Milan; Fashion. Economy. Italian glitterati jet-flying set. The original seat of fascism. Imposing architecture. WWII. The Last Supper.
It’s easy to forgo Milan as an Italian city. It sets itself apart; it’s not overly gregarious, nor does it schmooze and flirt to every passer-by. Rather, it’s slick, neat and detached. This is where Italians come to live, eat and make money. This isn’t where tourists come to traverse and trapes over ancient ruins and eat watered-down middle class Italian pasta.
Talk to any outsider about Milan and there’s two opposing thoughts: love or hate, rarely is there indifference, and usually those ere on the side of the latter. But, why? Why does Milan inspire such opposing parallelism?
My other half is from Milan, and he’s very Milanese; precise, meticulous, neat, slick, fashion-conscious (a former Giorgio Armani employee and now’s transitioned to Stella), detached (somewhat), ambitious and naturally, effortless beautiful.
I hail from the other side of the world (Australia, yet with a fusion of British too) and I am quintessentially a by-product of my environment; outgoing, friendly, loud, gregarious, explicit and emotionally generous.
Considering the above, it is with little wonder that I was at first affronted by Milan’s detachment and apparent coolness. It’s so beautiful, but so removed. Nona’s don’t bellow and scoop you up in an embrace, people are not intrigued or beguiled by you, nor are they interested in your poor attempts at conversing in their native language.
Milan is for Italians and only Italians only, there’s little space for the demonstrative tourist. Yet, if you ingratiate yourself within Milanese culture, you’ll find it hard to break. Through various visits and pilgrimages to the Italian fashion capital, I’ve slowly come to realise that I’ve adapted to its expectations; I’m far more fashion conscious and aesthetics proud, I converse, stare and judge (that’s always been innate within me). I am fastidious about dress and (slightly) more untrusting of strangers.
It’s not an approachable city (unlike ‘my’ Sydney), but rather it’s a city which needs approaching, and when you do so it must be under the façade of an Italian. So, when travelling to Milan remember the following; listen, judge, be aesthetically-proud and relinquish preconceptions of Italy. Like every country Italy too is thwart with idiosyncrasies. And remember, this is a country with a very fervent north/south divide, and generally it falls into the following: north, cold. South, warm.
Yet despite my reservations it really is a remarkable place, and no place is a truer exhibition of an Italian 9-to-5 way of life. This isn’t tourist laden Italy, nor is it vacation Italy, this is prosaic Italy without the veneer and gloss of a vacationist haven.