Friday, August 6, 2010

FAREWELL ITALY

Photograph by Davide Bongianni
My Italian summer concluded with a trip to Milan. Walking the city streets made me feel as though I was living in the pages of Vogue Italia. Fashionable women and men mill seamlessly in and out of exclusive boutiques. The flow of traffic suggests that some of the lesser-known designers are influencing the larger high fashion brands (such as Bulgari, Dolce & Gabana, Versace, and Armani). Although some may refer to the fashion created in Milan as “haute couture”, I was surprised to learn that this term is a legally protected label in France.

Photograph (of Duomo Cathedral) by Yen Baet

In addition to Milan being a high fashion mecca, it is also a great place for the Arts. The Teatro alla Scala is the largest fine arts venue in Milan. It is an opera house that promotes itself as a non-elitist public service - open to all citizens. If you’re an opera fan who craves hearing powerful vocal chords, or, would enjoy a unique music sampler, the Teatro alla Scala is the place to visit.
Photograph by Stephen Stork
My last day in Italy was spent going to three intriguing places: one religious, one stylistic, and one culinary. The first was the Plaza Duomo - a genuinely breathtaking architectural structure. Unlike many grand cathedrals that appear extremely dense and heavy - this cathedral has delicate lace-like towers that connect to seemingly weightless walls and arches.

The next destination was a contemporary contrast to the Duomo. The “Design Supemarket” is a wildly diverse collection of the biggest names in fashion, fragrance, and houseware design. Brand names from all over the world are found under one roof, across five floors of undivided shopping debauchery. This is the most famous, over the top example, of conspicuous consumption I have ever seen.

Photograph by Yuichi Shiraishi

More to my personal taste, the Peck Food Store in Milan was a stop that left me speechless and hungry to return. Here you can find 5,000 selections amongst the 14,000 wine bottles that are available on site. Peck is a culinary paradise for those who like to try a vast array of different olive oils, charcuterie, and cheeses from the different regions of Italy. It makes for an expensive picnic but it is truly worth the visit.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SUMMER IN SICILY - Licata, Arigento & Ragusa

Photograph by Angelo Bosco
The landscape one experiences during the inland drive from Milazzo to Licata is reminiscent of the final flashback scene in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator: small roads intersect the wheat fields moving by direction of the wind. An occasional rustic structure dots the landscape. Unlike the places in Sicily I’ve visited which speak to the tourist, this area speaks of “home” and amber waves of grain.

I arrived in Licata hungry and headed towards a restaurant named La Madia. Tucked away on an unassuming street, this unique restaurant is more of a destination for food lovers than it is a place for the locals. Pino Cuttaia, La Madia’s Chef, opened this gem of a restaurant over 10 years ago with his wife Loredana. Both the dining room, and the ingredients Chef Cuttaia uses, are traditional to Sicily - yet his techniques and presentations are cutting edge in style. I enjoyed a multi-course lunch which included anchovies, sardines, cuttlefish, sea urchin, caviar, wild boar and fresh pastas.
Photograph by Roberto Zingales
From Licata I traveled to Arigento’s “Valley of the Temples”. Visiting this area is a step back to the time of Classical Greece. The remains of the 7 Doric style temples date as far back as the 5th century BC. Most of the temples are damaged. One only consists of four columns. The Temple of Concordia is the best preserved . While I only stayed for a short period of time, visitors should expect to spend at least half a day here.
Photograph by Erik Bierbauer
The final stop on this stretch was the road to Ragusa. Nothing quite compares to the sight of Ragusa. It’s a stunning drive down into a deep “V” shaped valley that’s lined with thousand-year old sandstone houses. I arrived after dark and and stayed at Locanda Don Serafin - an exquistie blend of contemporary and Baroque. The minimal decor of the restaurant is as unique as Ragusa itself; emphasis is on the natural architecture of the building. I dined at their Michelin starred restaurant where Vincenzo Candiano is the chef. The food is excellent and they have over 1000 wines to choose from. Truly a unique experience.

Artistic Photograph (Siracusa, Sicily) by Heather Jacks