urban botanical milan #milanobotanica @LinariaRete @SpigaSt cc @TerraUomoCielo

Those of us who work in the wine business rarely go to Milan. But I try to go every chance I get: not only is Milan where many of my friends from Padua university days live and work (in the publishing industry), it’s also one of the most thrilling European cultural capitals, one of the best places in Italy to eat seafood (surprising but true), and now the subject of a microblog devoted to the city as botanical garden.

The author and curator is one of my oldest and dearest friends in Italy, Stefano Spigariol.

You can follow the microblog via #MilanoBotanica or by visiting the Facebook of Linaria, a Milanese publisher and non-profit environmental activist group.

Those are snowberries (Symphoricarpos albus) in the photo above. And the map that will lead you to them below…

Here are some hedge-apples (Maclura pomifera)…

And here’s the map…

The wonderful project has received a lot of attention from both literary and gardening circles in Italy.

What fascinates me about it is how it speaks to a theme that pervades the twentieth-century Italian narrative: the natural alienation (estrangement) of citizens who migrate from rural areas to major urban centers.

While I grew up in a big city and have lived in big cities all of my life, many of my Italian friends — like Stefano — left small towns in rural areas to study in major metropoles. Stefano’s taxonomic “discovery” of urban botanical Milan represents a subversion of such alienation, however fleeting.

It’s a great project and I’m looking forward to following along…

My date with the city (of Milan)

After a week of working myself to the bone in Asti and Langa, and a successful and happy epilogue to Barbera Meeting 2010 (and all the many blogilicious waves we surfed there), my little gift to myself was an afternoon of book shopping and strolling in Milan on a beautiful, crisp but not too chilly afternoon. That’s Milan’s famous gothic cathedral, the Duomo of Milan, above.

A visit to the original Feltrinelli book shop on Via Manzoni revealed a Massimo Montarari (Italian food historian) title that was missing from my collection. And a visit to one of the flagship Feltrinelli megastores in the Galleria (above) delivered the toponymic dictionary I’d been looking for.

When you exit the subway at the Duomo station, the stairs are rigged with midi triggers that play acoustic piano samples. As you walk up the stairs, if you land on each “white key” step, you play the C major scale. The eerily beautiful cacophony created by commuters and tourists reminded me of an angular Antonioni film score.

My Milan will always be a black and white movie from the 1960s but Milan is also the capital of haute couture and high design. I love the glamour and color of Milanese window shopping.

But the best part was dinner of Piave cheese, perfectly sliced Lombard bresaola (above), and Friulian Cabernet Franc in the home of my super good friends Stefano (from Treviso, Veneto) and Anna (from Ischia, Campania). None of us could stop marveling at the wonderful, uncanny counterpoints and parallels of life. This adoptive padovano has been away from his adoptive ischitana for way too long. Thank goodness the next stop is Austin, Texas, U.S. of A.