Monday, 31 May 2010

Name dropping in Milan

ON our first day in Milan, our Italian guide kindly offered to take us to Montenapoleone. That’s the place, he said, where rich people, like rich Malaysians, shop.

My first instinct was to say no for obvious reasons, but my curiosity got the better of me. A picture of that famous street with those famous names would make a good Facebook update, I thought. And who knows, I may even bump into the who’s who of Malaysia’s A-list. After taking in the imposing Duomo Cathedral, we walked past the Ferrari shop into a relatively quiet road leading up to the bustling Montenapoleone. A Lamborghini parked at the top of the road was enough to tell me that we were in the right place.

Milan is that kind of a city — brand names scream at you from every nook and corner. Gucci tempts you from across the road, Versace dares you from around the corner, Prada lures with dignified silence. Crossing the road the Italian way, dodging Vespas and taxis, I remembered when I was about eight crossing busy Orchard Road in Singapore to look at Robinson’s. That was the place to shop if you were a somebody during the 1960s. 

I recalled holding on to Pak Lang’s hand tightly, asking him for the umpteenth time: “Where are we going?” He said simply: “We’re going to see where the rich shop.” Forty-odd years on, I was to experience that same feeling — standing outside Armani, Ferragamo, LV and other names with funny jumbled-up letters, shocked at their price tags.

“Those without a price tagsa, usually you can’ta afforda!” our companion offered kindly, with a shrug of his broad Italian shoulders. Well, that was subtle enough. But it didn’t dent my ego at all as I hadn’t come to Milan to shop. Besides, my husband had advised: “Don’t buy until you can pronounce them!” 

But what about those who gloated about their DIKNEY bags (DKNY) and OINX (Onyx) tables? It’s almost sinful, isn’t it? I still remember the time when I received a fax from a friend to check the price of a Ferragamo. I wondered why would someone sitting in her office in Kuala Lumpur want to know about the price of an Italian dish in London! 

Well, I had since progressed, and there were many more famous Italian names that I had come to see. It started last month, when during a visit to Paris, in between appointments, I told a friend that I just needed to see Mona Lisa. Ten years ago, I had queued for half-hour under the French summer sun, only to come face to face with a stamp-sized portrait of the lady with the mysterious smile. In my mind, it was a picture larger than life, but the disappointment didn’t last long. I had returned to Paris to get reacquainted with the famous lady. Leaving The Louvre with several portraits of Mona Lisa, I promised to start a collection of famous paintings by famous names — on fridge magnets, of course! 

A few days ago, I visited  museums in Munich which housed Rubens, Van Goghs and Picassos, among other famous names, enough to last me a lifetime. Van Gogh’s Sunflower nearly had me in spasms of delight in that sedate, dignified gallery of the New Art Museum. The same could be said when I came eye to eye with Monet’s Water Lillies. Suffice to say, I left clutching a few Monets and Van Goghs to adorn my fridge. 

On this maiden Milan visit, I was thrilled to visit more museums with more national treasures hanging on their walls. Yesterday, it was Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The guide’s explanation of Da Vinci’s mathematical approach to his famous artwork left almost everyone speechless. Every little detail of expression: a frown on the forehead, a curl of a finger, all tell a story. 

Next, we headed to Lake Como, Italy’s third-largest lake. A cruise across the lake to Bellagio, a paradise for lovers of silk and leather goods, gave us a sweeping view of the Italian landscape, with clusters of villas with intriguing frescos dotting the hillsides. Once in a while, the boat would slow down so we could feast our eyes on villas belonging to George Clooney, Versace and Sir Richard Branson. One villa, with a garden of palm trees and cascading greenery, had been a location for a James Bond movie, I was told. How’s that for name dropping?

This article first appeared here


GUiKP said...

Kak Teh
You tak pergi Venice ke - dah dekat sangat tu? The homecoming UK trip at the end of this month dah dekat sangat, and I must not procrastinate booking the flight. Hope we can meet in London ya.

mekyam said...


[moving my comment fr yr fb to here:]

kt, until last nite, i could see the pan-europe h'way going south to italy vanishing into the mountains from my bedroom window. little did i realize that you & ag were actually 5-6(?) hour driving-distance away only, living it up in that fashion capital to our southwest. ;b

btw, we transitted at heathrow yesterday [yep, labour strike notwithstanding, we actually flew british this time - living dangerously eh? :D], and as h & i waited for our connect at term5 i thought of you. i tried to get on fb while at the terminal, on the off-chance i cld say hi and perhaps chat, but cldn't get on the airport wifi for some reason.

Cat-in-Sydney said...

Welcome back Aunty KT!!!! Hmmm...what an orgy of a trip...Milan, eh? Did you see any billboards with Beckham's "treasures" clad in Armani? Oh, I'm guessing my namesake (you know, the other Angelina) would shop there too if she has the time...what with 6 kids and all. There's a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition going on here. We're planning a visit soon. purrr....meow!

DrSam said...

salam Kak Teh. After the French connection now the Italian connection. I bet by now your fridge should be covered with miniatures painters masterpieces. I would glad to do so. So any A-list big spender from the Bolehland you met over there Kak Teh? (he..he..busy body la pula :)

MrsNordin said...

Great article! I like!!

Life for Beginners said...

Oh I miss all those European cities - Milan, Munich (where I lived for two years), Paris, and more... Can't wait to revisit Old Europe again... :)

NanaDJ said...


So you did the culture bit. I just love the Impressionists, saw a lot of Monets, Van Gogh et al during my frequent trips to Europe , oh so long ago. Glade to see the again through your eyes.
You are right, we do get people who buys brands the can't even pronounce ( or if they do, they mispronounce them)... Gusi, Versasi, Channel??? But what the heck, they can afford them. And here we are, who could pronounce Hermes perfectly but will never in our lifetime afford to buy Birkin or Kelly bags. Love and hugs

Wan Sharif said...

Mona Lisa..
When I was in France my lady teacher talked about La Joconde for about an hour to 6 of us Malaysian O&G trainees.. I thought I was lost and asked " Do La Joconde go with any other name?". Mona Lisa was the answer and then the other 5 Malaysian faces seem to brightened up .. ahh I was not the only one..lost, so it seems

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh: There are only two brands you need to learn to pronounce when going to Milan: (1) LV and (2) Moleskinerie. Both are alot cheaper there than anywhere else in the world. *laughs*

Mama Rock said...

wow! that's a lot of names :)

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Buongiorno signora bella Zah,

Gucci tempts you from across the road, Versace dares you from around the corner, Prada lures with dignified silence. Tommy yewfiger teases (tickle kucci kucci) u from down under…kakaka.

Lucky u Zah & I thought Europe is in a financial crisis at this moment. But I must say young lady, u do look very natural cruising on that yacht, bolih lah blend in with the rich & famous & I wouldn’t have notice the difference too…kekeke.


P/S – U got to watch out for those crafty Italian especially that Beslusconi chappie, that is one real bad guy, mafia pun takut sama dia.

D said...

Tee hee... Blending in with the rich and famous, eh? ;)

Even if one could afford a branded item, back in Malaysia, it might be mistaken for a fake one! LOL!

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Aunty Teh,

Just a note to say that I've reached home safely.

Glad to finally meet you! Say hello to Uncle H for me...=)

maszuzu said...

ouh kak that where they shot james bond?? i took a picture of that too...hehehe..nampak cantik sgt...and i pun terjebak gak beli leather goods dia... i like lake como...

Mdnor said...

Once upon a time, I was asked by friend to join her shopping in "Antenna" shop. Well, " i am looking for "antenna" too...I said.

When we reached there, I was shocked.
There is no 'antenna'....all clothes.......

Day after, I when to electronic shop quietly to get my 'antenna'.

How naive i am!!

IBU said...

Salam kak teh... same time zone this week. Read AG's article in Going Places on board MH. Terus chose "kerutuk ayam" for main course. Sedaaaaapppp.....

Pak Zawi said...

Kak Teh,
I was surprised to see my son wearing a pair of Ferragamo shoes. He said they are original and very comfortable to wear. When I looked them over they seem original alright.
He said he bought it for a song at the Wakaf Che Yeh pasar malam in Kota Bharu. Of course they are second hands ones hehehe.
Gonna do Italy one day since it is where the art scene is.

Ordinary Superhero said...

Have a well deserved break...and more updates, please. He he he