The recent reading week saw my course mates and I depart on our annual design study trip. Following last year’s slightly grimy, industrial destination of Stuttgart, Milan and Venice seemed an enticing prospect. A week marvelling at the architectural genius of Carlo Scarpa and enjoying the delights of Italian culture was in store for us.
Our trip started with a visit to Milan’s design museum and by ignoring a few signs we managed to infiltrate the opening of an architectural exhibition, using the excuse of our poor language skills. I’m sure the talks would have been riveting, had I been able to speak Italian.
We enjoyed a whistle stop walking tour of Milan’s architectural highlights: the Duomo, The Galleria and the Bosco Verticale. The design focus continued in Venice with a visit to the Fondazione Querini Stampalia and the Olivetti showroom – both Scarpa masterpieces. Admittedly being a slightly obsessed design student perhaps makes me biased, but I would highly recommend visiting the showroom as even those who lack an interest in design, or typewriters for that matter, cannot help but admire the beauty of the space.
For much of our time in the two cities we simply wandered. My life in Edinburgh so often seems to consist of me constantly storming around from place to place. So, exploring the streets of a European city, with no destination in mind was incredibly refreshing. There is something strangely grounding about becoming slightly lost in an unfamiliar place as you can focus entirely on the environment around you. The aroma of freshly cooked arancini, the beautiful yet crumbling Byzantine architecture and the lively exchange of ‘Ciao’ from shopkeepers and restaurant maitre d’s.
Having no clear idea of direction or route allows one to be truly present in an environment, rather than being focused on the instructions dictated by Google Maps. Usually, I am the ultimate planner, with every hour of my day scheduled and accounted for. However, the laidback Italian lifestyle was infectious, and it wasn’t long before I was throwing caution to the wind and making the statement “well, we’ll just see where the day takes us”. Granted this attitude did mean we came a cropper when missing the last metro across the city back to the Airbnb. Thank god for late night trams…
Although our trip to Italy was primarily of a design focus, I was, understandably, most excited about the cuisine that I would be sampling during the trip. A whole week of carbohydrate and dairy consumption seemed appealing following a long stint of salads and soup. I was not disappointed. Crispy based pizzas, lathered in herby tomato sauce and dripping with mozzarella, buttery gnocchi with meaty scallops, ricotta ravioli drizzled with olive oil. Utterly divine. I can confirm that the hype around Italian food is justified. We alternated hourly breaks between coffee shops and gelato parlours, sampling rich and satisfying espressos and creamy Italian ice cream.
Now my newfound appreciation of Aperol spritzes, following our trip, deserves a whole paragraph of its own. We quickly adopted a five a day policy, swapping fruit and favouring the summery beverage instead, all in the name of ‘market research’ of course. Sitting under a watery sun sipping the delicious orange refreshment seems to be the perfect image to sum up the Italian lifestyle. Aperol spritz is a drink for warm days, for watching the world go by, for forgetting your worries and cares. It is a Mediterranean Irn Bru of a drink, with added oomph.
After returning from the reading week I feel enriched both culturally and also in the width of my waistline, so for now its ‘arrivederci’ to the Aperol and arancini, and a ‘hello again’ to the soups and the salads.
Image Credit: Wepin via Pixabay.com