Milan, I would wager, is to the parochial tourist Italy’s most disappointing city.
It’s not dripping in Romantic architecture (alla Florence), nor does it have the gusto and overpowering cologne of Rome. It’s not nestled by the sea (Cinque Terre) or painted in pastels and orchre hues, and it certainly doesn’t ooze with the charm that Tuscany manages.
‘It’s Italy’s economic capital’ is a reproach I hear over and over again concerning Milan’s lack of quintessentially Italian sensibility.
Milan has the architectural overtones of a post-modern film (note how the forcibly angular buildings are alike to that of Blade Runner). It’s cornered by the forcible Dolomites and therein sits in a clouded, foggy and often polluted basin of one million Italians with a penchant for good food, wine, cigarettes and handbags.
It’s not postcard Italy and nor is it the Italy of Instagram. Apart from a few iconic statues such as the Duomo there is very little that Milan can quench the salivating thirst of millennial Y/Z/X’s for orgasmic social media worthy beauty.
Yet there’s something you’re missing. Something that has taken me nearly ten years to put my finger on: if you want to learn to love Milan you have to know it’s history.
This is of course, a cliché. Every European city is a hangover of bygone days of old. Besides perhaps Berlin and a few Nordic capitals, the other European metropolitan cousins are completely and utterly defined by their past.
Don’t look at Milan and expect beauty. It was mainly built up during the era of fascism, where Mussolini ruled with an iron fist and a jaded brow.
It was while riding on the back of a Vespa on Saturday just gone around Milan that I’ve come to the realization: Milan is an architecturally fascist city. It’s major buildings: the train station, government offices and inner-city homes are undeniably fascist in the outtake.
They are hard, imposing, unashamedly arrogant pieces of architectural art. They’re intimating and cold, forceful and unapproachable.
They’re not romantic or whimsical, pretty or quixotic. There’s no buzz or hive of activity, there’s just silence and taciturnity.
Milan is an unapologetic place. Don’t expect the warmth (both actual and metaphorical) of Italy’s south, nor expect its beauty.
Don’t go expecting romance or a whimsical weekend spent caught up in Italy’s overarching sensibilities. This is a place of beautiful people, ugly buildings and strong religious connotations.
I love Milan for two reasons: firstly, it’s my boyfriend’s home and whenever I see, think or visit Milan it immediately reconciles myself to him.
Secondly, it’s an amazingly diverse place. It’s fast, hard and beautiful all at the same time.
I finish on a very unpoetic quote from the king of Milan’s capitalist intentions, Giorgio Armani.
“Milan is a true metropolis: strong and fearless but welcoming, too. Little by little, I came to realize that I could become someone here.”
And that is what Milan has to offer. You have the chance to be somebody, someone and something, and all shrouded up in the quintessential Italian way of life.
Bella vita, no?
I ate/ Everything plausible. It was Easter, and my diet consisted of primo, secondi, contorno and dolce. Namely, I enjoyed second helpings to Vitello Tornato, lasagne and a plethora of pasta.
I drank / Barolo. Try it, it’s amazing and comes from Piedmonte.