This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Look down

milan-3How often do you look down when you walk? Probably every day. And how often do you actually see what is right down there in front of your nose? If you are in Italy, it is highly likely you are missing out on something much more beautiful than just asphalt and pavement. Italian floors are exquisite. The one above is in the Duomo but I walked over so many beauties outdoors in Genoa.

Floors are made to last, and it is good they have no feelings: people trample over them without noticing what they walk on. Without noticing how smooth and troublefree the surface is to cross, even in high heels. Without noticing how their steps get a determined snap and echo that emphasizes the importance of their stride. Without noticing the painstakingly intricate stonework that made someone to crouch down for days or weeks while working to complete the surface.

If you think it is too much trouble to look up, look down – and if you pay attention you might be delighted. At least in Italy.milan-2(Milan, Italy; July 2018)

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A day without rain in Milan

milan-4In the midst of showers there was a day without rain in Milan. A late afternoon where the tables were waiting for dinner decking and where the shoppers had already gone home for a quick siesta before aperitifs.

Some cities resonate with us as individuals, while others do not. Some places make us feel like good friends while others make us feel like visitors, guests at best. It is as if the life and energy of a city made of concrete and asphalt must match our inner workings made of nerves and gray matter. It matters not even the city itself is considered beautiful or interesting. Some  Some love Milan and I do not. Even if Brera is quaint with its impossibly wobbly cobblestones, boutiques, and wine bars, it is only a tiny area and the rest of Milan is noisy, busy, dusty, and filled with shops to consume and keep me thinking I need something more in my life (like the latest fashion).

Although perhaps I only need to look down and discover the beautiful mosaique floors of the galleries, instead of the shop windows. And perhaps I should be grateful I get to visit Milan. After all, it is a luxury to widen one’s views so much once can distinguish between places and cultures that resonate and those that do not.

milan-1(Milan, Italy; July 2018)

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Lazy days in Bordighera

bordighera-2Plastered, ochre and sand-colored houses with moss green window shutters. Stone slab pavement. A few potted plants. Sparrows chirping in the alleys. A group of locals having pasta with wine for lunch underneath a parasol. Bordighera must have been the same already centuries ago. bordighera-1A century ago one could reach Bordighera from Paris in “just” 24 hours, and London was not much further away. Claude Monet found much to paint in the stillness of hot, languid Bordighera summer days. George MacDonald came over to warm his Scottish bones and to write of fantastical, sometimes dark places while sitting in the shade from the scorching sun.

Bordighera is also one of the two locations André Aciman thought of when writing Call Me By Your Name. Because there are only a few places where days pass in such a lazy pace that there is time to discuss the origins and meaning of the word “apricot”.bordighera-3(Bordighera, Italy; July 2018)

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By the Riviera Ligure

alassio-7The Azure Coast is azure on the Italian side of the border, too. The towns are very Italian, though: attention to small esthetic detail, quite more chaotic roads, and more attention to  beautifully paved boardwalks dotted by gelaterias. Dinner is not available anywhere before 7.30 pm, and only tourists choose to sit down before 9 pm. But the food is equally incredible, thanks to the abundant local produce. And in Italy, it is possible to dine on the beach. Naturalmente.

(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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Muro dei cani

alassio-6It is not easy to paint the personality of a human from his or her face. It must be even more difficult to paint the personality of a dog, underneath the fur and fluff. And yet this unknown lovely artist did manage to trace the outline of over 300 unique furry persons, all lined up on a concrete wall by a park in Alassio.

The one in the middle looks like it is up to mischief only – and quite unlike any dog I have seen.

(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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On the wall in Alassio

alassio-5Jean Cocteau sure did love the Riviera. His self-portrait is on the Muretto wall by in Alassio, and he self-handedly painted an entire fishers’ chapel interior in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Cocteau’s portrait ended up on the brick wall in Alassio nearly 10 years after Hemingway’s autograph, though. The story goes that the local café keeper wanted to show off his famous visitors, and asked a few of them to sign a couple of colorful tiles. In the dark of the night they went up on the wall. When nobody complained, he kept adding more. Today the wall stretches across the entire train station square, with over 500 named tiles of visitors to the city; like a guest log  for “those that matter”. Who decides who matters is something I would like to know, as the famous jetsetters’ hangout Caffé Roma is long gone.
alassio-4(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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Beach bumming

alassio-3Beach bum day. Yes, today. No other plans than to sleep, read swim, and have octopus for lunch. And maybe sleep, read, and swim in the afternoon. The Eight Mountains is perfect Italian beach reading: beautiful, reasonably light, and insightful.

Even if it’s just us and a few thousand other beachgoers, the last beach club before Laigueglia is less busy.  Even the beach guard’s eyes have an easier task here. alassio-2(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)