Metro Challenge 1. Wagner

The Metro Challenge has officially started. The idea came to me last August. I must have come back from summer vacation and realized, after weeks of traveling, that in order to appreciate the city I live in, and to get to know Milan better, I should get out an explore. The basic concept is this: explore a new metro stop each Saturday morning, then blog about it.

So, I got out my map of Milan and picked a station. Wagner. Then, I drew a circle around Wagner station to figure out the general area that I would explore. On Saturday morning, I finally used my BikeMi subscription. There's a station conveniently positioned right outside our condominium. It's incredibly easy to use the bikes.

I will outline my path so you can follow along.

Teatro Nazionale
Wagner station is just northeast of Piazza Piemonte, a large and impressive square. The main attractions are the Barclays Teatro Nazionale, two apartment buildings, and la Feltrinelli bookstore. In 2009 the theatre was completely renovated. During our first year of dating, L and I went to see Beauty and the Beast at the Teatro Nazionale. For some reason, I remember everyone in the audience wore red that evening. On the south end of the square are two similar, but not identical apartment buildings. Sprinkled around the square are several statues. The statue in front of Teatro Nazionale is called Il Grande Ciclista by Aligi Sassu, 1998. Le Tre Grazie by Salvatore Fiume is in the south end of the square. On a more practical note, there is also a taxi stand on the northeast end of the square by la Feltrinelli.
Le Tre Grazie

Casa Verdi
I started my exploration by walked north up Via Michelangelo Buonarroti. As I walked, I took note of restaurants worth trying and other neat attractions. Along Via Buonarroti the first restaurant I noticed was Fatto Bene Burger. I've seen other locations, so it must be a chain. In Piazza Riccardo Wagner there is a covered market. It reminded me of a very small version of other covered markets we've been to like St. Lawrence Market in Toronto or the Public Market on Granville island. Each stand specializes in a different food: fish, meats, cheeses, produce, and bread. I did notice a stand that sold Scots Whiskey. Continuing along Via Buonarroti, you come to the Casa di riposo per musicisti fondazione Verdi. This neo-Gothic Romanesque-revival building is actually a home for retired opera singers and musicians. It was founded by the composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1896 and he and his wife are buried there. In 1984, Swiss director Daniel Schmid made a documentary about life in the Casa Verdi called Il Bacio di Tosca. In the middle of Piazza Michelangelo Buonarroti, there is a statue of Verdi by Enrico Butti. On Via Raffaello Sanzio, there is a small fruit garden. The miniature orchard was created as part of the Verdi Verde exhibition. Peach, plum, pear, and apple trees are among the plants in the small garden.

I continued to walk along Via Raffaello Sanzio to explore the northwest area of my Wagner station tour. Most of the restaurants and bars along Via Sanzio are Asian, wine or burger: Sushi HamaRistorante Nuovo YachtLa Salumeria del VinoLa Cantina di FrancoBa Asian Mood, and Baobab Organic Burger. A really beautiful pair of Pulchrum! shoes that L would like caught my eye in the Vibram store. I walked by a school. I'm always fascinated to see public schools in Milan. I wonder if they're like the public schools that I went to in Toronto.

I turned on Via Carlo Ravizza. I noted two yummy looking pizzerias: Antica Pizzeria Leone and Lievita Pizzeria Gourmet. I turned onto Via Vittoria Colonna, which is mostly a residential street. That led me to Via San Siro, followed by Via Correggio, and back onto Via Carlo Ravizza. Back on Via Ravizza, I saw a jewellery store with a clever name, Nove25, another Japanese restaurant Kiyo and ristorante Casa Lucia.

Heading east on Via Marghera, we're back to shopping and culture. We come across ristorante Al MozzoCô-te a cute boutique selling bags and accessories, I LoVegetarian vegetarian restaurant, Berimbau Brazilian restaurant, Mondadori bookstore, a Ham Holy Burger, and Eugenio Boer's Essenza restaurant. Turning onto Via Luigi Sacco, we come across a rougher square at Piazza Ernesto de Angeli. What struck me was the number of retirees sitting having lunch and coffee at Original Bar.

The next site is what I consider one of the highlights of the area, Biblioteca Sicilia. This beautiful redbrick building has two beautiful large steel and glass skylights. I can only imagine what it looks like inside. From the outside, I saw many people inside working and collaborating. Behind the library, there are benches and a pear tree! I'll be coming back here to check out the interior.

I am in the southwest corner of the Wagner station area. I walk up Via Seprio back toward Piazza Piemonte. Walking up this street I pass another school and modern homes and smell the odour of cat pee. I walk down Via Sardegna. Another highlight of the area is the fire station. In six years of living in Milan, I can't say that I've ever noticed a fire station. The best part was the old, golden lab sleeping in front of the station. He couldn't be bothered with people walking by, he only lifted his head when the gate of the station opened and a car drove in. Vibel-L'Architecte de L'Enfant is an adorable children't furniture store in Piazza Sicilia.

I turned east onto Via Ruggiero Settimo. Quite the contrast in buildings on this street. There was a building with dark graffiti on the facade and the side directly beside this beautiful house with a calm, Mediterranean blue glass exterior. On Via Giorgio Washington I walked north back to Piazza Piemonte. I passed a ArtDance Milano school. Number 14 Via Washington caught my eye because of the latin writing and windows and balconies. 

I continued my tour in the east end of the Wagner station circle, walking along Via Elba. The architecture on this grand boulevard is very beautiful. Centro HOY is a mix between health spa, osteopathy, halotherapy and yoga studio. Walking east on Via Romualdo Marenco I saw interesting architecture, gates and residences. I concluded the southeast section of my tour along Via Domenico Cimarosa and Corso Vercelli. 


Corso Vercelli is like Via Torino or Corso Buenos Aires. It has all the big stores: Zara Home, Sephora, Coin, Victoria's Secret, Keihl's, etc. I was intrigued by the Scuola Cova. It's a foundation that offers courses in furniture, ceramics, screen printing, glass and multimedia design. I past Barabba pizzeria as I walked up Via Belfiore, which is like Via Lazzaro Spallanzani.   

I walked along Via Piero Capponi, Via Giotto, and Via Mario Pagano. There is a monument to Luigi Calabresi. He was a police officer who was shot in the street and murdered in Milan on 17 May 1972 on his way to work. Just outside Pagano station, there is a food container that serves pasta called E Pasta. Walking along Via del Burchiello, beside Parco Guido Vergani, I couldn't get over how green the area is. There are tons of trees and the parking lot had spots for electric cars and bicycles. I also heard many people speaking English. 

I've made a point of including the full street name of all the places I went. I love that the street signs in Milan actually tell you who the person that the street is named after was and when they lived. Like Via Piero Capponi, who was an Italian statesman and warrior from Florence. There is another school of Via Capponi. Via Tranquillo Cremona is named after a painter. There were lots of children playing here. I went down Via Privata Duccio di Bonisegna, who was another painter, active in the city of Siena in Tuscany in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Number 3 had shutters with cut outs in the shape of all the suits of cards: hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds. Along this street there is also the Club Alpino ItalianoI concluded my tour of the Wagner station area by walking up Via Giotto back to Piazza Piemonte past the Auditorium and Periodicals San Paolo and Consulate of Jordan on the way.

Walking around this area felt like being in a different city. I can't believe I've lived here for 6 years and didn't know Corso Vercelli existed. I will come back, especially to check out Biblioteca Sicilia and Scuola Cova. 


Battle of the Oranges - Storico Carnevale di Ivrea

Exactly a month ago, LL and I were on our way to Aosta for a day of snowboarding. We got off to a late start and as we were driving the oil light came on in the car. Since they didn't have oil at the service station on the side of the highway (of course, Italy!), we had to get off at Ivrea. LL mentioned that this was the place where they have the battle of the oranges and I remembered that it was Carnevale time. Lucky for us, we were in town on the day the battle took place!

A colleague of mine asked if I could send her pictures, videos, and/or links that would show what the orange festivities are all about and the how-tos of participating so she could include a post on her blog. She also said I could include my own personal accounts to share my experience. So I was inspired to write a blog post of my own.

Carnevale is a rich tradition and very important to the town of Ivrea. The story of the Carnevale di Ivrea is this: A baron who starved the city was driven away thanks to a miller's daughter who rebelled against the "jus prime noctis" and roused the people to revolt. The miller's daughter is the heroine of the Carnevale and the festivities begin when she parades around the town on her horse-drawn carriage waving to the crowd and throwing mimosa flowers and candies to the people.

The whole city is divided into parishes and each parish decorates their neighbourhood by displaying their flags and colours. This tradition reminded me of Tuscan cities and towns I visited this summer, such as Florence, Siena and Cortona, and of the banner men in the TV show Game of Thrones. The houses are called Picche, Morte, Tuchini, Arduini, Pantere, Diavoli, Mecenari and Credendari. Our favourite parish was the Morte. Their colours are black, red and white and their mascot looks like the Grim Reaper. In preparation for the battle, each parish has a band  composed of drummers and pipers who play music as they parade through the town. All around the city the squares are full of crates of oranges waiting to be crushed during the battle. You can really feel the excitement and energy as you walk around before the big battle.

We found what we thought was a safe spot behind a net in one of the squares and settled in for the big show. During the battle the town's people are represented by orange throwers on foot without any protection. They have shirts with drawstrings around the waist and a low cut neckline so they can literally store their ammunition inside their shirts. Their objective is to pelt oranges at the feudal lord's army, personified by the soldiers throwing oranges from horse-draw carts, who wear protective masks reminiscent of ancient armour. The lord's army do about three laps of each square before they move on to the next battle. I was really concerned for the horses who were getting caught in the cross-fire. I know from first hand experience how much getting whipped with an orange hurts. Despite hiding behind the protective net, we still got hit by people's poorly aimed oranges. I got hit in the arm and leg and L got hit in the face! We saw a lot of tourists trying to join in on the fun. If a local saw a tourist throwing oranges, they would go after them and have to initiate the tourist before they could continue fighting.

One way to avoid getting hit is by wearing the Prygian hat, or liberty cap. The hat looks like a giant red sock that kind flops to one side. If you don't own one, you can still be safe as the hats are sold in the Orange Village. In Ancient Rome, the hat was given to freed slaves, hence becoming a symbol of freedom. Even the miller's daughter was wearing one!

The Ivrea Carnevale was a really authentic and fun experience. I've been to the Carnevale in Venice and I'd say Ivrea's is much more exciting and involved. Besides the Carnevale, Ivrea seems like a really nice town that I'd like to go back and visit. I would definitely recommend this event to anyone visiting Northern Italy in February. For more information about the Storico Carnevale di Ivrea visit: http://www.storicocarnevaleivrea.it