Milan is Italy’s city of the future, a fast-paced metropolis where money talks, creativity is big business and looking good is an art form.
Ruled by the Caesars, Napoléon, the Austro-Hungarians and Mussolini, Milan has an ancient and fascinating history. After the unification of Italy in 1861, it also became an important industrial and cultural centre – a title it still holds today. While it may not have the historic attractions of other Italian cities, it holds its own with art collections old and new, which mark the genius of old masters and provoke new conversations about where the world is headed. Prestigious nights at La Scala, an illustrious literary heritage and a vibrant music scene also do much to debunk the city’s workaholic image.
A Modern Miracle
Since Leonardo da Vinci broke all the rules in his stunning Last Supper, the indefatigably inventive Milanese seem to have skipped straight from the Renaissance to the 1900s. Not only is Milan a treasure trove of 20th-century art, but art deco and rationalist architecture abound. Today the city leads the way with the largest post-war re-development in Italy, impressive, sustainable architecture and a futuristic skyline modelled by Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and César Pelli. The city is also burgeoning into a hi-tech hub, home to start-ups galore and the likes of Google, Microsoft, Alibaba and Apple.
Living by Design
Though Italian design is world renowned, its roots lie in 1930s Milan – seeing it in a home context offers fresh appreciation. A visit to the Triennale design museum is a wonderful way to pay homage to the work of Italy’s best and brightest. In addition, Milan is home to all the major design showrooms and an endless round of trade fairs, including Salone Internazionale del Mobile and its ever-popular sidekick the free Fuorisalone. Italian fashion houses are also branching out into spas, bars, hotels, galleries and cultural centres all over Milan, which means you can get your style fix pretty much everywhere.
Cucina povera (poor man’s cuisine) may be the cry of the south, but Milanese cooking is the product of a rich urban culture. Just note the golden hue of its quintessential dishes: cotoletta(burnished, buttery veal) and saffron risotto. It was in powerful commercial cities such as Milan that some of Italy’s great cuisines were born, marrying Mediterranean fruits, spices and herbs with cooking methods, pastry techniques and eating styles from France and central Europe. Even today Milan continues to push Italy’s culinary boundaries, making sushi and dim sum its own, and holding the highest number of Michelin stars in the country.