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Fast Luxury and Slow Food

February 2012

By Claudia Franco, Milan

I’m not sure how to reconcile my own conflicted feelings about the fact that the Smeraldo Theater will be transformed into foodie heaven, a.k.a. Eataly. The legendary theatre was a temple for live music in Milan, hosting huge stars like Ray Charles and Bob Dylan on its stage. However, as a gourmande, I am admittedly excited about the convenience of this new culinary oasis, located in the Piazza XXV Aprile (its official opening will likely coincide with its address as it’s set to be unveiled on April 25th). Not only will Eataly house some five special restaurants and a workshop area for "food education," but it will also grant Milanese access to a selection of food of the highest quality, including the finest "Made in Italy" products that have been granted a seal of approval from the Slow Food movement. Apparently the developers have promised that a concert stage will be incorporated in the colossal project that is overtaking one of Milan’s most popular cultural temples.

The Smeraldo Theater’s history will be altered, much like the transformation that the Excelsior, located near Duomo in the heart of the town, has already undergone. Since September, the Excelsior is no longer a historical cinema: it is now a megastore of international fashion, design, and food where famous Tiffany jewels sit next to plastic retro toy cameras that produce vintage-looking snapshots, capitalizing on the Lomograpy trend and the huge success of iPhone apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram. A multicolored "plastic paradise" from emerging country Brazil lights up grey Milan with the opening of Melissa’s first Italian flagship store. Boasting recyclable PVC shoes, Melissa even commissioned Italian architect Gaetano Pesce to design a shoe model that can be personalized by customers with a pair of scissors. Environmental sustainability is becoming increasingly important to Milan’s new local administration. The move to transform Milan into the Italian capital of electric mobility is already underway: the Renault-backed e-moving project has begun with the installation of the first stations to charge electric cars. I’m eager to see many of electric cars zipping around town before the 2015 Expo that proposes the a propos theme: “Feeding the planet, Energy for life.”

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