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article originally published in Diva Style magazine,

May 2021


I recall my first visit to Milan's Piazza del Duomo as a thirteen-year-old girl. I told myself that one day I'd like to live in that city immersed in that culture, which is similar to mine but also very different. Since then, it has been a recurring dream for me. Ten years later, I'm sitting at my desk in a Milanese district, and my mind is racing with ideas I'd like to summarize here. You know how it feels to be bursting with passion for something, so strong that you want to pass it on to others because what's more beautiful than when someone laughs with that vein in the middle of their forehead while talking about what makes them happy in life? That prominent vein currently belongs to me, a journalism student spending the first half of this unpredictable year in Milan, Italy's economic and fashion capital.


I am writing to you three weeks after my arrival, and I still wake up every morning thinking about how surreal it is that I'm living one of my dreams right now, during the pandemic. I came to Milan for a student exchange program, specifically the Erasmus program scholarship at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Going on Erasmus is an opportunity for every student to shape him- or herself as an independent person ready for change. I applied for the scholarship in February last year, but trips to the nearest store became a luxury by March. I got to know the results one evening in May. Mom and I laughed that night while drinking red wine, saying how fortunate I am to go there only in February next year, when the situation will undoubtedly have calmed down. But here we are, Mom and I are still laughing, although over the phone, on the Zagreb-Milan line.


At the end of the summer, I found out that classes for foreign students at the university will be conducted exclusively online. My enthusiasm started to slowly drop then, but as the genius Diane von Fursterberg says: "When you doubt your power - you give power to your doubts". And just when I thought it was impossible for me to leave, I began sending emails to organizations that help exchange students. After a week and 23 emails exchanged, I received a confirmation: “Dear Iva, you can go to Milan with a full scholarship”. That vein from the beginning, with which I explained to everyone why I am going to study from my room in Milan right now while the rest of the world is standing still, has returned.


I have always been in love with Italy. I am not sure when I first became fascinated by the Italian language, the way of communicating, elegance, art, fashion, music, cities, streets, and the art of Italian cuisine. Italy was frequently mentioned in my family; my father briefly worked there, my grandfather and brother studied there, and I fantasized about it. If you asked me where I would like to go, I would always say Italy, even though the answer to that question is frequently something inaccessible and unattainable. I speak the language, and I have even had situations where people here were surprised at how quickly I adopted it. I believe how you approach someone is the most important in communication. There is a lot in life anyway about self-confidence and presentation.


They say you can speak the language perfectly here, but your daily habits reveal you. For example, if you order a cappuccino rather than an espresso in a bar in the afternoon, it makes no difference how well you speak the language or how elegant you are because cappuccino is not consumed in the afternoon. A true Milanese, on the other hand, does not drink coffee for hours: he or she drinks it at the bar, for there is no time to waste. The Milanese should wear a dark blue coat with crossed legs and brown suede leather shoes. It is also preferable that it is the aperitivo time between six and eight o'clock in the evening when the Milanese unwind after a long day at work with a spritz or a negroni.


I don't use navigation; instead, I try to get lost in every street, get to the end of one, turn into another even more special than the last, and then in the third, fourth, and fifth, spot a refined older gentleman dressed as if on his way to Scala, or the lady who wear her clothes so well. These ladies with a distinct style are known as le sciure, and their impeccable and timeless elegance reveals them. They are most frequently seen in the Brera district, the city's artistic heart that enchants with its atmosphere and numerous concept stores. As a result, when it comes to Milan street fashion, I am most excited to see le sciure. But it's not just about the high-quality clothing they wear. Their outlook on life and ageing fascinates me. Their good spirit and, more importantly, their willingness to care so much about their appearance in their mature years stems from the fact that they care for their inner satisfaction in this way.


I believe that the things around us, what we look at and what surrounds us inspire us the most in life. When immersed in the Milanese scenery, it is not difficult to be an elegant Milanese. Yes, many people believe that Milan is the least "Italian" of the Peninsula's cities. This may be true when compared to the history and art of Rome or Florence. Milan, on the other hand, combines traditional and modern architecture, delights with famous sights such as its Gothic cathedral, Vittorio Emanuele II passage, La Scala theatre, or the Pinacoteca di Brera Museum, which houses some of the most important works of Italian art. And, while visitors are unlikely to die of beauty, as in Sorrentino's film "La grande bellezza," I am confident that they will be delighted by its streets, palazzos, entrances and staircases, and hidden courtyards. Its allure is not immediately apparent to many, but it is a city full of surprises for those willing to dig deeper. Every building and every street have a unique story to tell. It is most beautiful to me when the sun sets, the city turns orange, and the Italians begin their aperitivo.


Orange is also the colour of the zone in which we have been living in Milan since last week. It implies the closing of cafes, restaurants, museums, schools, kindergartens, and other places of daily residence. A mask is mandatory both outside and inside, but we have already reached that moment when it is natural to have it on our faces. I'm optimistic. I know that spring will come with good weather, a better mood, and finally, the loosening of current restrictions. Because if it was this beautiful here with the winter measures, we can't wait for the spring ones. Andrà tutto bene, the Milanese will say. Cafes, museums, roads, and borders can be closed, but the free spirit from which everything starts, and which moves us remains. It is important to be in a good mood and enjoy life wherever you are.

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