As always, the “things” I would first and foremost import are actually people, and they are my friends. After them, these are the typically Italian “things” and ideas/values that would definitely be part of my ideal country.
Yes, right, this is a bit obvious. But how lovely it was for 5 years to enjoy agreeable springs and autumns, winters with some sun (as opposed to an everlasting grey sky), and hot, hot summers. I really liked Milan’s weather, its real winter making you enjoy the other seasons properly. Milan is also famous for its super thick fog, particularly present in late autumn, especially in the outskirts. I love it for the air of mystery it lends to the city, I love it despite the potential safety risks it creates on the road.
Elegance in Milan is nearly effortless, it is above all “native”, in that it comes naturally. On sunny days, during lunch breaks in central Milan, I would sometimes sit outside on the steps of the nearby ballet shoes shop, and watch passers-by. It was a stream of beautifully crafted high heel shoes, suits made of the finest wool in the most flattering colours, all perfectly designed, all perfectly coordinated.
Elegance does not stop at fashion: design is also everywhere in Milan. This was true not only during Design Week: a random waiting room may have seats from Kartell, and Alessi house accessories are almost the norm.
Italy may be criticised for having an obsession for “la bella figura”, for favouring form over substance. I don’t care, this struck a big chord with my fascination for beautiful things.
The history, the artistic heritage
Middle Age town centres, roman churches, Renaissance palaces: they seem to be round every corner in Italy. With regard to historical and artistic heritage, I do think that France and Italy reign supreme over Europe. I know I am exposing myself to abuse here, from the rest of Europe, as well from the Italians (who think they are better than the French) and the French (who think they are better than the Italians).
Simply the best supermarket in the world. Good prices, first quality stuff and a fantastic “catalogo premi” (literally, “prizes catalogue”). Compared to it, the rewards you get with Nectar points are just lame. Where else would you get Bouroullec brothers-designed pieces of furniture? A large part of my home consisted of objects and pieces of furniture acquired through Esselunga’s card loyalty scheme.
Every time I go back to Milan, I go on a pilgrimage to Esselunga and stock up on pasta, pasta sauce, wine, salame and… deodorant.
Being two hours away from the Ligurian seaside, two hours away from Mont Blanc and one hour away from Lake Como
It is sort of difficult to beat that. Not that I went every weekend (as some Milanese do).
Ask any expat in Northern Italy what they like most about their new home and they will most probably say: the aperitivo. “Aperitivo” was invented in Milan and is this fabulous concept whereby you get a free all-you-can-eat buffet of light food and canapés to accompany your glass of wine/beer/cocktail, at almost every bar of the city, between 6pm and 9pm.
These are the Italian specialities I would like to see on my plate/in my glass: panna cotta, San Daniele ham, cachi, chiacchiere, the cappuccino from Il Marchesino (with bits of meringue on top), bruschette, spaetzle from Alto Adige, ice cream (the only one really deserving the name), cheeses, cheeses, cheeses (ooh the brigante, ooh the pecorino, ooh the asiago) and wine wine wine (ooh the Gewürztraminer, ooh the Valpolicella, oooh the Vin Santo). And also: olives all’ascolana from Le Marche, bicerin from Torino, passatelli from Emilia-Romagna.