Monday, February 26, 2007

La Siesta alla Milanese

While I was waiting for the Fendi show, I found this little barber shop down the street.

It was around 3 o’clock so the shop was closed for afternoon break but I wanted a closer look at the interior of the shop .

I peeked in the window and found this….

…the barber asleep in his chair!

Isn’t this exactly what Americans picture the Italian “afternoon break”must be all about?
This is like the perfect Floyd the Barber from the Andy Griffith show meets Milan.

He even looks a little like Floyd.

Actually I was a little embarrassed that I had peeked in and seen him sleeping – like I had peeked in his bedroom or something.

Of course, after about one second the photographer in me took over and I paced around out front trying to decided if I should take his photograph.
Among other things, I thought to myself – “what if he wakes up while I am taking the photo!?”

I finally decided to take the photo when I determined that I was probably faster than him and if he got too mad I could probably out run him.

I did have momentarily frightening visions of him running after me down the street yelling “Stop The Sartorialist!!!”
but I figured people would just dismiss it as anti-fashion rhetoric.

On a side note, afterwards I asked several Milanese , mostly people that worked at my hotel, if there was an Italian word for the afternoon break – like the Spanish word “siesta”.
Most of them thought for a while but could not come up with a word for it.
They could think of a word for a fast, short lunch break but not for the longer afternoon break.

I think “La Napoli” would sound good, be appropriate (nap time), and it could honor one of their most sartorial cities.
Lets see if they will adopt it!


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  1. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 1:20 am

    A word for it does exists, il “pennichella”

  2. Candid Cool

    February 26, 2007 at 1:29 am

    how funny

  3. Blue Floppy Hat

    February 26, 2007 at 2:01 am

    Much as I love your shots of people, I actually think you underestimate your ability to capture situations. And the barber would probably have been highly flattered that you were taking his picture, even if he didn’t show it (like the wall painter with the scarf in Milan last year).

  4. Iris Nobile

    February 26, 2007 at 2:31 am

    When I lived in Venice the shops and bars would all take a three hour break – which we called “la pausa” which I suppose is cognative (is that a word?) of a pause. Which meant after hours of studying Chekhov in Italian with a stentorian Venetian drama professor there was practically nowhere to get a drink for lunch!
    Wonderful pictures of Milano. You fill my heart with longing for Italia!

  5. Cristina

    February 26, 2007 at 2:49 am

    I live in BCN and the naptime it’s a very traditional thing here, about all in the South of Spain. In Barcelona it’s disseapearing this tradition, but my parents are from Andalusia and I go there at least twice at year, and there’s it’s common the naptime, all the shops are closed to 3 pm until 5 pm ( at least) for taking a nap.
    For all those we are forgetting this healthy tradition it’s very difficult to accept it, but, when you are there for a week, you finishing enjoying taking a shorty nap…it’s a kind of delicious tradition,so…just tast it!

  6. Dianne

    February 26, 2007 at 3:57 am

    Well I don’t know-I think the Sartorialist is right to exercise discretion when taking photos-for every person who loves attention there is another who might feel his/her privacy is slightly infringed if they have not given their permission. These photos are great though because of the little snap of everyday life that they reveal. Do you admire Cartier-Bresson, Mr Sart? There’s a little bit of his influence here, I think…

  7. Rachel

    February 26, 2007 at 4:12 am

    Gorgeous photos, wish I was there x

  8. Anna-Maria

    February 26, 2007 at 4:18 am

    This is such a lovely picture! I don’t know why, it makes me really, really positive. Just love it.

  9. marie

    February 26, 2007 at 4:29 am

    This is a very funny blog entry!

    I suggest a warning for such posts in the future. I almost sprayed my iced on my screen while reading your story! LOL!!

  10. Sidney1978

    February 26, 2007 at 5:31 am

    Take a siesta every day and you’d be happier “It doesn’t refeers to be more hours awake, but it’s about to be more awake!”

    In Zaragoza, near to Barcelona, the tradition haven´t an ending yet…like in Bcn…

  11. matteo

    February 26, 2007 at 5:40 am

    “penichella” is correct, or you can call it also “pisolino”.

  12. Gudl

    February 26, 2007 at 6:31 am

    You are funny! Now you even create new words! Wow! Europe brings out the best in you! ;-)

  13. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 6:39 am

    “pennichella” is more roman, just like “facciata”.
    the most commonly used word is “pisolino”, and it is a very well known word so one has to wonder, Sart, who these purported Milanese you claim to have been speaking might be?

    of course, it is no longer very common, what with busy Milanese life, more and more people commuting, shops having largely adopted the 10-7 opening hours. so younger people might not remember, but those who can, do the pisolino thing quite liberally. and it might look like a cute Italian (or Mediterranean) habit, but the siesta remains the best favour you can do to yourself!


  14. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 7:03 am

    It really is a big NO! NO! snapping photos if the person is not aware of it and then placing them on your blog….you did have a feeling that you might be doing something inappropriate.why not send him a few snaps and see how he reacts to your truly great always ask your subjucts permmission so why not ask him if he minds having been papparazzied by you.

  15. milaneseinlondon

    February 26, 2007 at 7:09 am

    Dear Sartorialist, you can call a little nap “pisolino”, but you are very lucky to have found this cute little scene, now in Milano everyone seems to rush around and very few people can afford this luxury …!

  16. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Pennichella is the good one…in my area we say sometimes Pisolino!
    Very nice pictures, a jump into the tradition and the old habits…even if I live abroad, my saturday pennichella after a good lunch is a must!

  17. Severine

    February 26, 2007 at 8:09 am

    This is just the way life should be… I felt so much like home in Italy, the perfect balance between living & enjoying life.
    Have we forgotten how essential it is to take a break, a pause, a siesta, a vacation to better appreciate life & its treasures? I deeply hope that Spain & Italy will never loose it… It saddens me other countries already have.

  18. Elena

    February 26, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Yes, “pennichella” … I’d like to do a “pennichella” or “schiacciare un pisolino” now, in my office!!

  19. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 8:39 am

    yup, pennichella or sonnellino

  20. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 8:44 am

    I see the barber’s name is Calogero, typical of southern Italy although he works in Milan. This would explain the pennichella (this habit is more diffused in the south).

  21. Jack Daniel

    February 26, 2007 at 9:15 am

    In The Netherlands we call it ‘een middagdutje’.

    You ever heard of the term: ‘Powernap’?
    Maybe the Italians and Spanish people taking ‘Powernaps’ so that they can go on ’till late at night.

  22. kiarella

    February 26, 2007 at 10:16 am

    As mentioned by anon 1:20 the italian word for siesta is ‘pennichella’ (pronounced pennikella) which comes from the latin word pendicare.The Zingarelli dictionary of the Italian language defines it: nap, in particular afternoon nap. If you want to impress your Italian friends use it!

  23. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 10:21 am

    your corny-ness is so charming, sart!

  24. dave

    February 26, 2007 at 10:25 am

    it’s called la pausa.

  25. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Don’t you think this is a little voyeuristic? Taking a photo through a window of someone asleep, and as such completely defenceless… Isn’t that a little unsympathetic to the feelings of your subject? I wouldn’t want to be photographed while sleeping, and then have my picture put online.
    I am normally with you, but this made me a bit uncomfortable…

  26. Joelle

    February 26, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    “I finally decided to take the photo when I determined that I was probably faster than him and if he got too mad I could probably out run him.”


  27. oldog/oldtrix

    February 26, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Your coinage, “La Napoli,” is inspired. On the other hand, having just returned from Paris and recognizing yet again my addiction to the place, I described myself as a “Parisite.” Doesn’t work nearly so well.

  28. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    “The Milano Series” might go down in history as some of your best work to date.
    This pic of the sleeping barber?
    I can only salute you!

    God damn, you are such a source of inspiration!

  29. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    another word for that is “pisolino”, Milena

  30. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Hi, I admire your work. But this certain picture is a little disturbing to me. It’s somehow impolite to take a picture of a sleeping person.

  31. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    another word for this is “pisolino”. I myself have it everyday, and you work much better after that.

  32. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 5:04 pm


    Ofcourse it is for you to judge where you draw the line but,it seems lots of readers think you crossed it ,with this series of photos.

    Why not just stick to people that know that they are being photographed and are aware that they give you their permission to place them on the blog.

    I agree with Dianne and the anonymous comments showing the fact that it is “not done”.

    Let us all know what you think.

    But please keep up the great work,we all love it.

  33. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    i really can’t relate to these comments that claim your photograph to be forbidden.. perhaps it is because i too am a photographer and can absolutely relate to capturing a moment. you should not feel as if you have “stolen” someone’s privacy. it is an innocuous image. delicate and peaceful, there is no exploitation here. defenseless?.. and you are attacking what..?

  34. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    una siestesita! the best of the day!

  35. 4 Chair

    February 26, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    The (top) picture of the exterior Barber shop is beautiful – how you allowed the graffiti as if to contrast those two styles of fonts in that frame.

  36. vanessa

    February 26, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    how lovely. thanks for this post. :)

  37. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    to anonymous at 7:11 p.m.:
    if you are a photographer, you probably should read susan sontag’s essays on photography, where she compares photography to hunting and shooting. there is something aggressive and acquisitive about all photo-taking. it is after all about the relationship between two human beings and the power dynamic. if one of the two participants is not aware of being photographed, there is clearly a power imbalance. just because the topic picture is “innocent”, such as a sleeping person, doesn’t mean that the ethical situation of the photo-taking was innocent. (it could be if the subject were posing or had agreed to be photographed prior to falling asleep. in this case, we have the facts behind the story, we know that no permission was asked or granted). the subject of this photo was clearly not treated as an autonomous being but rather as an object, or, in kant’s terms, as a means to an end instead of as an end in himself.
    you are a great photographer sartorialist, i just wanted to articulate why some of us are uncomfortable with this shot.

  38. fashion me this

    February 26, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    this certainly made me smile and definitely brightened my day
    thank you sartorialist.

  39. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    haha, that made me laugh :)

  40. Sarah

    February 26, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    He’s charming. The red tint in his hair reminds me of my grandmother’s love for henna dies.

    A harmless glance, and it may drum up a little business for this barbershop-at-the-corner.

  41. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    “la pausa” is the word people used when i lived in siena.

  42. Anonymous

    February 26, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    oh how i love your blog

  43. Anonymous

    February 27, 2007 at 3:09 am

    8.40pm said it so well and so diplomatic,bravo.come on Sart.,give us some response,it is not like you to be lost for words.all these comments and responses is keeping you blog alive and in motion.

  44. The Sartorialist

    February 27, 2007 at 3:56 am

    I agree with the different opinions – as i mentioned in the text i was unsure what to do.

    I felt though it would serve a bigger good to show people (especially in America) a different way of life – that things don’t always have to be so rushed.

    Also from what i hear this is slowly disappearing in Italy so maybe i wanted to document that for myself before it is gone.

    overall i just think it is a wonderfully romantic way to live a happy, small, quiet life.

    I envy him a little.

  45. Anonymous

    February 27, 2007 at 7:58 am

    In the Veneto: “reposo”. Grazie Mille for the inspiring glimpses.

  46. patrick

    February 27, 2007 at 9:26 am

    this short nap could be called a cat napoli.

  47. gosei_girl

    February 27, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I love your commentary! Note that Diane Arbus shared your concerns:

    “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

    “I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do – that was one of my favorite things about it, and when I first did it, I felt very perverse.”

    “Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.”

    BTW, you were the subject of my November 10, 2006 posting

  48. Anonymous

    February 27, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    How do you determine when it is appropriate to take the “sneak shot” of someone? This is always difficult for me as sometimes one wants a candid shot of the moment but does not wish to offend. Do you have personal guidelines?

  49. Anonymous

    February 27, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    In response to Anon. 8:40:
    An imbalance of power does not, in and of itself, imply immorality. By the same arguments one could say that simply seeing someone who is unaware of your presence constitutes an imbalance of power and, hence, constitutes an immoral act in which another person is treated as an “object.” The immorality of a given act is not due to the power imbalance itsef, but rather the misuse of the imbalance to injure the “weaker” (or, more appropriately, disadvantaged) party. I personally am quite glad that The Sartorialist took advantage to capture a moment that otherwise would have been lost for us.

  50. Fort Kiddiwanee

    February 27, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    ¡bendita siesta!

  51. Anonymous

    February 27, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    People please don’t take life so seriously!!! if I were the one sleeping I really wouldn’t care if someone snap my picture! pleasssssse! keep do in it Sart!

  52. Anonymous

    February 28, 2007 at 9:57 am

    We always called it “la pausa” in Florence….

  53. MimiJoy

    February 28, 2007 at 11:01 am

    in the area of Treviso (where the Benetton’s empire is) the afternoon nap is also called “poveglio” :)

    Innocent and spontanueos shots!


  54. Anonymous

    February 28, 2007 at 11:34 am

    In Milan and in north of italy is rather impossible to find someone sleeping after lunch.
    “pennichella” “pisolino” “siesta” are typical habits of the the southern italy…between milan and naples there’s the…ocean…

  55. Roma

    February 28, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    The Italian word for the afternoon break is “riposo”, Dear Mr Sartorialist.

    /The girl who lives in Rome

  56. vincenzamorello

    March 1, 2007 at 6:24 am

    I think there’s no problem to take the photo and displaying it on your website, is very nice, but I live in Milan since 1994 and never had time to sleep in the afternoon. Milan is very busy all the time, you have shot an exception.

    Compliments for your blog

  57. Viktorov

    March 2, 2007 at 10:09 am

    I love the siesta and I am so glad you decided to take that picture and share it with us. Cheers.

  58. laura

    March 8, 2007 at 11:24 am

    J confirm, the right word for it is “la pennichella” a short but very intense sleep!..Laura, Padova, Italy

  59. IU Deb

    March 9, 2007 at 11:54 am

    seriously, you’re killing me; that’s the best posting EVER! xo Deb

  60. Altissima

    March 14, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    Also “la pausa” in Reggio Emillia (near Bologna)

  61. Punto.

    September 26, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    i actually think 'pennichella' is more appropriate.. anyway, in Bologna we usually say "abbiocco pomeridiano" :)

  62. Alda

    May 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Of course it exists! “pennica”, or “pennichella”, or “pisolino”!
    You’re simply great!

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