The Palazzo dell’Arte or La Triennale in Sempione Park is not to be confused with the Galleria d’Arte in Villa Reale. The 1933 building is called the Palazzo dell’Arte and was especially constructed to house the three-yearly art exhibition of Milan (till 2002). Since 2007 it is the home of the Triennale Design Museum , the […]
Parma, situated in the Po Valley of Northern Italy, is world famous for its food products: the Parmesan cheese and the prosciutto ham, both protected by European law. As it happens the production and preservation of these two mouth watering delicacies requires salt, lots of salt. In this Parma is fortunate to be located, probably not accidentally, […]
Wine making is a labour intensive job, all year round, pruning, weeding, binding, spraying, harvesting, all done by hand in the more traditional wine area’s such as the Oltrepò Pavese, Lombardy. The occasional holiday (one day off) has to be squeezed in somewhere, when for a moment the plants can be left alone. Sundays and […]
The UNESCO not only recognizes World Heritage Monuments but also handicrafts and popular traditions, as I learnt from the Dutch news agencies. The very Dutch profession of the miller had joined one of the several hundreds of already existing heritage crafts! And as my name is Smulders which signifies ’son of a miller’, I was […]
If you want to relax a while you’ll be surprised to find this very large and nice park almost in Milan city center, behind the Castello Sforzesco . You can sit in the shade of the trees on the lawns or on one of the many benches, and see the Milanese pass by. Italian city […]
The actual Sforzesco Castle is for a large part a 19th century reconstruction of the Renaissance building of the Sforza family. There are a lot of castles in Lombardy built in the Renaissance by the nobility of the time, mainly the Sforza and Visconti families. The Sforza Castle in Milan houses several municipal museums (one […]
The festive month of december (Christmas!) starts early in Italy, not only in some regions in the North (see the post about San Nicolo) but in Milan as well. The day of the 7th of december is not only dedicated to the patron saint Ambrose (see the post about the Sant’Ambrogio basilisk) but also marks the […]
Though not explicitly mentioned as such by all travel guides, the Basilica of Saint Ambrose is about the most interesting one to visit in Milan. It is a medieval art treasury. The basilisk was originally consecrated by St Ambrose (387), but is for a large part a rebuild of the 11th century, though parts of the […]
Italian pastry shops are incredible. They more like art galleries than negozi where you can actually buy something to eat. Food really is an art in Italy. Do not forget to spot these little artisan spots when you visit a city. You do not even have to enter the shop itself to have a mouthwatering […]
The Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli is a veteran in space travel, as he was born in Milan in 1957. As it turns out he is the 4th oldest astronaut ever. At the moment he is on his third (and last?) trip to the international space station ISS from which he will return in about a week’s […]
Italian ice-cream, the gelato, is famous all over the world, so once you are in Italy you should have a try at least once (twice?) a day. How else are you ever going to try all the different, delicious tastes available? Now luck has it that a gelato isn’t as fattening as an ice-cream, as […]
To appease your hunger, while waiting for the late Italian meal, you may want to try the Italian happy hour or aperitivo , a real tradition in Milan and other cities all over Italy. Though the precise rules differ from bar to bar, the general idea is that you order a drink at a slightly […]
Italian christmas is more or less like the holy feast in other Christian countries. Entire families grab the opportunity, one of several during the year, to come together and enjoy a fantastic, slow, many course lunch, the pranzo di natale. But in the extreme North of Italy, Friuli, Alto Adige and the like, an another […]
Milan is a city rich in churches, abbeys and religious and holy places. As the hometown of one of the Church Fathers, Saint Ambrose, it could not have been otherwise. The Duomo of Milan may be its most famous attraction but the capital of Lombardy has more to offer. A special attention deserve the abbeys […]
Yesterday we went to a performance of La Cenerentola in the Fraschini theater of Pavia. This Rossini opera (opera is called ’la lirica’ in Italy, as opposed to ’la prosa’, play) turned out to be a bit dull. The well-known fable did not offer much drama for the composer to attach his ever joyful arias […]
The small historical town of Vigevano, at a short distance south-west of Milan, has one of the most beautiful Renaissance squares of Italy. No wonder that many newly wedded couples come to this place to have their pictures taken. Vigevano’s era of fame lasted for about two centuries, when during the Renaissance period the city was […]
In 2011 Berlusconi was sacked by Italy’s president, the former communist Giorgio Napolitano. B. had neglected the urgent requests of the other European leaders to do something about the alarming economic situation of the country. Since the crisis of 2008 the Italian state could only acquire capital at ever increasing exorbitant rates. The The country […]
Milan is world renowned for its shopping possibilities and you’ll find the most important streets and districts in this post. The most important (and expensive) shopping district, where all the major designer’s shops are, is the Quadrilatero d’Oro . Then there are the major shopping streets of Corso Buenos Aires , Corso Vittorio Emanuele , Corso […]
Italian television is infested with big shows, quizzes and melodramatic series. This does not only hold for Berlusconi’s commercial Mediaset channels, but for the public Rai broadcasts as well. It is the domain of old men and young largely nude girls, the veline. Hardly worth watching, unless you like young nude girls or want to […]
Though frequently called the Tuscany of the North of Italy, the Oltrepò Pavese in Lombardy, only 40 miles south of Milan, is fairly unknown abroad. Tourists pass the area closely when travelling to the real Tuscany, to Umbria or further south. This is a pity as the Oltrepò really offers something worthwhile for almost every tourist, […]
Everybody knows the magnificent Duomo of Milan, the Galleria, the Scala, the fashion district. But there are a few esser known or less visited sights of Milan, that definitely are also worth visiting during a stay in the city. And there are few examples of these secrets in the nearby hinterland of Milan as well. […]
As Beppe Severgnini said in his very enjoyable book La Bella Figura: “Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It’s […]
Pavia , at a short distance south of Milan, happens to be one of the nicest cities in the region for a nice stroll. All of Pavia can be visited on foot and along the way there are lots of quiet little squares with benches in the shadow of trees. Pavia is quiet during the lunch hour(s), […]
“Siam pronti alla morte, sì!” sang the soccer players of the national football team, gli Azzurri, before the decisive match against Sweden a week ago. They didn’t die, but they did not win either and for the first time in 60 years the unthinkable has happended. Italy will not participate in the World Championship 2018. […]
Once at the university I was in a study room and could not help but overhearing the telephone conversations that took place in the adjacent room of a teacher. Long conversations which the caller apparently had difficulties in concluding. The last part of these telephone conversations usually went like this: „Ciao, ciao, grazie! Bye bye […]
The city of Milan has a clear geometrical structure : it is shaped like an onion with several circular layers around the centro storico , the historical center. The administration of Milan officially recognizes 9 zones or quartieri , one central kernel and 8 sections surrounding it. The administrative central part, zone 1 , still […]
From the end of the 19th till the beginning of the 20th century the Art Nouveau movement was “hot” in Italian architecture. Fortunately! I just love this art movement, whether in architecture, design or paintings. A range of Liberty-style as the movement was called in Italy buildings arose in Milan as well. The most important […]
The city of Cremona lies at only a one hour drive from Milan and definitely is worth a day trip if you are interested in historical locations and … violins. Cremona happens to be the birth place of Stradivarius, the Guarnieri’s and Amati and still is a major violin producing community. You can visit a […]
The Certosa di Pavia monastery is a definite must-see if you visit Milan or Pavia. It is an architectural gem and art treasure at the same time. It is located 8 km north of Pavia, near the hunting grounds of the Visconti family, that ran from Milan to Pavia. The monastery was built in the […]
Italy Expat Blog
Living la Dolce Vita
In 2008 Dutchman Stef Smulders, his partner Nico and their dog Saar emigrated to Italy to start a new life and set up a B&B. They sold their home, left their friends and family behind and took a leap into the unknown. In 2009 their bed and breakfast Villa I Due Padroni opened her doors and has since welcomed hundreds of satisfied Italy lovers.
In 2014 Stef published his first book, in Dutch, about the trials and tribulations of an emigration and about expat life in Italy. It was very well received and was followed by two sequels, in 2016 and 2017. Last year the English translation of the first book was published as "Living in Italy: the Real Deal - Hilarious Expat Adventures". This version was met with acclaim as well and has won several rewards and received very good reviews on Amazon as well as Goodreads.
"Stef Smulders ... does what a good writer does: He writes what he observes and leaves the judgement to you, the reader. No constant bellyaching from Mr. Smulders. I like that. I really like that."
James Martin, Italy expert, www.wanderingitaly.com
"impressive five star read"
Reader Views / Blogcritics
of the first 80 pages of my book!