Milano Moderno

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Fashion immortal Giorgio Armani’s mega-complex consortium stands at Via Manzoni and Via Montenapoleone, Milan’s crossroads of couture. Designed in 1937 by Enrico Griffini, for the past decade the former Assicurazioni Generale building has served as an Armaniac’s utopia. With almost as many headset security guards as the nearby vast Duomo di Milano, and high-contrast lighting as Gothic as the Duomo’s chapels, Armani’s sacred interior spaces reflect the designer’s passion for contrasting surfaces and textures.

My planned spring retreat to the scenic Italian Lake District had a bit of a detour when my travel companion scored a last-minute ticket for Cenacolo Vinciano, as the Milanese call The Last Supper. So we made the stop before heading to Lago Maggiore and Lago di Como. And with so much happening in Italia the past several weeks, Pasqua, Pasquetta, National Liberation Day, Primo Maggio, the latest Berlusconi updates and Giovanni Paolo II’s Beato, hard to believe Italians were able to do anything. On Milan television this past weekend we were able to watch a recap of William and Kate’s vows, ”Vestito bianco – Kate wore a white dress!” with The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” and Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” as background music, spliced in were photos of Kate Moss, “otra Kate,” explained the newsreader about the other Kate who did not marry William; a segue into a lengthy snippet on the US Pole Dancing Championships; followed by a live in diretto from the concert festivities for Papa Giovanni Paolo II’s beatification with a quick shot of a smiling Silvio Berlusconi. Osama’s demise was a brief mention and a trailer item.

Italy’s two men of the moment: Pope John Paul’s path to sainthood and Silvio Berlusconi’s journey to wherever.

With Milan at the ready with so many swell mega-Euro hotels, and not opting for something middle ground, my friend and I went for the most modest accommodations we could find, landing at the Hotel Palazzo delle Stelline near Piazza Cadorna. The former convent turned hotel-meeting center is where Leonardo is said to have slept while at work on the Cenacolo across the street at Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie. We were pleased with the Stelline, what with its magnificent art collection and proximity to the Bar Magenta and Chocolat on via Boccaccio, two of our fave neighborhood spots.

After my friend soaked up the late XVth century, we hopped over to Spazio Rossana Orlandi, the temple of Modernissimo, only two blocks from the Stelline. Although Sgra. Orlandi and staff were unpacking crates from the recent Milan International Design Show, they kindly gave us carte blanche at the former factory turned templo moderno. Opened in 2002, Spazio Rossana Orlandi features a second-floor gallery where you can find contemporary and vintage furniture. Three years ago Orlandi opened another gallery space dedicated to limited editions and unique pieces, a showcase for promoting young and upcoming designers. Then, a look at this past weekend’s Primo Maggio scenes at Milan’s iconic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a few clicks at the scene along Via Montenapoleone, and a look inside the Palazzo delle Stelline and its art collection.

Spazio Rossana Orlandi
Via Matteo Bandello, 14
20123 Milano

L to R.: Not the easiest to find, look for this doorbell at Via Matteo Bandello, 14. The door opens onto a courtyard of this former tie factory turned 21st-century gallery-shop; Rossana Orlandi.
A caricature of Sgra. Orlandi in the office hall.
A double Couture Sofa made by Bokja, combining western design with a selection of vintage fabric from the Middle East.
L to R.: The accompanying chairs.; A sculptural bouquet.
A captivating miniature tableau.
L to R.: A courtyard scene.; Marco Tabasso, press officer at Rossana Orlandi, looking forward to Art Basel Miami.
Storage suitcase drawers by James Plumb.
A view of the upstairs gallery space.
An array of designs.
The upstairs main gallery looking towards the courtyard.
L to R.: A shimmering light in the afternoon sun.; A crafted metalwork.
These textiles were hooked up in the stairwell down to the basement.
Orsina Sforza.
This artful chandelier caught our eye.
An ensemble of chairs and tables.
How much more aesthetically comfortable?
The Shapemaker.
A selection of ceramics.
In the courtyard, this equine statue holds the form for various figurative narratives.
Found in the central courtyard.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The more than 140-year-old cathedral-like Galleria is a double arcade connecting Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala, formed by two glass-vaulted arcades at right angles intersecting in a central octagon covered by domed-glass cast iron roof, as much a tourist haunt as a meeting spot for old Milan.
Milanese style is sometimes dimensionally different from when it appears on mannequins and models on brightly-lit catwalks and flashy runways.
Louis Vuitton anchors a central position.
A Louis Vuitton handbag makes for a window centerpiece on Sunday.
LV is flanked by McDonald’s golden arches.
The Gucci Caffe.
Galleria entrance from the Piazza del Duomo.
Italy’s emblem, SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus, is a mosaic-tile reference to Old Italy’s form of government.

Via Montenapoleone

The landmark Cova was the only spot on my list but we found the bar three-deep and a line for the tables.
Valentino’s window was of note.
L to R.: High fashion.; Higher fashion.

Weekend street scenes on Montenapoleone

Lisa Corti SRL Home Textile Emporium.
Altro Cuoio’s bicycle totes caught our eye.
Galleria di Giorgio Armani.
The Armani building features statues representing the patron saints of Milan, Venice and Trieste. Marcelo Mascherini (1906-1983), sculptor.
Across the street, molto Armani.

Hotel Palazzo delle Stelline
Corso Magenta, 61 Milano

Readapting the 16th century for 21st century life can be challenging. Thus, discovering the superb adaptive re-use of Palazzo delle Stelline can be exhilarating for anyone who values historic preservation.

The Palazzo Stelline is both a conference center, a hotel, and a showcase for European contemporary art. Although only rated a 3-star, and an 89 EU daily rate for a double, we enjoyed adapting to its limitations and conveniences.
The lobby and staff at the ready.
L to R.: The 16th-century arcades have been enclosed; their marbled flooring etched with geometric patterns.; The stone relates the hotel’s history first as a monastery then in the 16th century as a hospital; later, a refuge for orphans, a gift of Carlo Borromeo.
Leonardo is said to have stayed at the monastery that became the Stelline while he worked on La Ultima Cena, The Last Supper, across the street at Chiesa Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The hotel’s bookstore-gallery is currently featuring a show of Rousseau’s work in Italy.
Until 2012, the Palazzo Stelline is featuring works from the Alessandro Grassi collection of contemporary European art.
L to R.: Il domino transformato. Nessun amore. 1996. Margherita Manzelli, artist.; Carlo Borromeo. 1997. Sandro Chia, artist.
Senza titolo. 1987. Mario Delladova, artist.

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