Milan’s Mobile Mosque

Milan city officials are grappling with a mosque so overgrown that hundreds of Muslims kneel on sidewalks to pray. The solution is igniting a game of NIMBY hot-potato as neighborhoods and politicians move services from one spot to another.

Last Friday, the ‘mobile mosque’ was around the corner from my house. On my way to a lunchtime piadina, a young man on a bike stopped to ask politely in a heavy foreign accent: “Scusi, signora (argh) how do I get to Vigorelli stadium from here?”

A few seconds later, I remembered the city had given worshipers use for prayer services — just for one week — there. After lunch, I went to check it out. The last time I’d been to the stadium, a Fascist-era bike racing track, Fiat had sponsored a faux-ski run in it. The venue is never particularly busy, it’s an odd size and not well served by public transport.

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Recycle, Or Else. Capito?

An email rant about recycling I got the other day from the U.S. — remember: not just the paper, but hard stuff too: dirty jars, bits of aluminum foil, cell phones — got me thinking.
My conscience about recycling rests easy. It’s been rinsed, correctly compacted and put into the right bin, thank you very much.
Though it’d be easy to say that this eco-morality is my own, that would be a lie. Keeping down the global heat in my miniscule corner of the world is the mission of Il Colonnello, the Recycle Fascist.
This palazzo is small for Milan, about 10 apartments built around an irregular courtyard. And Il Colonnello has made it his job to ensure everyone’s towing the line and putting Tetra Pak in the right place. (Here, by the way, the cartons used for milk, juice, cream, etc. count as paper).

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Fashion Flash: Thin’s (Still) In

Local news taunts with photos of spacey jumpsuits or bathroom-carpet sweaters, there are interviews with minor celebrities pressed against the catwalk and swirling shots of after-parties that you have not been and never will be invited to…. This year, in an effort to tame the disgruntled, they’ve set up a big screen in Piazza San Babila, so on your way down into the metro you can see men on a catwalk.

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Tooth Fairy

His dentist understands it is unlikely that Victor will actually stop smoking, so he orders him to use a cigarette holder that will stain his teeth less. Victor, amused at what he describes as “prescribed fabulousness,” is perhaps puffing a bit less these days….

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Out There: Laundry in Italy

I rented an apartment once in Florence whose only real attraction was a dryer. It was an exciting prospect: no more damp racks of clothes for days on end when it was too cold or rainy or foggy to hang them off the balcony to dry.

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9/11 Milan: The Key Test

I wondered whether I had made a mistake, but decided to trust my instinct: There was no more to this than a silly girl who forgot her house key and a cautious parent looking after a child.

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Webcam Nuns! Maybe!

The whopper about the Canadian officials arriving in Italy to spread around the fortune of a bootlegging emigrant is a classic example of how what makes it into Italian papers won’t hold up after only a few phone calls…. Then promptly forgot about it, until “cybernun” Sister Antonella, who also runs the web site of the Dominican order, answered my email: “We’ve got plans for a web cam on the drawing board..but I don’t know yet when it will happen.

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Italian superstitions? You bet

Got my number

I managed to change a train ticket in Venice at the last minute. It was a major triumph.

First Jabba the Hut behind the counter puffed at me, saying he wasn’t sure he could change my Internet ticket. So I Spaniel-eyed him.

He reconsidered. Then punched in a few things with monstrously fat fingers and waited for the computer’s verdict.

“You shouldn’t have fought with your boyfriend,” he commented, smiling through a row of green-gray teeth. Because, of course, the only reason a woman would need to get the hell out of Dodge in a hurry would be a love spat.

Anyway, he managed to get me on a Cisalpino — great but rare Swiss trains — leaving in 10 minutes. I said “grazie” and ran.

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Italy’s Strike Predictor

In most countries, people check the weather forecast before leaving the house.
They may also check traffic. Or, with skyrocketing gas costs, prices at the pump.
In Italy, people check the strike-o-meter, or scioperometro, a strike forecast published on the Internet.

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Italians, with strong union representation, are some of the most active strikers in all of Europe. They are fourth with an average of 113 days lost per 1,000 workers in protests.
As a freelancer who usually works from home, they don’t affect me that much. But the law of travel in the Bel Paese states that if you have to go anywhere, especially from one city to another, more than once in a month you’ll get nailed by some sort of transport strike.

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Italian Politics for Beginners

Primary ballot

I finally got an ‘admit one’ ticket to the circus of Italian politics. Well, sort of.
I voted. In a way.
Milan is holding primary elections for center-left mayoral candidates and immigrants can join the fun, too.

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