trouble going anywhere near where I was aiming (roughly, the center of town) so I didn't snap any guess-and-shoot photos while riding. There will be more. And if you have a digital point-and-shoot camera that you don't need anymore because you take all your photos with your phone, well let me know. I have a great camera at home but it isn't ready for long trips.

Milan celebrates International Women's Day by 1)giving women yellow flowers called mimosas, because they got the crap end of things in the workforce for a long time and 2)giving free admission to all women to many art museums in town for the day to give appreciation for the fact that those museums are filled with naked women. Thanks, Milan!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Florence, part I

I had two days off of school this week so I took the train to Florence to visit some of my art history lessons. I went two years ago, but this time there were no crowds, no heat, and short lines. It was supposed to rain, but it held off for 2 days while I walked up and down hills at the edge of town and sat for a long time on ledges overlooking tuscan hills that are famous for a reason.

On the second day, I waited at a bus stop while ominous clouds formed overhead. I stepped on the bus and it began to pour. The bus sped through the city center and then up the backside of a hill, up a twisty road lined with glittery wet trees and huge fancy houses. It dropped me off in front of a beautiful church. The clouds were clearing, the sun was setting and lights turned on all over Florence. I sat inside the church to listen to vespers sung by Benedictine Monks before walking home in the dark.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Someone told my friend that going to Lake Como is a bit disappointing. Maybe they meant that there isn't a lot to do in Varenna, no bars or nightlife for college students. But I think that is the point of visiting this. One hour from Milan, on a cheap, local train, you can get a tour of the southern part of the lake, and see the Alps. Maybe the person who downplayed this is from Switzerland, or lives in the Alps. But it is pretty amazing.

Two Sundays ago I took this trip, sat on the left to appreciate the full splendor of the lake, walked from Varenna to Fiumelatte, the shortest river in Italy. In early Spring, it is a trickle. There is one bakery open, more like a doorway open into a worskshop with one kind of cookies, bread and two types of pizza. It was lovely. I sat on the water, walked slowly,and foolishly did not get on the ferry when I had the chance. It will bring you to a few different towns. It was a little cold, so in the early afternoon, I sat in the sun and waited for the train back to Milan.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In the Mail!

After three trips to the post office, Keep Writing number 39 is in the mail. I'm going to wait longer than usual to post the actual card as nothing in Italy is quick or efficient. I was worried about the stamp-buying but we worked it out on my third visit. And look at these things! They even feel nice. It's been beautiful here in Milan and I've been home studying with the windows open. I'm taking a few days off now to visit my favorite art history lesson...Florence. Meanwhile, expect mail in a few weeks. After a long lunch break. And a 6 hour strike. And then a coffee break. And maybe a stroll. And then one day after that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Creepy Art

Something I like about speaking some Italian is that I get the general idea of somethings but not entirely what is going on. It makes television hilarious. And this art show that I attended. Is somehow related to skin and beauty and the beginning of the show had tiny models of old pharmacies and these wax hands and, my favorite, different kinds of bathing devices. I went twice because it was free and interesting and I missed the English explanations the first time.