Tuesday, April 21, 2009

La Pelletteria Venezia

Venetian leather arts.

I passed by this shop on the way to the Fortuny Museum and it caught my eye since it reminded me of those souvenirs from Italy I got as a child which I thought were probably made in Hong Kong.

I saw some stuff that were cool.

(Kiss-lock eyeglass case)

The first thing that caught my eye was the kiss-lock eyeglass case.  It had structure but wasn't hard edged.  These would make a great minaudiere.  It fits small cell phone, cash, credit card and small lipstick.

(Interior detail)

I'm not sure what they do to the interior but they sueded the leather in such a way that it was so dense it almost felt like it had a rubber coating.

I interviewed the shopkeeper, Pagan, who married into the family that manufactured the leather goods.  He said while this type of leather is more commonly associated with Florence, their family business has been in Venice for hundreds of years.

(Key-ring coin wallets)

The leather is first painted, then stamped in 22k Gold using stamps that has been in their family for at least 300 years.  The stamps reflect what was being traded at the time, which explains the Oriental/Middle Eastern motifs.  Then the leather pieces are assembled and finished.


(Pagan and me.  That's gelato I'm holding.)

Pagan mentioned that they sold some stuff to Barney's.  He said they could not supply large quantities since there are fewer and fewer tradesmen familiar with this technique.  In short, it's a dying art.

(Map of La Pelletteria)

I love the way they drew the map of their store in Venice.  Very Art Noveau.


Designs by Gaetano Pesce.

FISH Design is a clever play on the artists Italian name (Pesce is fish in Italian).

I caught some of his work at the Mariano Fortuny Museum in Venice.

I picked up a piece very carefully expecting it to be heavy and extremely breakable but to my surprise - it was actually some kind of latex/rubber!

It's not cheap though, a larger piece was around US$500 and the tumbler-size piece was about US$200.

He also has some wearable pieces like a bracelet and ring which looks like ceramic.  I think it's amazing that in a place where designs in Glass were developed and flourished that a new medium (latex) is flourishing as well.

Latex seems to be everywhere.  I am particularly impressed by the designs of Brazil-based Melissa and Cesare Paciotti's Gelly line:

(Melissa wedge)

(Cesare Paciotti Gelly platforms)

......and I covet the Cesare Paciotti  Gelly mocassin!  I could use a present right about now - anyone?

For more on Gaetano Pesce, visit gaetanopesce.com

Fish Design Srl • Viale Lombardia, 23 • 20131 • Milano
Tel +39 02 8945 1099

Monday, April 20, 2009

La Serenissima

See Venice and die!

Venice is a short trip from Milan (2.5 hours by slow train). It is a very popular day trip for locals and visitors to make. I wish I could stay longer next time. I would be interested to see what Venice is like after the daytrippers leave.

(Venezia Sta. Lucia Station)

Venice is very accessible from Milan Central Station.  The Venezia Sta. Lucia Station is right on the water.  You can catch a vaporetto (water bus) right outside to take you to St. Mark's Square.  We decided to go to the Square (about 40 minutes from the train station) then slowly work our way back to the station to catch our return.

(Venetian waterfront home)

(A venetian vignette)

(Venetian Bridge)

Covered Bridges dot the grand canal on the way to St. Mark's Square.

(Relaxing at the vaporetto)

(Gondola seating)

(Approaching St.Mark's Square)

(St. Mark's lunette showing how they smuggled St. Mark's body into Venice)

When Venice was becoming a prosperous and powerful city, the dukes wanted to have a patron saint and protector for the city.  They decided on St. Mark.

Well, the problem was, St. Mark died and was buried in Alexandria in Egypt.  The merchants convinced the church in Alexandria to give them the body (they kept the head in Alexandria). Since the Muslim population was growing in Alexandria the Venetians made a good case of having a safe haven for such an important relic away from the infidels.

In order to evade the nosy Muslim customs agents, the Venetian merchants placed the body in a pork barrel since the Muslims would not dare touch it. Et voila! - instant patron saint and shrine!

(St. Mark's Square)

(Café on the square)

(St. Mark's clock tower)

(Souvenir stand)

(Doge palace fountain)

(Golden staircase at the Doge Palace)

The Doge Palace is an amazing structure which housed the Dukes and government of Venice.  They had a huge room for Senators (they had about 50 -  for such a small city).  They also had receiving rooms for dignitaries and map rooms and even a prison!  I did not quite understand how the government of Venice was structured but it seemed very complicated and multi-tiered.  Aside from a Senate, they had a Council and sub-council and another sub-council to do checks and balances - oy!

(Left, Doge palace.  Middle, the Campanile.  Right, St. Mark's Dome)

(View from the Bridge of Sighs, with construction)

One of the highlights of the Doge's Palace is crossing the Bridge of Sighs.  They call it the Bridge of Sighs because the prisoners who crossed it saw their last glimpse of the glory that is Venice and they heave a sigh.  Unfortunately, when I crossed the bridge, the view was obstructed by some construction (neatly covered with murals) so I could only conjure up a half-sigh...

(A typical Gondola pier)

(The winged lion - symbol of St. Mark and Venice)

(At the Fortuny Museum Courtyard)

A great discovery during the trip was the Fortuny museum. This was Mariano Fortuny's workshop, residence and storefront.  It houses several of his artwork (his own and his peown personal collection.  I saw Delphos dresses up close and his unique hand printed velvet capes, the technique and ink formula of which died with him.

(At the Rialto Bridge)

(Rialto Market)

The Rialto is the traditional market of Venice. If you come early enough, you can see stalls of produce and meat dotting the market area.  There are also small eating places around to sample some Venetian cuisine.

(Streets of Venice)

The best thing about Venice is getting lost and discovering small and pretty side streets.  We somehow found our way back to the train station using a crude map which I clipped from Travel + Leisure magazine.

Ahhhh, Venice!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Picnic in the Park

Sampling the delights of Rosticceria Galli.

We decided to do some shopping away from the city center and we ended up in Corso Vercelli. Unfortunately, a lot of the stores were closed on Sundays.

(At the Rosticceria Galli takeout counter)

All was not lost when we discovered the neighborhood caterer, Rosticceria Galli. Although it looks older, this family run enterprise has only been open some 10-odd years and they sell everything from appetizers, first courses, second courses, pizza, rotisserie chicken and dessert. The locals come here to order full meals or pick up some dishes to round out their family meals. Apparently the place is open all the time including holidays.

We placed our order using our limited Italian coupled with the turo-turo (pointing) method and before you know it,  they packaged everything so we can take them with us to the park and have a moveable feast.

(Francesco Baracca Park)

We found this quiet park near the Conciliazione.  

(Picnic Benches!)

(Our food neatly packaged and heated for our moveable feast)

The whole meal cost USD50.00 (for two people) and we finished everything!

(Left, Fried Octopus.  Right, Fried Calamari)

We started with some fried octopus (salty!) and calamari (tasty!).


We got some veal which was delicious.

(Hand rolled noodles with Shrimp and Olives)

I picked up some hand-rolled pasta with shrimp.

(La Paella)

We also tried some paella, which seemes to be one of the house specialties.  The locals seemed to have taken a liking to this Spanish dish and Galli is one of the places that does it well.

(Our unexpected guest)

It did not take long before we had an unexpected guest.  The poor dog was drooling at the sight of this food but it broke my heart not to share with the doggy since he obviously had an owner and I did not want to cause an international incident by giving the dog something he shouldn't have!

Karim Rashid for Seven Jeans

Karim Rashid had a small capsule collection displayed (not for sale) at La Rinascente in MIlan. While I was not able to take pictures, I did note that there were hot pink skinny jeans, a white translucent nylon jacket with neon pink trim, tee's with pink stitching. The colors seem to be white, neon pink and neon lime. The jacket was cute.


Luini Panzerotti

Recessionista dining in Milan.

One of the delicacies that Milan is famous for is the Panzerotto. This is not originally from Milan but has gained such popularity that the Mayor has given it the Municipal seal of approval.  This delicacy is also now popularly identified with Milan.

The place has long lines but they go fast.  It's best to know what you want before you hit the counter but, if you are like a deer caught in headlights once you reach the counter, you'll probably be OK taking a chance on any selection.

The panzerotto (panzerotti is plural)  is essentially dougnut dough filled with an assortment of fillings (prosciutto & cheese, spinach & ricotta, salami & cheese, spicy cheese - my fave!), then the whole thing is deep fried.  

It did not taste greasy at all, sort of like a fried pizza.  At around €3 apiece, this could be one of the cheapest meals you will have in Milan!

It also comes in a sweet version.  I tried the chocolate and orange and pretty much stuck to this flavor for the rest of the trip.  In this case, the dough is more of a shortbread cookie dough.  Deeelish!
Luini is located on a small street behind the Duomo close to the upscale department store, La Rinascente.

A Night at the Opera

Il Viaggio a Rheims at the Teatro alla Scala.

(The venerable Teatro alla Scala)

I haven't been to a full-length opera and what better way to experience my first opera than the mecca of operas - the Teatro alla Scala? 

(Outside the theatre)

Fortunately, there was an opera playing the night we were there. Il Viaggio a Rheims was on it's last few performances and we hastily purchased (expensive!) tickets. But it all turned out to be worth it.

(At our box seats with my program)

Il Viaggio a Rheims was an opera by Gioachino Rossini, the last he wrote in Italian. He did not intend it to be performed for more than 4 performances since he was also using the music for another opera he was writing. But Charles II of France wanted an opera to commemorate his coronation so this was created just for the occasion.

About the opera: In those days, the coronations were done in Rheims, not in Paris, and this opera chronicles the thwarted attempts of an international array of characters to get their asses to Rheims for the coronation only to find out that the coronation party was making their way back to Paris for additional celebrations.

(Scala grand chandelier)

(Scala interior)

The Teatro alla Scala was smaller than I expected but the acoustics are excellent. We were fortunate to have box seats which we shared with a Japanese family of three. I also did not notice that the booth had super titles for translation until after the intermission.

(Box Seats)

(The super title screen for the English translations)

(The royal procession makes its way to the stage)

The staging of the opera was minimalist and they had large video screens showing the royal procession outside the theatre making their way to the Scala signifying the coronation party's arrival in Paris which I thought was very clever. Also, if you haven't been to the Opera before, or accompanying who hasn't been, it's a good idea to pick a bel canto opera since they are usually filled with pretty melodies and will probably be a short one. This opera had only one intermission and was very easy to watch.

(At last, the royal procession arrives!)

(Curtain call)

(Curtain call)

(Scala ballroom)

(Scala ballroom)

During intermission, they opened up the ballroom for some refreshments which included champagne, light beverages, chocolates and sandwiches. It was very pleasant and not crowded and everyone was gorgeously dressed except for me who looked like I should be picking up the empties and swabbing the floor! Hahaaaa!