Corbusier and Mussolini – Big-M Modernism and Fascism (the Real Thing)

This isn’t just Fascism-the-adjective-that-means-something-BAD. This is an example of architectural authoritarianism.

Corbusier was pestering Mussolini with designs for Addis Ababa three months after the conquest. That’s eager collaboration!

The link goes to a fascinating case study at Failed Architecture that discusses how eager European architects were to treat Addis Ababa as a blank slate – even though it had been the capital city of an empire since 1889 and was a real city.

Perhaps one should file this under War Crime Trials: Architects?

I like Milano

Well, I like Italy in general. I like scruffy Napoli. I like grandiose Roma. And I like Milano. It’s easy to think of Milano as Italia Lite – the way my sister once described Singapore as Asia Lite. She thought Singapore was a great place for an American family to live while the one of them works all over Asia. She spent a lot of time in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. – but her family was back in Singapore. Milano always looks like it would be a relatively easy place for an American to get used to.

But Milano is as Italian as anywhere. Their proudest moment is a 5 day uprising against the Austrians in 1848, le Cinque Giornate. But you still run into San Carlo Borromeo around every corner, or his cousin and successor Federigo. We  went into the library at the Brera Institute where Manzoni wrote I Promessi Sposi, the set text of Italian secondary education that teaches Italians to read and write Standard Italian, even if they speak dialect at home. But I also saw the Borsa – Italy’s stock exchange (I was wandering on my own). Milano really is Italy’s financial capital in very much the way NYC is America’s.

If I were rich I’d love to live in the Brera neighborhood.Brera Neighborhood glimpse

It was a great trip – more to follow, interspersed with Rome again.

Back from Milano with a few hundred pictures to sort

We had three fun-filled days in Milano and got back last night around 9 pm. I’m still tired!

Probably the best thing for me was the contemporary art fair – MiArt. But I have been to Milan before, so I was mainly revisiting (though I spent more time in San Lorenzo than before – pictures to follow!).


We’re headed to Milan this weekend and I’m scrambling to reread everything I can about the cathedral – it’s a VERY big building with a VERY complicated building history!

further: and I remembered to pop my battery into the charger this morning! The battery on my new (last fall) Nikon D3100 lasts approximately forever – and I’ve already had one “damn it, my battery’s dead!” incident this semester because of that.

“Italy is nothing but a geographical expression.”

Metternich said something along those lines (I wanted to confirm the wording and found several different versions online, but also claims that he wrote several different versions to different correspondents over the years). He’s still right.

Monday started with a lecture on the multiplicity of Italies – the students had read a book chapter by John Dickie called “Imagined Italies.” The news cooperated with us splendidly – the Veneto began voting Sunday on secession from Italy. It’s a non-binding resolution, but they seem to be interested in creating alternative avenues of taxation. Venice was the last big part taken from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (however sentimental the Italians got over Trieste). Now, La Serenissima wants out?

Even better, one of the students had read BBC online and knew about it – so she got to tell the class!

The best sfogliatella ever?

Me and Sfogliatelle


I’d go that far.

In service for the Food and Culture in Italy course (being taught by our GustoLab partner, Sonia Massari) we visited Eccelenze Campane, which is kind of hard to describe. The name means Campanian Specialities or Excellences. It’s a foodie paradise for organic, fresh, and local stuff in Campania – a combination of grocery store, restaurant, and production center. We watched people making mozzarella and ricotta di bufala – and then got to eat it. Wow. We watched people making pasta – and some of us ate that for lunch (I had alici fritti, myself – yum, yum). We watched and helped people making pastries – and you see me eating a sfogliatelle with a filling made with fresh ricotta di bufala. It was over the top good, and I finally understand how they get all the flaky layers!

A cranky start to the day.

NOW I’m cranky. I woke up at 5.30 this morning with a dry mouth. I had a drink of water and went back to bed – having noticed that it was not raining. My alarm went off just before 7. I was still lying in bed when the DOWNPOUR began.

7.32 and it’s still raining hard – and I have a rendezvous with my class at 9 a.m. at the foot of the Vittoriano to walk around the Imperial Forums. Couldn’t it have waited until 11, when I would be home and Christine’s INDOOR class would be in session?


Wow – our students arrived last Thursday. They received their January bus passes on Friday. I was escorting one to a pharmacy this evening and we were checked by the transit police – she didn’t have hers (and admitted to me that she couldn’t find it this morning). She also told me that one of her roommates has lost hers already as well. €35 apiece down the drain – and now they have to cover themselves till February 1!. A monthly cost €35. A weekly cost €24. I think a day pass is €6, and a one-time-ride is €1.50 (I know the last one is right because I bought her one to get home – then she decided to take a cab because she’s not sure of the connections in Prati). I loaned her the cash to pay her €50 (otherwise it turns into a €100 citation to be payed at a post office later).

But you know, it’s all better if it happens in Rome!

Everyday life

DishesFinished with the – the glasses in the sink are all rinsed and can wait till tomorrow. I had everyone (all 17 students, my co-director, and her 2 year old) over for aperitivi – prosecco and finger food. We had fun, lots of them finally had Italian cell numbers to give us, and we satisfied the administration’s request that we have a formally designated assembly point for evacuation in the wake of national disasters. So, come the fall of the EU, they know how to get to my apartment. What we’ll do then is anyone’s guess. Hike across Umbria to the international airport in Florence singing “Climb Every Mountain”? I think there are too many Peace Corps returnees in our office for abroad programs!


Click here to see what I couldn’t see today – the 100 (Roman) foot wide base of the Pyramid of Cestius.

Here’s the wikipedia link: the work is being sponsored by a Japanese individual. Not a great sign for Italy? Kind of back to the days of Victorian gentlemen paying for facades to be built onto major churches in Florence?

P.S. I hate Flickr. Why won’t it let me post my pictures here??