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Jewellery by Artists: From Picasso to Koons, an exhibition organised by the culture and art portal

Destinations · Europe · italy · Milan · Insider's view ·

Insider: Paola Mirai

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Insider: Paola Mirai

Milan is like a great mandala

Paola Mirai is a 21st-century alchemist of jewellery. In the search for a new ideal of beauty, the Italian jewellery designer has even created her own material, Orotrasparente, which is so light and transparent that one could almost compare it to air and water. Mirai's studio is located in Milan, and she gladly shared her secrets of the city with Another Travel Guide.

What do you like most about living in Milan?

I like the fact that you can find everything that could interest you; every kind of activity, from those of the past up to the present and the future. Do you need an old barber shop? You can find one in most of the city’s districts. You’ll find shoemakers and old haberdashery shops, but there are also places (from universities to startups) that create trends and anticipate the future, in technology as well as in fashion. They are deeply Italian and strongly international at the same time.

What should one definitely do to capture the atmosphere of Milan in all of its diversity?

It depends on the sensitivity of the beholder. My advice is to walk around. Slip through the streets into courtyards and beautiful hidden gardens, where you can find the most secret soul of this metropolis.

What is your favourite neighbourhood in Milan and why?

The Darsena (ancient dock) area, where I have my own workshop, is certainly a symbolic place in Milan – the Milan as it once was, full of a hard-working spirit – the true Milan that has a cor in man (literally, “heart in hand”). I also like the Piazza Gae Aulenti and the recent things that have sprouted up all around it, the symbols of contemporary Milan. And finally, I like the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, its art gallery and its beautiful botanical gardens.

People born in Italy sometimes say that there is no such nationality as Italians. There are Romans, Milanese, Venetians and so on. Do you agree, and how do you characterise the true, native Milanese?

It's true! I'm from Bologna, but I’ve been living here for 30 years. From my personal experience, I can confirm that each region has some unique characteristics, in food, in the dialects, in the pace of work and also in the way in which you establish interpersonal relationships. Then there is the Italian – a kaleidoscope that shows different images, but with the same origin. After all, our diversity is often our strong point.

A real Milanese, in my experience, is a private person who passes unnoticed, has a certain sophistication and still speaks the Milanese dialect. But there are few real Milanese left – natives who have lived here for several generations. This is because since the war, in the years of the economic boom, Milan was an internal migration destination, with very many people moving here, mainly from southern Italy.

Could you name five of your favourite restaurants in Milan? And why are they your favourites?

Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, a historical restaurant of the highest level, where each meal is memorable.

L'Antica Trattoria della Pesa, an expression of the great Lombard culinary tradition, in the heart of the Garibaldi district, a stone's throw from the nightlife of Corso Como. It's a refined place, but at the same time, it's linked to the rural traditions of the city.

Giacomo Arengario, with a wonderful view of the Duomo.

And then there is the beautiful Bar Magenta, an Art Nouveau pub. If you go there, take a trip also to the historical Libreria dello Spettacolo (Performing Arts Bookshop).

And for a pizza, I would recommend L'Altra Taverna, because its makes one of the best pizzas in Milan.

Where would you recommend staying in Milan?

The Porta Romana neighbourhood, where the range of local restaurants is increasingly varied and interesting. You can make a trip to the Terme Porta Romana or go to the Teatro Franco Parenti, which reopened this year next to a swimming resort dating from the 1930s. Of course, the Navigli area is good for its nightlife, while the historic Brera district is elegant, esoteric and dreamlike.

What is the biggest stereotype about Milan, and it is true?

Milan is said to be a city of great employees who create, organise and engage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was not by chance that Claes Oldenburg, the Swedish sculptor, created Ago, Filo, Nodo (Needle, Thread and Knot) in Piazza Cadorna as a tribute to Milanese industriousness.

What is your favourite place for a panoramic view of Milan?

The Torre Branca (Branca Tower) ‒ 110 meters above Sempione Park and just a few steps from the Milan Triennale, the Italian institution for design. And, of course, the roof of the Duomo.

If you could cast Milan in jewellery, how do you imagine it would look?

Thinking at the “urban level” and starting from the Duomo, Milan has three circular rings that surround the centre of the city. To me, this is like a great mandala. Maybe I'd cast a pin.

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