The Universe at the Planetarium

IMG_3279At the weekend I went with the girls to the Planetarium in Judenburg. It is housed in a very high medieval tower making it the tallest planetarium in the world. I am not sure what that meansapart from the fact you have to climb almost as many steps as in Positano.

Because we were there during the day we did not study the night sky, but rather watched a documentary on the universe. It was incredibly well explained for both adults and children and it showed amazing images of our solar system. Believe it or not I got really emotional. The incommensurable vastness and our insignificant smallness suddenly made the possibility of life on another planet very plausible. The girls obviously made fun of me: as usual I am the embarassing mother. “Mom it’s ok, you are Italian!”

A Kitchen Show

If you are in Positano you don’t need to worry to much about where to eat because the food is pretty exceptional everywhere. After all, nothing beats pasta fresca and fish. Perhaps, the only thing better than an Italian dish is an Italian dish reinterpreted by a Japanese chef. 

Surprisingly that is just the case at Casa Mele, where Fumiko Saki Yokohama cooks impeccable dishes in an open view kitchen. The kitchen is a fantastic twist on a classic just like the food: with large black, white and iconic Fornasetti tiles, it is like a theater setting. So, if after an exhausting day in the sun, you have run out of topics to discuss with your husband, you can both just enjoy the show of the cooks preparing your meal. And I can assure, you will not be disappointed by the result!  

Hidden Ceramic Gem

It is a well known fact, but it never stops to surprise and amaze me: Italy is full of hidden treasures. Some are near Naples, in the imposing Bourbon Palazzo of Capodimonte. The most unusual of these art works is, perhaps, a majolica room designed for Maria Amalia of Saxony – who unconventionally had herself portraited in gentleman’s gear riding a steed. 

The room, made around 1758, substitutes wooden boiseries with porcelain. Over 3000 ceramic pieces with hundred of different figures, cover the walls of the boudoir. Little monkeys, exotic birds, plants and people are all rococo of oriental inspiration: the fashionable chinoiserie of the 18th century. So exceptional was this room that when Maria Amalia left Naples to become Queen of Spain, she had a copy made for her palace at Aranjuez, near Madrid. I wonder if the Spaniards keep their gems as well hidden as the Italians!

  

Breathe Austria

I swear it has nothing to do with the fact I live in Austria, and my husband runs a timber business: the Austria pavillion was simply the best one at EXPO! Entering the unassuming but elegant architecture (made of wood and painted in dark grey), you find yourself in a real forest. The temperature is cool and the air fresh.

Air is the first nutrient we need: you can live 5 weeks without food, 5 days without water but not even 5 minutes wirhout oxygen. Air is precious. This is the message conveyed by the Austrians with simplicity and clarity. Even the graphic project (by Graz superduper En Garde) is informative and stylish. And as you walk around, don’t miss out on a spruce and wild berries icecream!   

First Impressions on EXPO

EXPO opened in Milan on the 1st of May and everything possible has already been written and said. It is a big fair, a circus, exhausting; but it is something you should definitely see. No denying it, there is some incredible architecture – to my joy about half of the pavillions use wood in some form. It is a display of human creativity and ingenuity, and despite all the wastes and annoying commercial aspects, it is a genuine effort by human kind to find new paths and solutions to feeding our planet. 

The theme of food and energy has been explored very differently by everyone involved, and sometimes you might be surprised by the inconsistency of approaches. Some pavillions have opted the emotional display, while others the informative. If you are looking for an educational trip you should not miss the Clusters pavillions where families of foods are presented and smaller countries have the chance to present themselves. 

Austria, Korea, Estland and Emirates were the pavillions I enjoyed the most, but one day is simply not enough and I left eager to come back for more. There is time until the 31st of October!

  

The Barber’s Ritual

Life is made of rituals. One of my rituals is to take, once a year, when in Bologna, my son to the barber. The barber is the same where my grandfather used to go every week to have hair and moustache trimmed. Sometime he took my brother and I along, and as my brother sat in the high chair I was allowed to read comics. 

To be perfectly honest they did a very poor job of cutting my son’s hair. I guess that is the beauty of the ritual: you just go agead no matter what. The hair will grow again!

A Gilded Space

Only a month ago Milan was just Milan; now almost unexpectadly it has nothing to envy London, Paris or New York. Of course EXPO has a lot to do with the transformation, but the the real jewel of the crown is the recently opened Fondazione Prada. 

In the southern part of Milan (far far far from the fashion district) Miuccia Prada and Rem Koolhaas have transformed an old distillary in an art sanctuary. You will need many hours (days?) to wholly appreciate the place, partly because 19.000 square meters are a lot of exposition surface, and partly because there is so much care and innovation in every architectonical detail, you will have to walk around like a student taking notes. The materials are indecipherable, the combinations unexpected and the colours rigorous. Minimalist neon signs on the doors, wooden blocks flooring, a cistern and a cinema, orange accents, a gilded tower, glass and plastic: only a master could join seamlessly all these elements. 

Few places in the world are capable of abstracting to such extent; art here is truly an immersive experience with no short cuts contemplated. In the afternoon sun, standing in the spaces between the buildings, you feel the stillness of time of a De Chirico square.