If you could build the most ambiguous city on the face of the earth with the most atrocious people with terrible manners you’d construct Milano. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad. Milan does have some redeeming qualities. The Duomo was definitely in my top ten cathedral list. And there was a lot of cool modern architecture. Look no further for the most fascinating Moretti constructions sliding into the streetscape.
Milan was also very clean and efficient and new. Here I’ve been, stuck under the Roman veil of the old world. Coming to Milan, I thought I had just stepped out of a cryogenic freezer: there were no baroque or renaissance constructions in sight. A lot of the buildings are a result of the rise of fascism, as the Fascists used architecture to celebrate and iconize the new period of Italian power. This stylization is not uncommon, if you think about it every single power in Italian history has its own example of monumental or iconic buildings. During industrialization, it became the headquarters for much of the automotive, textile, and machinery industries. Many buildings find their roots in this advent as well. The money was there and the buildings sprung up like flowers— really anonymous, austere flowers.
Don’t get me wrong, I was really grateful that all the trains worked at night, and the schedules were on time. I was excited to be in a cleanly city with the promises of fashion and seriousness (even though I didn’t buy anything).The real reason I think I didn’t like Milan was that it was a little too much like every other wealthy city. It was globalized, so much so that I believe it failed to make ‘places’. Place, as in a defined area constructed by a particular culture which is born from a particular set of spaces. Milan seemed like some sort of conglomerate where everyone wore sharkskin blue suits. There were very few pockets in the center of the city that seemed like home to anyone…or maybe it was that they were home to everyone and no one at the same time. I was also let down by the ‘fashionability’ of the residents as well. They were well dressed, but they were all impeccably dressed in the same clothes. And the people were often snooty and mean; it was the first time that I was actually treated really rudely in a museum or store and yelled at…the first time my Italian or my efforts to use Italian didn’t shield me from being called uneducated for asking for a coat check ticket.
I strongly believe that the economy and architecture go hand in hand in constructing a cultural environment. Unfortunately, the emphasis in Milan was largely impersonal and commercialized, with little room for anything other than corporate whims. No rush of blood or swooning here, Milano definitely wasn’t for me, but most of my classmates found Milan to be their favorite city encountered thus far in their Italian travels. I respect you Milan, but my heart lies in the mystery, malfunction, and majesty of the multifaceted Rome!