Souvenir Sales Spike After Berlusconi Hit With Mini-Cathedral



After Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was struck in the face with a replica of Milan’s cathedral Dec. 13, souvenir sellers here are reporting brisk sales of copycat statues.

“Around here, sales of some tourist items slow down or stop for awhile, ” a vendor identified as Willy told told conservative daily newspaper il Giornale. “The mini-duomo was one of those items. Today, they’ve started moving again. A lot of journalists are buying them, but also people who want to give them as Christmas gifts. ”

Other vendors reported that they sold maybe one of the statues representing the soaring Gothic spires of the fourth-largest church in the world and icon of the city a month, but sold 40-45 a day since the incident.

The dangerous doodad — Berlusconi landed in the hospital with a broken nose, two cracked teeth and also suffered injuries to his lips and cheek — measures 10 x 10 centimeters (about 4 x 4 inches) and is made of resin and chalk. Sold in kiosks in the square around the cathedral, it can cost anywhere from €6-€12 euros ($8.70- $17.50).

Massimo Tartaglia, a 42-year-old with a history of mental problems, hurled the mini-cathedral through the crowd on Sunday as Berlusconi greeted supporters in a rally. Tartaglia is now in isolation at Milan’s San Vittore prison. While he has written a letter apologizing for his “cowardly act,” police are now investigating Facebook groups that sprung up defending his act of tchotchke terrorism.

A Peek at the Real da Vinci Code

The Codex Atlanticus at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana

The Codex Atlanticus at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana

If you’ve ever wondered what’s inside Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, you’ve got six years to take a look.

Milan, where the original Renaissance man worked for years, has brought the largest collection of his drawings and writings, the 1,000-plus-page Codex Atlanticus, to the masses. The Codex is normally housed in the city’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana, where it is off-limits even to most scholars. But until 2015, visitors can view a rotating exhibition of selected pages from the real da Vinci code, grouped into themes including mechanical flight, anatomy and war machines.

Finished drawing for strut solution@ Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana -Milano

Finished drawing for strut solution@ Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana -Milano

Among the pages, dating from 1478 to 1519, visitors will find engineering designs, recipes, doodles from apprentices, as well as sketches for da Vinci’s many ahead-of-his-time contraptions. Da Vinci, who reportedly made sketches of his observations on loose sheets or on tiny pads he kept in his belt, left behind the largest literary legacy of any painter.

“It can be a little embarrassing, when people only expect to see finished drawings or amazingly detailed sketches,” said da Vinci expert Pietro C. Marani, curator of the first three-month exhibit, “Fortresses, Bastions and Cannons.”

“What you’re really looking at is a cross-section of art, science, technology, mechanical studies – all woven into the daily life of an amazing figure, but it’s not always what you might expect,” he said.

Full story on the Wall Street Journal Europe

Codex Atlanticus Exhibit Info:
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday
8:30 am – 7:00 pm
Price: €21.50 for both halves of the exhibit, includes reservation.
Online tickets and reservations:

Why Italians already have capsule wardrobes

Struggling with a plastic bag on the stairs the other day, I stopped to peer into the apartment of the downstairs neighbor.

Alessandra’s singleton digs have an entryway with a floor-to-ceiling white wardrobe. All the wardrobe doors were flung open and my neighbor was sandwiched between a drying rack of clothes and an ironing board.

Cambio di stagione?” I asked.

“Exactly,” she sighed.

“Me too,” I said, holding up the trash bag.

It’s that time of year, when Italians go through their wardrobes and change clothes for the upcoming season. When they talk about “cambio di stagione”, change of season, isn’t so much about the weather but all about the clothes.

There is a built-in minimalist approach in Italy, because there are no walk-in or built-in closets here. No voluntary simplicity movement or feng shui space clearing necessary. It’s called “lack of space.”

Storage in the average Italian home (apartments and even newer small villas and condos) means, generally, one large wardrobe and regular-sized dresser per bedroom, possibly another wardrobe or cabinets in a hallway or tiny utility room.

That’s it.

At the beginning and end of every season, you edit what’s in your closet, mend or alter if needed, wash the lot and pack it away in boxes. Then you take out the next season’s gear, see what fits, what should be given away, iron everything and hang it up.

This is not natural behavior for me, raised with American walk-in closets and three-car garages. The grandfather I was named after had so much stuff he kept a junk yard for it. Following decades of construction work in California and a house-moving business (back when they literally picked up houses and moved them) he had accumulated, among other things, stained glass window fragments, carcasses of machines past, old duck decoys and girlie calendars from the ’40s that no one could bear to throw out.

In high school, I never had to shop for “vintage” clothes. The spare bedroom walk-in closet, jammed with an unholy mix of full-length “Mod Squad“-worthy leather jackets and plaid Pendleton shirts with put-your-eye-out flare collars, was a million times better.

Fast forward to life in Italy, where living out of a suitcase became a necessity. At first, the wardrobe concept was really cute. My borrowed Samsonite didn’t hold that much, anyway, and what little there was fit neatly into the nicked, crooked wooden wardrobe of my student apartment.

For the bulk of years here, I’ve moved about once every six months, but that didn’t keep me from the familial habit of hunting and gathering Stuff. It was a hard tendency to break. Outdoor markets, junk stores, jettison from other expats returning home – suitcases became the place to store these necessary extras so there would be more room in the restrictive wardrobe.

After pulling an electric blue Louise Brooks wig, an aborted sewing project, extra towels and a blackened travel iron out of a much bigger suitcase before packing to go to the U.S. a couple of Christmases ago, I decided to change my ways.

Thanks to closet organizers and storage boxes, the change of season became less traumatic: no more turtleneck sweaters under jean jackets because the coat has gone missing.

Turns out that clothes purging is just as much fun as clothes binging. The closet now looks a bit like Lucy’s from the “Peanuts”, three nearly identical togs hanging up, not even touching each other. It’s reassuring, to open a door and not have stuff tumble out.

Still, every season has its bad buys, bad fits and can’t-look-at-one-more-times. Out they go.

Trash journalism, Italian style

Curiosity can lead to a lot of uncomfortable places. I decided to give up entertainment reporting while crouched in the stairwell of L.A.’s Mondrian hotel on an assignment that had me stalking Leonardo Di Caprio at the height of his “Titanic” fame.
This time, I was in a bad part of Milan at 1:40 a.m. To be precise, Piazzale Loreto — the place they strung Mussolini up by his toes — waiting for a trash truck.

As far as I could make out, I was the only member of the fair sex in the area that wasn’t practicing the world’s oldest profession — but tell that to the men buzzing around the all-night newsstand.
Despite the precedents, curiosity had again got the better of me. I don’t have a car. I don’t even have a driver’s license anymore. But I was writing about a new gizmo that Amsa, Milan’s cleaning and sanitation department, patented to clean under parked cars. And I really wanted to see it in action.
I don’t mean to sound too Brenda Starr-intrepid-girl-reporter. The press office had first said the crew using the experimental “facilitator” — that may end the game of musical parking spaces played by drivers of 16,000 cars every week — would be in my neighborhood that night.

Master blaster: the facilitator pumps 4 gallons a minute

Then they called back to say that it would only be in Bad Part of Town. I’d already promised to turn the story around the next day and the facilitator only came to my neighborhood once a week. It was Piazzale Loreto or nothing.
Trash trucks are something most of us never pay attention to. They seem very much alike, especially if you’re standing in an enormous roundabout trying desperately to see which one is different.
Sure, they come in different shapes and sizes — some little trucks with round sweepers out front, some with enormous cisterns — but I didn’t know what the new, improved cleaner was supposed to look like.
To make matters more interesting, the press officer had warned me not to expect warm fuzzies from the crew. “I’ll tell them you’re coming, otherwise I can’t guarantee they’ll talk to you. They can be not very polite sometimes.”
That sounded like an understatement. With this caveat in mind, I approached all the trash cars at the stoplights to ask if they were “my” crew. Perhaps it was the damsel in distress factor, but they were all better than polite.
They didn’t know where the crew would be, but they did start a tam-tam of cell phone calls that eventually helped me locate them.
When I did, it seemed that press officer had perhaps overstated the scale of operations. They weren’t expecting me, with a camera and notebook, but an American Television Crew. Amsa had even sent out an executive to make sure no one misbehaved. He watched, dapper suit and tie now drooping in disappointment at my sole snapping and filming.
The two-man crew of the facilitator were gracious and helpful, even letting me try out the new device (harder to use than it looks but very effective) that pushes four gallons of water a minute of debris out from under the car and into the street where it’s whisked away by the truck.
At 2:25 a.m., curiosity satisfied, I called a taxi and headed home. Sometimes it’s worth it.