After leaving Como and on the way to Florence we had a brief stop in Milan for brunch, cappucino and sight-seeing. We managed to snag a park right next to the Duomo and the galleria, so we soaked up those beautiful stained glass windows and amazing expanse of vaulted glass and iron light (it doesn't get more 19th century than a glass covered shopping arcade!) greedily. After that was more hot chocolate and then the Scala to pay homage to my favourite Ballerina brand; Porselli. We stumbled in as night had fallen, red-nosed and chilled to the bone, and were greeted by two Italian grand dames who didn't speak a word of English (and us vice versa!) gesturing wildly and pronouncing "Bella" at everything shoe we tried on. After some mishaps with describing sizes and colours (sign language, as always, is our friend), we were dragged into the store room and up the ladder to pull down the pairs we wanted ourselves. It doesn't get much better than that! For a brief second I had some kind of out of body experience, like this is what it must feel like to be Audrey Hepburn or Brigitte Bardot, surrounded by people and at least 10 pairs of shoes on a chesterfield lounge next to La Scala.
Porselli ballet flats are my absolute favourites; they're handmade by the Porselli company (founded in the early 1900s by Mr Porselli, of course) in Italy and their location right next to Milan's grand theatre casts them as the pointe shoe maker par excellence for the city's limber ballerinas. Not being a ballerina myself - try though I did! - I come for the ballet flats, which are soft and supple, long in the toe box and high on the sides (to avoid buckling and toe cleavage, two of my least favourite things in ballet flats), completed with a grosgrain trim with smooth leather or the softest, simplest brushed nubuck. These shoes are perfect. They are as light as a cloud and so chic. They're so difficult to get your hands on - hence the need for pilgrimages! - but if you're lucky enough to have an A.P.C store nearby you can pick up a pair from their collaboration with the french brand (thought at slightly elevated prices). The best, though, will always be a trip to the store itself, slipping out of your shoes, your coat, your beanie and scarf, and onto that red carpet, where a line of ballet flats will be laid out for you and for a moment you can feel just like Brigitte.