The city of Milan would not be the first to come to mind in a list of beautiful Italian cities. Better known as an industrial city, with bad weather and populated by cold people, these last years have marked the Renaissance of Milan.
For many years the Italian business capital has been considered the ugly sister of the most important Italian cities like Rome, Venice or Florence. But as the host of the 2015 Expo, Milan has taken advantage of the World Fair to rejuvenate its image, attracting new investment in a makeover that officials hope might mark the start of a broader revival for the whole country. As they say in Italy: “what happens in Milan today, happens in Italy tomorrow”.
The Renaissance of Milan, a new profile for the city
At first look, the most notable change in the city is the new skyline. The sleek headquarters of the Italian bank “Unicredit”, the centerpiece of one of several new developments that dot the northern city, is a state-of-the-art reminder of Milan’s status as a financial hub.
And while the gothic Duomo cathedral and Galleria shopping arcade recall past glories, modern ventures – such as the “Vertical Forest” apartment blocks whose balconies bloom with trees and plants – point to a newfound confidence.
Moreover, the trendy neighborhood “Navigli”, crossed by a water canals scheme designed by Leonardo Da Vinci for the transportation of the blocks of marble during the construction of the Duomo, has been renewed. A new waterside promenade was opened in May, making the area the center of night life, with beautiful restaurants and bars and, with the Brera district, the hub of the flourishing design industry. As a matter of fact, Milan has absorbed more than half of all investment in business real estate in Italy in the first half of this year.
A new city for a new tourist
Tourism to Milan has grown faster over the past six years than in Italy’s other big cities. Of course the Milan Expo had planned a large role in the rising results, as the city council representative for tourism Franco D’Alfonso confirmed that ticket sales are on track to reach between 18 million and an original target of more than 20 million.
But the overall rise in tourism began well before Expo. Research based on data from Euromonitor International, confirm a 34% increase in overnight visitors between 2009 and 2014, versus a 21 percent rise for Rome. The global financial crisis has cost the city the business tourist, and so it has had to adapt to a new type of tourism, the leisure one.
A revival is also underway on the south-eastern periphery, where the Rem Koolhaas-designed Prada Foundation complex, housing modern art, classical sculpture and a 1950s-themed bar conceived by film director Wes Anderson, also opened in May.
Seems that the proverb “Milan l’è un gran Milan” never get’s old.