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The pretty flowers of a Milan refuge

Di Antonio Caneva, 25 Settembre 2014

Without calling into question that ludicrous electoral project by La Malfa / Sgarbi that was called “the Party of Beauty”, there is no doubt that our country attracts the world’s attention for the beautiful things it has to offer; being Italian in a foreign country generates a mixture of suspicion – due to bad reputation, whether deserved or not – and admiration for Italy’s nature, art, cuisine and lifestyle.
A beautiful country, were we not so unspeakably self-destructive; we harm ourselves maybe without realising. Recently, a fairly particular restaurant has been opened, with the telling name of Rifugio. A team of Austrian carpenters worked for months to transform a place in the heart of Milan into a Dolomites chalet, which is now proposing typical South Tyrol dishes. The exterior attraction and decoration design includes, along the edge of the premises, some metal flower boxes with inserted spotlights pointing upwards, criss-crossing the light beams of similar spots from above. The numerous flower boxes were filled with small mountain plants and shrubs, with a truly agreeable impact: an abandoned corner of the city has come back to life.
The plants had hardly been put in position, when somebody started taking them away, to the point of developing a speed contest between the restaurant management and the pillagers.
Nothing too serious, if compared with other problems of this time; it has reminded me, however, of when I had a hotel in Brescia, and I had created a beautiful garden by calling in a famous nurseryman from Lake Maggiore. Well, even though the plants were rather large, they would regularly disappear. I never gave in, and I kept on replacing them. But does it make any sense?
Can it be that there is so little love for what makes our cities enjoyable?
Last summer I went to Germany, to Regensburg, a fairly large town on the Danube river. What a shock: the many bicycles in the streets were parked without being fastened by even a small lock, let alone any big chains (which are no longer any help in stopping the thieves in Milan); they were simply left in their racks.
Trivial thoughts: we know what we are like, and it seems to me by now that we accept it. But it really makes you angry when you experience it first-hand. I just mentioned Regensburg, but there are problems in Germany as well. I remember that in Berlin, a few years ago, in order to stop people vandalising the subway trains, they posted notices that outright promised a reward to those who reported the injurers.
A sense of public good (our good) which we had better regain.

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