Milanese from Rome, Giulia Mizzoni has lived in Milan for five years, she is 31 years old and is a FoxSports presenter and commentator, the only female face of the channel. In 2011 Giulia was the first Italian woman to comment a Champions League game (for the record: RC Genk-Bayer Leverkusen). In a few days, on April 4th, Giulia will go on maternity leave. Her baby boy is to be born in May and will be called Pietro. The football fans will not see her for a while.
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It’s always been the same, I think, for thousands of years. It is a center, a large crossroads where everybody meets. I am probably one of the last specimens of a Milanese born in Milan and raised in Milan. But if we go back to my grandparents, they came from central Italy. The people whose grandparents and great-grandparents were born here, are perhaps only four or five. But if you are looking for the people who have made the city great, only a few were born here. Most came from outside and then they fell in love…
HERE THERE IS EVERYTHING
Even if in recent years they attempted to massacre it all, here there still is everything: commerce, culture, industry… Lots of work… Everything.
Lots of work and a lot of nice people. Although in recent years we tend to think that the Milanesi are always angry, nervous, stressed, and in a rush, the Milanesi are actually the ones who have always welcomed everyone.
The fact that they are still here now is a sign, for you but also for me, that it is very difficult to leave because in fact this is a city of great charm.
NOT ALWAYS AS IT SEEMS
Of course, we must also say that it is less beautiful and efficient than other people, those who live outside, think. I see friends who come here and think everything is great and so I have to tell them, ‘Look, it’s not all that great…Look, that stuff doesn’t work….’
The main problem is that in recent years the city has lost its soul and now it definitely must regain it.
MILAN IS NOT AN OFFICE
One thing that happened in the last fifteen years is that the city has been seen as a huge office where you arrive on Monday morning, angrily get things done, and then wait for Friday at five o’clock to run away. The Friday night stampede… All queueing up on their way out. Now I think things have slightly
FATIMA, MY MILAN
My sites are those of my childhood, thus not very beautiful places but I like them. The neighborhood where I was born and raised. I’m speaking of the south side, an area that is called Fatima, which takes its name from the local church of Fatima. There are some meadows, some houses…
WHAT ARE THE MILANESI LIKE?
They seem a bit unpleasant, however, they are sensitive and very anxious types. They are like those cats that seem assholes at first but then come and brush up against you. They mostly don’t learn from past mistakes.
THE CITY OF SKYSCRAPERS
It has nothing to do with our city. Absolutely nothing. In fact I haven’t seen any rush to get the apartments in the skyscrapers. The Arabs and Russians go there, if they will ever get here, because I haven’t seen them yet.
THE MOSQUE: YES OR NO?
I am fatalistic and I think also realistic, meaning that the changes are so enormous that it is not that one can think: ‘No, it can’t be done’. It will happen as it happened in the past. This is why I say that we never learn from our mistakes. Studying history makes you realize that what is happening today actually happened a thousand times in the past, it is the base of our habits. If you study you realize that these habits are not ours, they are customs, attitudes or ways of doing things that we got centuries ago and that we incorporated in our culture. Exactly what I think we should do today.
A WHIM TO SATISFY
I performed on the stage of La Scala, what more can I want? Celebrating Mass in the Duomo?! I’m already satisfied.
I was born in the Corvetto district, but when I was little my parents moved to Vigentino. However, still in the southern outskirts of Milan. When I was nine, maybe ten, in fact when I was in elementary school…
THE MUSIC DISCOVERY
…The Scuola Civica established courses in the outer areas of the city, I guess because there was someone intelligent who thought: ‘Let’s educate the kids that grow up out of the center’. And I seized the moment because I was very attracted to music, I really wanted to learn.
COURSES DOWN THE ROAD
I initially attended the music courses of the Civica near my home, then after a few years – let’s say when I was around 14 years old – these courses moved to the main buildings, which back then were in Porta Vigentina, not very far from where I lived.
MILAN AND THE LITTLE ELIO
That Milan was clearly filtered from the eyes of a 10-year-old, 7-year-old, even 12-13, so everything was beautiful: the policeman directing the road traffic, who greeted all the children…
FREEDOM IN THOSE YEARS
What I remember is that from 2.00 until 7.00 pm we were out without dads and moms around, we were free, something that seems impossible today.
It is like one who fell ill with cancer, who recovered, and now is slowly and painfully trying to get back to normal life. I hope that the city has learned from its mistakes and that won’t repeat them.
THE WORST MISTAKES
Those of the era of the post-PSI mayors who, seen through the eyes of today, look like cultured monsters although they were certainly corrupt. Even those who came afterwards were corrupt, and were even more ignorant and less interested in the city and citizens.
TODAY IT IS A BIT BETTER (MAYBE)
In recent years the mistakes committed at a time of havoc in the city today will not be committed again. It seems to me that we’ve seen small signs of change in the past four years.
THINGS TO CHANGE
I would act for what concerns the culture, because it is my field and also because it is much more important than what people think. Let’s say that the city was Italy’s cultural soul. It was, now it is no longer so, even if it certainly has the means to return to play this role.
STOP TO CLOSED THEATRES
It would be enough to start from awareness… If citizens were aware that it is important not to close the theaters, the cinemas as happens more and more often.
MILAN 2016, WILL YOU VOTE?
I always vote even though with more and more effort because we have to swallow always bitterer mouthfuls. I continue to do it because I’m aware of the the efforts, the blood that it took to get here today, free.
Two words: Giò Forma. If one is not in the field – the field of the true creatives, the real ones always on the ball, not the hipster ones who are good for a drink – when they read these two words they are rightly inclined to think: What’s that ? Who are these guys? What do they do? First things first. Giò Forma is the name of a Milan firm of architects, designers and artists who are currently among the most valued and appreciated realities in Italy, also because of their ability to stay on the market in their innovative and unconventional way.
In short, they do everything: from the famous Tree of Life of Expo 2015 to the Radio Deejay’s 34th birthday party in Rome, from Versace fashion shows to Laura Pausini’s and Tiziano Ferro’s concerts, from the event to celebrate the Bicentennial of the Mexican Republic to the opening of the Museum of Bahrain. They come up with the ideas, develop the skills and realize it. In Italy and abroad.
Giò Forma has three partners, all 46 years old: Cristiana Picco from Milan, graduated in painting at the Accademia di Brera; Claudio Santucci, architect from Florence (born in Livorno, in the picture he is the one on the left); Florian Boje, German designer (from Hamburg) who studied at Brera and who is also Cristina’s husband (they have a 14 year old daughter). These are more or less their roles: Piccois the artist, Santucci the precise one, Boje the philosopher. However, they are very pleasant. If only there were more like them.
I arrived in Milan in 2006 to do a master’s degree after graduating in law in Bologna. My challenge was to change city: I wanted to go away from home and from Bologna, so I started to look for a master’s course. The one I liked most was in Marketing and Communication and it was in Milan, a completely unknown city to me.
THE CITY OF STRESS
Despite being very close, because Milan is an hour’s train ride from Bologna – to the Bolognesi, as for all the people in Italy – Milan is the city where people are always in a hurry, who work a lot… ‘How much more the Milanesi work compared to the Romans… ‘, more or less the usual clichés that people here at 20 years old… I was 22, it was 2006, and I decided to go to Milan. I rented a flat in Corso Como, the only street I knew in this city.
THE STREET OF NIGHTLIFE
The street of nightlife, I was 22, and I said: ‘Oh well, I’ll live there’, and there my journey in Milan started. First the master, then the internship – the classic path in Milan – and after a while I was hired by a company. And so I went to work in Rogoredo, for Sky.
THE MILANESI AND CAKES
I was the one who brought cakes to the office every morning. I was in women’s team… I think the women from Milan deserve a separate chapter.
ALL ON A DIET
All on a diet, strongly fixated, and struggling with work for 20 hours a day. I was the more genuine and down-to-earth one. I still remember the first cake I brought to my boss, a very skinny woman. She looked at me as if I was a Martian and said: ‘Is there butter in it?’, And I said, ‘What do you mean? It is a cake, of course there is butter in it.’ She didn’t touch it.
At first I didn’t think it was the right city for me, I hated it, there were times when I really hated it, because Milan to me was the combination of many factors: leaving home, being alone, working alone, earning nothing… Many things together associated to change.
I LEFT IN 2009
I stayed until 2009, when I decided to give everything up.
My bosses… It was because of the job, the fact of being thrown into a huge company where I was part of a team of women whom I would have never thought would work so hard.
THE DESIRE TO COOK
I wanted to cook at all costs. It was in my DNA.
A FAMILY IN THE KITCHEN
Being born in Agropoli, in the Cilento, with a father from Lecce and a mother from Bologna who is a sommelier and sommelier professor… I have been a sommelier since I was 18 years old, as my whole family. My father is a doctor, all the others are doctors, but at home food has always meant everything. We talked around the table while eating, every family problem was discussed at the table in front of food.
I think the really important thing about Milan is this, and it is not easy to understand. Let me explain: I have always thought of not being great in the kitchen but…
When I arrived in Milan my colleagues pointed out to me that making cakes, inviting people to dinner, even ten at a time, was important. They pointed out that it was a special thing, my special thing. They made me understand that I had something more… I was famous for my cheesecake, my apple pie… I always brought something good to the office.
MY SPECIAL LUNCH BASKET
I was the one who brought a particular lunch basket (schiscetta), because they all had salads. I kept bringing couscous, quinoa, strange things with particular vegetables which I prepared the night before. So I brought not only cakes but also a strange schiscetta to the office.
BOOKS AND COOKING
I locked myself at home in Bologna for a year and I got myself the Alma books, the cooking school books and I began studying the techniques, to cook a lot, to perfect my cooking. Then, when I realized that for me it was time to go back to Milan, I came back.
A JOB THAT DIDN’T EXIST
I chose Milan because it was the only city that could allow me to do the job I had in mind, which is not a coded job. If you ask me what I do I say freelance. This was the project I had in mind: to cook and write about cooking, but I didn’t want to be a journalist, I wanted to go around restaurants, and ‘criticize’, meaning tasting, understanding, judging. It was a combination of many different jobs. The point is that a school that prepares you for this didn’t exist nor could I confront myself with someone because this job has no history.
When I arrived here there were already many bloggers, I wasn’t the first one, but I had a clear idea, and this city, I think, gives you the opportunity to put certain things into practice. And here are the companies I started to work with.
I came back in 2010, but I already spoke the language of marketing because I came from a big company and, since I spoke that language, Milan was very easy for me.
FOOD AND MEDIA, ISN’T THAT TOO MUCH?
I believe that all this will surely lead to a natural selection in the next years because now there are many people in this business. The world is full of food bloggers, every day more. People understand who to follow and who to choose, and this is true also for what concerns the chefs. This disproportionate wave will almost certainly come to an end…
Being a chef is a difficult job, it’s very hard. I would never do it, chefs live an infernal life.
BETTER MASTERCHEF THAN THE BIG BROTHER
For what concerns television, I think it is deeply wrong to communicate to the kids that cooking schools are the right choice if you want to work in TV. Many young people were led astray by this thing, and today many of them enroll in these schools that now see a boom of enrollments because everyone wants to become the new Rugiati or the new Borghese. But I find it wonderful that young people are passionate about food, of course without getting to the extreme of the seven-year-old who makes stuffed chicken because that I find absurd. Speaking of normality and common sense, which should always be the basis of everything, I think that it’s better if kids become passionate about food rather than the stupid programs of which there have been many in recent years, I find it smarter. I prefer if they get excited about Masterchef rather than The Big Brother.
CHEFS ENFORCED BY TELEVISION
I don’t know. The chefs who are now on TV were already important before, so I don’t think so. I would have some doubts about the young ones, who were helped because they didn’t work twenty years in kitchens. On food bloggers, I say it now and I’ll say it for life, and this also applies to fashion bloggers and travel bloggers, as long as they can improvise there will be thousands of them. But where there is no substance you can see it, people are not stupid, indeed.
ALL CRITICS IN MILAN
It is a peculiar city with regards to food because here, in Milan, everyone is a critic. It’s funny… I can see it even with a lot of people I know that have nothing to do with this environment: they no longer go to the restaurant to enjoy the food and the evening, to relax…
EATING IS RELISHING
Food now is seen as something to be photographed and analyzed. Before people ate and relished the taste, now many people no longer do so. And as long as those working in the field do it I can understand, but I find it absurd when I see others doing that. You see them at the restaurant taking pictures and commenting: ‘I’m not sure if this rib is cooked well, it seems a little red inside’. They are all hypercritical towards food. Fortunately, I think it’s a fleeting moment. It will end sooner or later. I hope…
Milan is the city that also has the largest selection of restaurants in Italy, so it is normal that here customers are knowledgeable. Do you want to eat Peruvian food in Milan? Here’s a Peruvian restaurant.
ONLY HERE THE TRUE CHINESE…
Milan is the first city where I ate good Chinese food, given that eating good Chinese in Italy is almost impossible. I couldn’t live in any other city in Italy only because of the choice of restaurants that Milan offers.
MILAN, ITALY, WORLD
In Milan I feel I personally don’t envy anything from foreign countries. In any other Italian cities I always feel limited by provincialism and closed-minded attitudes. Milan is the city that allows you to stay Italian, however, with a much more open mind.
ALWAYS A STEP AHEAD
I was walking down the street and on the ground I saw the advertisement for the election of the mayor of Milan. A communication campaign also on the street, I feel free to say that these things happen only in Milan. There is so much innovative communication. You can imagine how important this for me, since I work with social networks and the web. It’s not important, it is essential! It is the only Italian city where in a little while, and I expect it at any moment, people will go to the restaurant based on Instagram followers, as in New York. And probably it will happen here soon.
I am very fond of Brera, in some way I grew up there. Whenever my friends come to Milan we always go for a walk in Brera. I got my place right near Leonardo’s sluice, at the corner of San Marco that I find spectacular, very beautiful.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO EAT?
The last place I found is where I went last week with some vegetarian friends from Bologna who asked me: ‘Is there a vegetarian restaurant in Milan?’. Guys, in Milan there has been everything for years, vegetarian, vegan, etc. There is everything here. We went to a beautiful place called Capra e cavoli, where I had never been before. That’s the beauty of Milan, you are in Isola, you enter this place, you turn around, and it seems an open-air garden, well-furnished, something completely different to the places in the area. And if one wants to go to eat American food, there you go, you have a place for that. I like that. Being able to choose a different place every day is priceless. And the same when I have guests from outside Milan, indeed I must say that I enjoy the idea of being able to say: ‘What would you like to eat? American? Thai?’. You can’t do it anywhere, but here there is a place for everything.
WHEN I GROW UP
When I grow up I would like to continue to do what I do now. Obviously I’d like to have a little more time to be a mom and I think I’ll stay and live in this city, I don’t think I will leave Milan. Unless I decide to go abroad, but I don’t think I will… And as an adult, so probably in a few years, I hope to wake up and still have exactly the same idea. With some more children, perhaps.
THE BORING FOOD STARS
The thing that bores me the most are the food stars, the ones who it doesn’t take much to make them feel they accomplished it all.
WAR AMONG BLOGGERS
I am very well-liked. A little because I started to work as a food blogger in a certain way… Then because I was the first one to put on TV the ‘blogger’ caption: I have always been proud of this role when all were ashamed to seem as parvenus, hybrids between journalists and a housewives. Being a blogger was seen as something strange at the beginning… I am on good terms with everyone and many, I swear, come to me asking for advice: ‘How much should I charge for this job? Could you introduce me to this company?’. But I’m aware of this war among bloggers, especially among newcomers.
Cotoletta, risotto… You know I don’t often cook the cotoletta? It’s one of those things that I like to eat at the restaurant, but not because I don’t like frying, because every place where you eat it in Milan makes it different. And so I like to eat it in every way. I prefer it thick and I have my restaurants where I can go and eat it the way I like it. But I am absolutely omnivorous and I know how to cook the Milanese risotto and the osso buco well.
OYSTERS? NO, THANKS
I eat everything but oysters. By constraint, more than once, I ate them during the TV program Cuochi e fiamme, so I did my part. That’s it, that is the only thing that I don’t eat.
ME ON A DIET?
I’ve never been on a diet in my whole life.
Lorenzo Viola is a brain that got back home. One of those who, after a long and valuable experience abroad, decided to buy a ticket back to Italy. Obviously with a completely different approach to things from before. Milanese from Rho, 40 years old, architect, Viola is back from London, he opened his own studio and eight months ago he also opened a wine bar, Bicerìn, in the Corso Buenos Aires district (Via Panfilo Castaldi, 24). Here he tells us how it all went. Prosit.
VERY BEAUTIFUL AND VERY DIFFICULT
I oversaw the programming for the Expo Gate during the year before the Expo, and it was a great but difficult year because I remember that at the time we didn’t have the widespread approval that eventually, thank God, arrived.
A YEAR IN THE TRENCHES
I must say it was a year, you know, in the trenches. In fact, every morning I told myself: ‘Now I wear my helmet to go to work.’
As the Manager of the Expo Gate I left my comfort zone as a contemporary art curator and I dealt with multidisciplinary events. We hosted a bit of everything, from the association that promoted cycling mobility to the Accademia della Scala laboratory, we hosted both young artists and a great industrialist like Renzo Rosso, the Fondazione Piero Manzoni and the Fondazione Feltrinelli. In short, we hosted a lot of Milanesi and Italians who in one way or another recognized the uniqueness of Milan’s excellence.
THE CITY HAS CHANGED
It was like a wave that grew higher and higher… Milan rose on the crest of that wave and now we are in a fantastic period, the city has really changed.
CAREFUL WITH THE SOUFFLE’
But now, as I often say, we must pay attention to the soufflé effect. It is beautiful and delicious, but it could collapse at any moment.
MILAN, BACK TO LOVE
We must continue to believe in Milan and its enormous potential. It seems trivial, but behind the pessimism against Expo, I could see that 9 times out of 10 it was about the skepticism towards Milan’s potential and its value. Among the many positive things that Expo brought to the city and the country was to make the Milanesi fall back in love with Milan, to make all of them believe in the beauty of the city, in its ability to produce excellence and to be at the level of many other cities we always consider as something unattainable. For years we sold our city for much less than what it is worth.
CIRITIZING IS TYPICAL OF ITALIANS
Criticizing is an Italian flaw rather than of the people in Milan, in my opinion. We are always criticizing ourselves, we don’t know how to value ourselves, as if we were afraid of something.
THE CITY OF OPPORTUNITIES
People who manage to find a fulfilling job eventually understand that Milan, compared to many Italian cities, offers more opportunities. That is the truth. Therefore you can only have a positive relationship with Milan. However, even if I was born here, I also have a relationship of love and hate with Milan.
POLLUTION, POTHOLES AND…
I still hate it because of the pollution, the potholes, the tram tracks that are no longer used and remain there for years and are very dangerous for those who travel by bike or scooter.
Where did I find that spirit that Milan has? When I saw, while I worked for the Expo Gate, the film Il posto by Ermanno Olmi. It’s a film made in 1960 and you will say, ‘What does today’s Milan have to with the Milan of that time?’. In my opinion Milan today has many things in common with the Milan of the 60s, the time of Milan’s rebirth, design, industry, creativity and the many possibilities for those who came from outside – like the protagonist – to find a job. That’s Milan in my opinion. There is a wonderful scene in the film where the protagonist and his girlfriend go out to lunch and cross Piazza San Babila on runways, bridges placed there because the square is totally gutted by the construction of the first subway line, MM1, another example of the extraordinary engineering and architectural talent. Albini made a masterpiece of design, beauty and functionality. Watching that film years ago I found myself thinking: ‘That Milan… everything could happen, everything still had to happen, before the degradation…’. Instead, watching it now, I said, ‘Look, Milan still has that potential’.
GIO PONTI AND PIERO FORNASETTI
Milan must go back in its history, also made by outstanding figures like Gio Ponti and Piero Fornasetti, representing its eccentricity within a project, not an end in itself, not pure oddity, but precisely the ability to have a purpose, to be strict and have visionary skills. We’re not all boring in Milan…
THE MOST EUROPEAN CITY IN ITALY
The rest of Italy probably makes Milan the most European city in the country. I still see it, which is obviously due to its geographical position. Yes, it is definitely the city bridge between Italy and Europe, between Italy and the world.
AND THE CENTER OF CONTEMPORARY ART?
In Milan, from an artistic point of view there is a lot to do, in Italy Milan is definitely the capital of contemporary art. Here are the most important galleries of the country which are recognized all over the world. The young artists, those who don’t go abroad, all tend to come to Milan and want a studio in Milan. But we still live in a paradox, and you don’t know how hard it is to say it: we still don’t have a real contemporary art center. A space like that must be created, to connect more and more the various spheres, not only the visual arts but also design, fashion… I strongly believe that the contemporary world is more and more heading towards a mix of disciplines… The pure artist will no longer exist, but various characters who, starting from their field, will take the best from each artistic and creative field.
THE CREPACCIO EXAMPLE
My Crepaccio is an example of how Milan, in the end, is a very open, contemporary, European city, because in 2012 with two young girls, one from the Accademia di Brera and one from the Naba…
EXHIBITIONS IN A RESTAURANT
…We started organizing exhibitions in the window of a restaurant that faces the street. This is important, if you go in you don’t see anything of these exhibitions, and then, to organize exhibitions in a restaurant, in a bar, was the wrong thing to do, because – as in all areas – even in contemporary art there are codes. It was something, how can I say, cheap… people wouldn’t do it. If an artist were to tell you: ‘I exhibit in a bar’, then everyone said, ‘look, don’t do it. It’s wrong, it will never be taken seriously’. It all started as a joke, a very serious joke, as I always like to say. I felt the need to give visibility space to young artists.
AT LUNCH WITH CATTELAN
That window, over which Maurizio Cattelan and I started joking during a lunch at the restaurant, I thought might become something serious. Maurizio gave me the name of the space, Crepaccio (Italian for ‘crevasse’), since the name of the restaurant is Carpaccio, in Via Lazzaro Palazzi 19. It was a perfect name because the window is 30 cm deep. I invented this motto: I throw the young artists into the crevasse and those who survive will have the opportunity to move forward in the system, those who don’t make it… Oh well, better find out sooner than later. At first, we had an exhibition every 15 days.
FROM THE WINDOW TO THE BIENNALE
The thing developed, meaning that that from the window we started to occupy the street with impromptu performances and installations. The artist Yuri Ancarani also did an exhibition with his students and former students, and then things got out of control: we went to the Venice Biennale.
ART, ENERGY AND THE NEW MAYOR
Milan needs a dynamic contemporary art center where – in addition to the exhibitions – there is a whole range of activities that can make it a point of reference for the local scene and beyond. There isn’t something like this. However, it should not be something imposed by the institutions, it should come from the energy from below, because there is this energy, this energy is boiling, simmering, the institutions in a very delicate and sophisticated way should be able to interface with this energy and make it grow, without suffocating it. That’s very difficult, it is a difficult task but I hope that the next administration will be able to do it.
The Hangar Bicocca, for example, about which everyone used to complain saying: ‘It’s too far away!’. Yes, it is true, we Milanesi always hang out in the center, since Milan is a small city, which is odd because there are huge cities where people do everything everywhere, but this is one of our paradoxes. The Hangar Bicocca is an extraordinary space.
THE TREE OF LIFE IN PIAZZALE LORETO?
Moving it to Piazzale Loreto seemed an extreme proposal, meaning that it would seem a little off the scale. I can’t imagine another area of the city that could accommodate it. If the Expo area, as I hope will happen, will be relaunched, it must obviously remain there.
MILAN TO SEE
The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana is an extraordinary place because of the Basket of Fruit by Caravaggio, but also for the Cartoons of the School of Athens by Raphael and a number of other wonders. The Branca tower to see Milan from above and to see that Milan is not far from the mountains, to see just how the skyline of Milan changed. The room where Fontana’s Neon is in the Museo del’ 900 where you can see the whole of Piazza del Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which is a tourist place, visited by everyone, but seen from above and from another perspective it becomes something else.
THE MILANESI ARE…
We are open to the new but we don’t buy it, meaning that we take things with a grain of salt. So not the new just because it is new. Manzoni said that the Milanesità is that innate or acquired attitude to be able to distinguish between the useful and the useless. It must be said that being a Milanese doesn’t mean being born in Milan, but you can become a Milanese coming from anywhere in Italy or the world.
WORK THE SYSTEM
Milan gave me a lot because of its different realities, Milanesi and not, but I mostly worked with realities from Milan, during the Expo Gate I confirmed what I hoped for: there is a great desire and ability to network, from the non-profit organization to the big foundation, from the entrepreneurs to the emerging creatives… There’s this desire to create a system, on which only a few are betting, that we need to develop.
My future is brilliant. This is the only way I can look at it. Recently someone told me: ‘Now you are ready for an international museum’. ‘No way, I’m here in Milan and I will continue to build in Milan’.
Great-grandson of the famous nineteenth-century composer Amilcare Ponchielli, son of the first Italian photo editor Gianni Amilcare Ponchielli – died in 2001, he worked for Max, Amica, Sette – Barnaba Ponchielli is a tireless cultural worker who is as original as he is versatile, he does a bit of everything, a real agitator. A true Milanese, 42 years old, Barnaba has a small record label, Sangue Disken, which publishes the works of young artists who certainly don’t participate at the Sanremo Festival. He also organizes the musical programming in some city venues, art exhibitions (also in bars), he publishes photography books (the last one, Fotofinish, is a collection of photos dedicated to his father), he has written for newspapers… And he started acting in the prison of Volterra.
How do the Milanesi manage parenting? When asked this very simple question, Elisabetta Rossini (on the left) and Elena Russo (on the right) answer clearly and unequivocally. They are two pedagogy experts of 38 and 41 years old, the first one from Varese and the second one from Milan. They’ve known each other since their first day of college and together, in 2009, they opened a practice for family counseling near Piazza Lima. They speak in a calm, engaging and reassuring way. In short, they make sure they are told everything. In this case, the roles are reversed: they speak and what they say on the relationship between parents and children is very interesting, though a bit disturbing. Careful, because they don’t mince words!
I was born in Milan in ’71 in the Isola neighborhood. The memories I have of my childhood are of a very gray and very foggy Milan. Isola is an animated neighborhood, with its narrow alleys, it looks almost like a village, a village within the metropolis. I remember that when we went to the center it was always like taking a trip… Isola is one of those areas that have undergone major transformations, it is border district that was once attached to the city… From Corso Como it expanded up to the Comasina area. At one point the railroad cut this neighborhood out of the rest of the city and so the Isola’s inhabitants remained cut off from everything else.
MANY WORKERS, SOME THUGS
The inhabitants worked at Siemens or Pirelli, which was a little bit further, in the Bicocca area. Let’s say that the Isola condition of being cut out from all the rest favored a very strong increase in crime. That was before the war, but especially since the war onwards.
MILAN’S ROBIN HOOD
There was also a sort of Robin Hood named Ezio Barbieri, who was a criminal, a thug, he is still alive, class ’22, who stole from the rich entrepreneurs who had made a lot of money with the black market and redistributed it amongst the poor people of the district, he was obviously protected by the district.
TOUGH AND SPECIAL ISOLA
When I was a boy, in the 70s, it was a tough neighborhood, a bit like Baggio or Quarto Oggiaro in the 80s. In fact this neighborhood has always been special because it has undergone many urban transformations, not just the most recent ones. For example the axis of Viale Zara-Fulvio Testi, which leads out of town, starts from Piazzale Lagosta…
THE MOJAZZA CEMETERY
Once this square was the site of a cemetery, the Mojazza cemetery. In this cemetery Beccaria and Parini were buried… With the new urban axis in the ’30s this cemetery was swept away because the Monumental Cemetery was built and the most illustrious citizens were transferred there. The poor ones, those ended up in mass graves, disappeared.
THE ISOLA TRANSFORMATION
The transformation of Porta Nuova has already been in the air for forty years. The mayor Aniasi’s town plan dates back to 1975, so that area has waited forty years to be re-converted. This is because since the war, with the bombing destroying many buildings, empty areas remained and hosted the former Varesine, a big fairground that was right where the Unicredit skyscrapers are now. On the right of Melchiorre Gioia, going towards the Porta Garibaldi station, there was another large square where circus tents and stuff like that were set up.
I DON’T LIKE IT NOW
I don’t like it because it upset the balance and the neighborhood dynamics that were, in my opinion, a heritage of the inhabitants themselves. The revaluation of rents and property prices implied that many people who were born in the Isola, especially the older ones, left the neighborhood because they could no longer afford to stay there.
THE VANISHED BALANCE
I think that a bit of the magic that was in this neighborhood, made possible by the socialization between the different social classes, has been lost. Now there still is a strong level of socialization, but it is tied to the new premises, ethnic restaurants, bars, nightlife. Like in many other parts of the city. Where the development was essentially linked to economy and production, whereas once socialization was based on primary dynamics.
I’M STILL HERE
I stayed in the Isola. I lived in another area for a while, in the north, in the Bicocca-Niguarda area, also a working-class neighborhood. Then I came back about twenty years ago and I still live here.
MILANESE AND BASQUE
My Basque part is very strong. Although I was born in this city, and I feel I am a Milanese, I am very attached to that territory, northern Spain, the Basque Country, to my family, and I’ve gone there all my life and I’ve never I missed a year.
MY DAD, A PELOTA CHAMPION
My father came to Milan to work. He was a professional pelota player, and in Milan, in the 50s, the Sphaeristerium was in Via Palermo, in the Garibaldi district. This, the fact that the Basque Pelota was a very popular sport, and many artists such as Walter Chiari, Giorgio Strehler, all friends of my father at the time… My mother met my father because the Basque pelota was a popular sport. In the evening people used to go to see these players who threw a ball at nearly 300 km / h in these baskets…
1953, STARIGHT TO LA SCALA
My father arrived at the Central Station and the first thing he asked all the friends who went to pick him up, and who already played pelota here, was ‘Good, let’s take the metro: take me straight to the La Scala Opera House’, since my father loved the opera he definitely wanted to see it. His friends looked at him and said, ‘What metro? In Milan there is no metro!’. He said, ‘How is it possible? It’s such an important city, so international…’.
TO THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW MILAN
I say it is a lively and welcoming city with a strong personality, qualities that it has always had because it has always developed through transformations, the trips that people made to come here to work and learn. (To those who don’t know Milan) I also tell the more normal things, fashion, design and all the specialties of Milan. The things that I tell everyone are the more special ones, the more hidden ones, that may not be so evident to those who have just got here.
Undoubtedly its ability to change also through the inputs that come from the outside, by the people who come here to live. But also the ability to absorb the best of all the stories and professionalisms with this magic of ‘doing’.
MAGIC AND CONDEMNATION
This being in constant motion, in constant transformation. This is what is magic about this city, and perhaps also its condemnation.
AWAY FROM HERE
I could choose to leave, but I stayed because… Well! First, because I felt attached to this beautiful and also damned city. And then because I had already developed my profession, so here I had all the contacts and relationships.
THE JUNGLE SOUND RECORDS EXPERIENCE
In the 90s I attended the Jungle Sounds Records, which is in the Navigli area, where all those who represented the music scenes and groups of the ’80s in Milan were. I’m speaking about the Afterhours, the band I play with, but also the Ritmo Tribale, the Casino Royale, Karma … Many revolved around this recording studio and rehearsal room, which was then also a good container of ideas. At the time I had to choose whether to go and live in the Basque Country or in Paris, and I chose to stay here in Milan, and I think it was a wise choice.
A GENEROUS CITY
This city gave me a lot, even when I developed this strange and a bit crazy project: opening a shop to sell musical instruments, and more.
A CRAZY LABORATORY
A laboratory where every Saturday musicians from completely different fields performed: from electronic to blues, from folk to rock, free concerts and performances.
A SMALL VENUE
The place was small, it could accommodate up to 30-40 people. There were also evenings with only 10 people.
2005-2010, LEAVING MY MARK
I wanted to leave a little mark in this five-year plan from 2005 to 2010. That made me realize and feel that this city really is moving.
ATTENTIVE AND CURIOUS
Always ready to receive even bizarre and special things. Because when you organize, for example, a dance show which showcased bare Butu artists and people stop in front of the shop window, and some curious ones go in just to understand and find out what is going on, I realize that this city is open to many challenges.
THE STATE OF THE ART
Rock, already an old type music, has had a series of changes, there are new entities…
THE LOGIC OF ‘DOING’
I believe in the logic of ‘doing’, right? The Milanese has it, the new Milanesi have. It is a city that can offer new possibilities because it has always been like a building site for artistic and musical ideas…
THE MONTE STELLA EXAMPLE
The Monte Stella was born from all the rubble, because the idea of transformation and change has always existed in Milan. In particular, in the specific case of the Monte Stella, it was dictated by a need: not only did we find a place to dispose of the rubble, but we made a small mountain in a completely flat area and we changed it. We built sewers, supplied it with electricity to make it become a place where the Milanesi people can go and enjoy a city hill with lots of woods.
I think The Last Supper is one of the places of excellence in this city, a truly magical place. I encourage everyone, even the Milanesi who have never visited it, and there are many, to go and see it. It is a truly special place. Another special place is the Martesana canal.
No, I don’t speak it, but I understand it. In my family we spoke mostly in Italian, Spanish and Basque. My mother spoke Milan’s dialect but my father was not so ready…
YES TO THE MOSQUE (AND NOT ONLY)
This city is growing more and the more international it will become – it surely will – the more we will have to get used to the fact that there isn’t only ‘our’ religion, the Catholic religion, but also the other ones. Therefore, this city has to offer appropriate places and spaces for them. People can’t think that the Milan of 2020 or of 2025 is the same as Milan in the 50s or 60s.
A NEW CHALLENGE
Perhaps thinking that doing is important – it has always been – but that we must also stop and relate to others to figure out what really needs to be done. The engine should not be doing at all costs, but relating to others to do what’s good for everyone.
I hope and wish that we can find a convergence for which we find a progressive person like Pisapia, one that is able to promote a new season in the life of this city.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE?
I think the crisis has brought and given strong signals for a radical change: the Milano da bere (Milan to drink) no longer exists, not even the Milano post da bere. We must completely rethink Milan.
STARTING FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD
I think the network of associations and realities linked to the territory are a good starting point. They can help us regain possession of the neighborhood and its history.
A CITY MADE OF VILLAGES
This city is made of many neighborhoods, many villages fused together in the last 150 years. This side of Milan must be brought out, we must share it with the young people, the people who come here for the first time, that every neighborhood has its history and strength. The cinemas for example, Talking about the Isola: in 1910 a cinema was built in via Garigliano, it was called Cinema Sociale. It was one of the major theaters of the city, a little peripheral but active until the ’70s. Especially in the ’30s and after World War II, it was transformed into Cinema Zara, it had its glory. This cinema theatre had nearly eight hundred seats inside, and so it was an important social gathering place. This cinema then became secondary and in the 70s, it became the first hard rock hall in Milan: it was called Punto Rosso Hard Rock. All the hard rock or heavy-metal bands of the late 70’s early 80’s past through here, even the first punk bands who managed to arrive in Europe and Italy. It had its history, its strength, then the snowfall in ‘85 brought the roof down, so the place was abandoned and eventually occupied and it became the social center of Via Garigliano, the headquarters of Casino Royale, where for years parties, shows, alternative cinema were hosted. This is to say that every place of this city can be transformed, it is important not to imagine that the final spirit should always be that of real estate speculation that has always triumphed in Milan.
AN EXPERIENCE ABROAD
I have lived in this city for 45 years, and so now it might make sense to move somewhere else for one, two, three years.
For a year and a half now, in the Lambrate area there is a market where everybody – almost everybody, the selection is strict – one Sunday a month can display and sell anything from leather jackets, collection video games, deco furniture , vinyl records, sneakers etc. It’s called East Market and it replicates in Milan the colorful and refined atmosphere you experience in East London. The idea, so simple and effective, came to the couple – in life and work – Gianluca Iovine and Linda Ovadia, 32 and 36, the first from Merate (Lecco) and the second from Milan, and who in such a short time they managed to bring the East Market to the attention of thousands of people. Next appointment, Sunday 21st February, as always from 10 am to 9 pm (in Via privata Giovanni Ventura 14/15). I talked with Gianluca in a bar a few steps from the Colonne di San Lorenzo about this and more. Linda, who was punctual for the photos appointment, didn’t show up for the interview.