For pretty much as long as I can remember, the Fondazione Feltrinelli had been under construction here in Milan. What started as barriers and scaffolding along Viale Pasubio eventually revealed a long lithe, triangular shaped glass building. If you’ve been to Italy, Feltrinelli are the bookstores marked by the distinct red and white “F” logo. When I moved to Rome, the Feltrinelli on Largo Argentina was my refuge of sorts anytime I felt the urge to browse a bookstore, so Feltrinelli has held a special place in my heart for more than four years. Unsurprisingly, as most people, places and things in this fascinating country have a story behind them, there’s a story behind Feltrinelli as well.
Giangiacomo Feltrinelli founded his namesake foundation in 1951, and followed by his publishing house soon after. The wealthy partisan was a history buff, and the foundation’s basement houses his personal collection of more than 1,000,000 documents (which are 12 kilometers long!) from Europe’s left political movements like the French Revolution, Italian Unification, Russian Revolution and more. Visitors can view and read the works in the fifth floor’s reading room, and take in an amazing view while they’re at it. The Reading Room is open from 9am to 6pm on weekdays so I have yet to get there to see it myself, but I have taken everyone else’s word for it. The coolest part? You can choose which you want to read and the document is delivered to you automatically. Seems like something you’d see at Gringrots, no?
In addition to offices and a bookstore, the Foundation is home to the nifty Babitonga Cafè. Open all day, Babitonga Cafè is the perfect place to park yourself for a few hours to read, write, work (yes, there’s free wifi!) or just take a load off. The business lunch suits anyone looking to eat on the fly, and at 4pm, there’s a Proust-inspired afternoon tea complete with Madeleines (one of my most favorite things ever!). The cafe is named after Baia di Babitonga, a Brazilian community of creative types who dreamed of a different world without injustice, established in 1842.
As for the evenings….
Acclaimed barman Mattia Pastori created a selection of proprietary cocktails in collaboration
with the Campari Academy, all creative twists on typical Italian aperitivo libations that are all simple, thoughtful and delicious. Choose from the Tokyo Spritz, made from Aperol, wasabi, ginger and spumante for a classic with a touch of Asian flair; Un Americano Inaspettato to which Aria di Frangelico is added to Vermouth Rosso 1757 and Bitter Campari to add the titular “unexpected” touch; Martini di Milano with Bulldog Gin, Bitter Campari and the spice that gives the city’s risotto alla Milanese its signature gold color: saffron; Sbagliatissimo with Vermouth Bianco 1757, XRated Fusion Liquor and Prosecco; and Garibaldino Tonico with Bitter Campari, tonic and orange ice. Enjoy some pizza fritta, crostini, salume and cheese while you sip. Aperitivo hour starts at 6pm.
Still hungry? Firstly, a side note: Spaghetti has always been my favorite pasta. I eat it at lesat three times a week. I’m also obsessed with Pasta Mancini (more on that coming soon!), and chef Oreste Massera features seven different spaghetti preparations with Pasta Mancini spaghetti. As far as I’m concerned, it really doesn’t get much better than that! Massera’s spaghetti offerings come in both classic and creative preparations with some Tuscan pici and tonnarelli thrown in for good measure, along with a spaghetti made from zucchini, carrots and diakon served with arugula pesto and topped with poppy and sesame seeds.
I’m loath to admit that I haven’t tried them all (yet!), but the tonnarelli in Sciaccia anchovy sauce with cauliflower cream and lemon breadcrumbs rocked! The classics include pomodoro, carbonara and the ever-gratifying garlic, olive oil and bottarga while other creative preparations include pumpkin cream, shrimp and black truffle pearls and matcha-flavored spaghetti with vongole veraci, crispy artichokes and lime, among others.
Head on over and give it a try!
Fondazione Feltrinelli (Viale Pasubio, 5; +39 02 495 8341; Monday – Friday: 9am – 6pm; website)
Babitonga Cafè (ground floor of Fondazione Feltrinelli; Open seven days: 8am – 11pm)
*Disclaimer: I was an invited guest of Babitonga Cafè, but all opinions are my own.