Fontanellato : Emilia-Romagna Italy October 2016
Something you might not know about me:I have a secret fascination with mazes and labyrinth’s. I always try to visit them if I can , and this one, Labirinto Della Masone, Chris found on his usual searching of Parsleys pursuit of the internet. It was not too far out of the way of our drive to Milan where we were staying that night, so we decided to take a look.
It was Chris birthday and what better way to spend our morning. Its a short 20min drive from the Antico Borgo di Tabiano and we arrived on a glorious cold but very sunny day (yes in October) day. There were so many cars, and I think it was a Friday so we were puzzled but turns out they were using the venue for a conference.
Labirinto Della Masone is the brainchild of the renowned Italian art publisher Franco Maria Ricci. It was built on his property in Parma and the story behind it is very interesting. The idea came when he was planning his garden in his house in Milan. He wanted to create a tranquil space and decided to plant bamboo plants. He fell in love with this elegant plant and he got this idea to transform the garden at his country house in Parma into a labyrinth using this beautiful medium. Its the largest labyrinth in existence and it is made entirely with bamboo plants (around 200 thousand in total) measuring between 30 centimetres and 15 metres tall. The path through it is over 3 kilometres in length.
Its not just the labyrinth , it is also the building and museum that surrounds it, that is aMAZEing(sorry can’t help doing that.) The building was designed by Pier Carlo Bontempi, a high-profile architect from Parma. Together they conceived the design using classical Roman villa’s and spa’s as inspiration. All the bricks are handmade as is traditional in this area of the Po River valley. The building houses a conference centre, restaurants and a museum holding all the art that Franco Maria Ricci collected over the years, as well as his vast art book collection. It was not the sort of art that Chris and I would normally go and view, but we really appreciated the setting and the layout was lovely.
After admiring the Italian sports car on display, we paid for our walk in the labyrinth. It was so funny they give you a sticker with a barcode which you stick to your chest. Then if you get lost in the maze, you find one of the booths dotted around. You phone them and give them your barcode and they have cameras to find you and direct you out of there. What is it so difficult?, we imagined we might get stuck in there forever. And it really is dense and the plants are high so you cannot see over or through the hedges. We had a great time. In the beginning they give you a pic of the layout so you have an idea in your head what it looks like, but honestly once you are in ,it’s hard to work out which way to go. Lucky for Chris I have a good memory for pictures and diagrams and after a few wrong turns , we did eventually make it to the end. Its really challenging and I would do it again. after some exploring of the building and admiring of art works we were ready for a quick espresso and on our way to our next stop, Milan.
This place is really worth a visit, click her to see the website.
Milan Italy : October 2016
We had found a lovely Airbnb spot in Milan. We use AirBNB all the time, and we have never had a problem. So this little attic apartment was on the Naviglio Grande Canal. The area is very vibey with lots of bars and restaurants and you know its all about the food for us. What we love as well is aperitivo time. Yes this city also celebrates this tradition. Remember we told you about in in Bologna (click to read that post) We walked along the canals and all the bars are all touting their offering. The sun setting over the canals is awesome, the light in Italy is just something else. No wonder the great paint masters loved to paint there. We spent the evening eating, drinking and wandering the streets people watching. Its the best way to experience the city.
The next day we made our way to the cathedral. The Duomo di Milano is the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world. It took 6 centuries to build. Just a note to travellers , the queues are incredible so I recommend you book online. We only admired it from the outside as no ways were we joining a queue kilometres long. But when we visited it was being cleaned and it looked magnificent. The area all around the Duomo is also a treat and we walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II admiring the beautiful architecture and definitely only window shopping the mega brands. This is Italy’s oldest shopping centre and it has an odd traditon, which involves people standing on a mosaic of a bull, and spinning around on one foot on the spot of the bulls testicles. This apparently brings good luck, I’ll let you know if it works!
Milan was also the first time I experienced the beauty store Kiko, and Chris was very accommodating with my browsing around, of course nothing to do with the very pretty Italian shop assistants. The other find of the trip was discovering the shop Eataly. It is a 3 story department store of everything an Italian foodie would want. They sell fresh produce, dry goods, wine, cheeses and chocolates just to name a few. Some of the food is being made on the premises and you can buy it as its made. Just our luck it was truffle festival, so it meant everyone was offering a dish made with truffles. Of course we had to try, some sourdough bread with mushrooms and truffle oil, as well as risotto infused with all things truffle. We could have spent days there.
It was a lovely day, with at least 2 visits to the gelataria, and ending off with a late night dinner in an tiny restaurant. We had realised that without a reservation it was hard to get into a restaurant in Milan on a Saturday night, but this mama was happy to fit us into a tiny table in her tiny restaurant with her daughter serving and her husband cooking. The food was sublime and the atmosphere festive, and it was a fitting way to end our trip.
Postscript: since visiting Eataly in Milan , we have been to one in Bologna which was very small. However for those of you who are keen they just opened a mega store outside of Bologna. Mixed reviews as they say its a bit “Disneyworld” like, but I’ll keep an open mind. (Click to view the website)
Ok so I diverted from telling you about the planning of the wedding, it’s November 2016, and just 6 months to the wedding, plenty of time to organise everything….no pressure. Remember its a small intimate wedding , no biggie.
Part 3 coming soon…