Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Paola Navone’s Milan

A trained architect, Paola Navone worked with Ettore Sottsass in the 1970s. She has since designed for many leading companies including Armani Casa, Alessi, Knoll and Poliform.

April 16 2010
Nicole Swengley

“Saturday always starts late. I live right in the centre of Milan, in an old converted cheese warehouse next to my studio (pictured), so first I’ll have a cappuccino and cake at Pasticceria Sissi, then go to the market on Piazza XXIV Maggio and buy whatever food catches my eye. I never plan my shopping. Then I go home and start preparing a meal for the evening. I live alone but often have about 10 or 12 friends over for dinner.

I love simple Mediterranean food and I also cook Turin specialities; traditional recipes handed down from my grandmother that I’ve redesigned.

A favourite is fritto misto, which is like a Japanese tempura with all sorts of vegetables – artichokes, courgettes, fennel, aubergine, cauliflower – in a light batter. Cooking is my way of relaxing and forgetting about things that have happened in the working week. If I think of something that has made me angry, I just chop the onions very, very fine.

I spend the afternoon going to shops and galleries. Spazio Rossana Orlandi is a favourite place: I enjoy seeing the new clothes, furniture and design objects. I’ll have a cappuccino at Pane e Acqua, the restaurant I designed for Orlandi with a mix of vintage and contemporary designs, industrial lighting and wooden tables. Understate is another lovely shop, with modern furniture on one side and antiques on the other. Then there’s Nilufar, a beautiful furniture gallery that always has interesting designs. The centre of Milan is small, so I walk everywhere.

I don’t usually bother with lunch – instead, I’ll pop into Chocolat, which has the most delicious chocolates and ice creams. Then I go home to finish cooking and set the table. I have a huge collection of tableware and like to mix things up with a variety of colours and shapes, and mismatched chairs. It’s like a game deciding where everything should go.

If I don’t have friends to dinner I meet them at a restaurant, where the focus is on food rather than the design of the place. My favourites are Al Grigliaro, a fish restaurant run by a Sardinian family; Gattò, which serves sophisticated Mediterranean food; and Ponte Rosso, which specialises in traditional Roman recipes and is run by a woman who used to be an architect. Sometimes we eat early, sometimes very late; so I could get to bed at midnight or 2am.

Sunday morning starts very late. Sometimes I go to a spa called Culti for a massage but more often I go to Corso Como, one of the few areas where the shops are open on Sundays. Carla Sozzani’s shop, 10 Corso Como, is a wonderful place selling all kinds of well-designed things, and I also like High Tech, a mini department store where you can buy nice things for the home. I enjoy visiting the Triennale on Sundays because it’s in the park. It always has several interesting exhibitions going on, and there’s a bookshop and café too.

On the last Sunday of the month I go to the Naviglio Grande flea market, alongside the canal. The displays are fun and inspiring – but then I find inspiration in most things. It’s a mental attitude. If you look and touch you can always find something interesting – a shape, a colour, a texture. It’s a 24-hour exercise to capture all these elements, and they all go into a big reservoir in my head and pop out when we do a project. Putting the things together is the work. But sourcing them is a way of life.

On Sunday evenings I enjoy relaxing with a novel. I like Stieg Larsson, the Swedish writer, and American novels – anything escapist. Design books are strictly for the week. And I tune into the talk shows on television. I don’t really listen to what they are saying but it helps me to drop off. For all I know, they probably keep talking until Monday morning.”

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