Italy…a place of passion, vibrancy and really, really great style. From the clean luxury of Armani and quirky charms of Marni to food so divine that you begin to think it might be worth going up a dress size for, there are a lot of reasons to burst into a spontaneous chorus of That’s Amore. Milan is one of the country’s most exciting cities, not to mention its fashion capital, and if it we haven’t sold it to you already, there’s always this lot to consider…
I Am Love
Tilda Swinton (centre, in red) heads up the cast of I Am Love
Films set in Italy are often heavy on noise and chaos and over-blown passions, so this 2009 movie by Luca Guadagnino is refreshing in its restrained portrayal of an intense love dilemma that disrupts a wealthy Milanese family.
Tilda Swinton leads the cast as the Russian born Emma, who has married into the prominent Recchi family and sees her world unravel as she begins an affair with a young chef. The costumes in the film also happen to be out of this world – Swinton’s wardrobe was custom designed by Raf Simons for Jil Sander. Given how seriously Italians take clothes we’d expect nothing less.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper
Although he was born in Florence, the famous artist spent what were probably his most prolific years living and working in Milan. Described as the epitome of the Renaissance human ideal, his talent’s reached everything from mathematics and geology to science and music, making him surely one of the most impressive people ever to have lived. Of course he was most famous for his expansive and technically vast paintings, of the most well-known, The Last Supper, conceived and produced whilst he was living in this North Italian city (he worked on his other most famous piece, The Mona Lisa, in various locations in different countries).
Prada Spring/Summer 12
Italian fashion’s dedication to wealth and glamour has always been one of its greatest strengths, but its absolute focus on these features could also have proved to be one of its greatest weaknesses. Luxurious and aspirational as the classic pieces of Gucci, Valentino, Armani and the like may be, their lack of edge could have seem them fall behind the more progressive Belgians and Brits. Except we know that Italy has remained at the centre of fashion, and that part of this is down to the vision of Miuccia Prada. The granddaughter of Mario Prada, who founded the Milanese label, she was born and bred in the city and since delivering her first critically acclaimed ready-to-wear collection in 1989, she has established Prada, and its sister label Miu Miu, as the epitome of intelligent fashion. With a signature aesthetic that is modern and playful, she incorporates humour and the avant-garde into her pieces and manages to keep a vein of excitement perennially running through her work – no one ever knows quite what to expect.
A Milan native, Piaggi’s work at Vogue Italia
and her own personal look exemplify everything that is theatrical, and wonderfully ostentatious about typical Italian style. The way she effortlessly pulls off clashing patterns (you might want to take notes for S/S 12!), eccentric head-gear lifted straight from the mad-hatters tea party, stage-worthy make-up and layers and layers of sequins, frills and colour have turned her into a fashion icon, and a sort of deity to the sartorially adventurous. With one of the world’s most exciting clothing archives (think custom Karl Lagerfeld and Twenties Poiret) it was inevitable she’d become a magnet for street style photographers, which can only be good news, as a page always looks more exciting with her on it.
Risotto alla Milanese
You can’t mention Italy without the subject at some point turning to food, and that’s because as a nation, they excel at it. Pizzas, pastas, meat and fish, they do it all amazingly, but each region of course has its own speciality dishes, so designed to work with the local ingredients and climate for maximum taste impact. One such example is this Milanese take on risotto, that gloriously comforting adult baby food, which they infuse with bone marrow and saffron for a rich yet delicate flavour.