Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Cheating on Milan for a day

View of Varese from the Giardini Estense

Even though Milan is a cosmopolitan and international industry powerhouse in which most dream to fit its hectic half jet-setting half latin rhythm, I find myself daydreaming of the day I'll get to take a train out of the city and into the green countryside. There's a small chance the 9 hours I spend in an office every day contribute to my oxygen depravation but I know myself enough to say that being outdoors is what brings me peace and happiness. Thankfully, my job also entails sometimes spending a day a week at Villa Panza in Varese, a small city I had never heard of and never really intended to visit anyway.

Example of greenery a)

                         Example of greenery b)

This post would have no plot twist if I didn't end up going to Varese and liking it - a lot! It's a quick train journey away from Milan but a whole lot closer to the mountains which make for a spectacular backdrop. The air is probably the first thing I noticed. Even though it's clearly not all an alpine meadow, it smelt so much fresher and cleaner than the air in Milan. I even got a whiff of cut grass which is a plant quite unknown to the milanese. It's also super manageable in that 10 hours is enough time to see it and enjoy a nice day out at a reasonable pace. It has it's history that's for sure but it lives as the quiet suburb from where rich individuals chose to commute to Milan, and I totally understand why. As a consequence though, it's a surprisingly chic and bourgeois town, very clean and manicured with an impressive shopping menu, I'm talking Givenchy and Bottega Veneta full-on stores.

But that's not where my days start. They start with a walk from the station, up a steep winding road with cars coming from around the bend at full speed, totally unaware that a poor tourist who is cursing at the Italian authorities for not making a pedestrian way might be walking from the oposite direction. Forget the morning espresso, this experience is enough to wake any coffee addict up. At the top of said hill is Villa Panza which I have now dubbed my happy place. It's a sizeable 18th century villa with the standard Italienate features. What makes it stand out though is its INSANE-ly cool contemporary art collection and its gardens, in this particular order. It's probably the last place you'd think to look for a neon art instalation, or a photography exhibit on 9/11 but sure enough you will find both (and more) there. At the moment there's a Bob Wilson exhibition called Tales running until october with some unusual video portraits of celebrities in different guises, contrasting pop-culture with the sombre and proper decor of the place. My favourite part must be the corridor and the adjacent rooms though, it reminds me of an edgy London exhibit.

After you've spent a decent amount of time on a bench, eyes closed and face towards the warm sun, head back down in the town and go for a walk on the main old shopping street. It's super charming with pastel coloured buildings and balconies where I imagine the locals take their coffee in the morning. You can do some serious shopping there too; I was quite surprised but there were big designer stores for brands like Bottega Veneta and Givenchy. I couldn't quite afford even going in probably so I went to a very cute interior decor shop called Coccole e Vitamine which had heavenly scented candles, some hand made ones shaped like flowers which I think make for stunning gifts. I had some coffee at 5 Via Carlo Giuseppe Veratti (I can't remember the name of the place but it was just up the street) and wondered some more. I also visited the Giardini Estense and the Palace which remind me a lot of Austria. I guess the mountains in the background contributed a bit to that as well... I passed by the Torre Civico and then made my way to the station. All in all it was a great day out of the big manic city - and I think I shall be back because I read of a bike trail that goes around Lago di Varese that looks right up my street.

The nameless courtyard with the home decor shop and next door Bottega Veneta 

The sweetest newstand

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