When Italians visit cities in the United States, they often have a hard time finding the center of town. That’s because it doesn’t exist”at least not in the way they imagine it, with a cathedral at its epicenter and major streets leading directly to it or in concentric circles around it.
Milan is a classic example of the medieval European planning that U.S. cities lack. It is a bull’seye, with the cathedral at the center. It and the castle sit inside the city’s innermost circle, the neighborhood Italians like to refer to as the centro storico. About a half kilometer farther out along the radius is a loop road, called the bastioni, which demarcates what an North American might call downtown. Here are the proverbial city walls, each with a gate named after the destination of that road: Porta Romana, Porta Venezia, Porta Ticinese, etc. The next ring road is the major thoroughfare in town, called the circonvallazione. Outside that road, the rent gets cheaper, the architecture generally less inspired, and all of it is encompassed by the tangenziale (beltway).a Liberty-style palazzo in Porta Venezia, Milan Some of the nicest areas to live in without paying extraordinary sums are near the city walls.
The most popular of these residential areas are Porta Venezia, Porta Romana, and the up-and-coming neighborhoods in Chinatown, which is near Porta Garibaldi. Then there are the city’s two best-known nightlife districts, Brera and the Navigli. The latter is named after the canals that run through it. (Milan used to be covered with such waterways, much like Venice, until almost all of them were paved over to fight waterborne diseases.) Prices in the Navigli can be slightly higher, because this is an attractive location for young people.
Of course, choosing an apartment for rent or sale will depend mostly on availability. There are a number of nice places in the city to live, but you will really have to shop around for yourself to see what you like and what’s actually there for the taking.
Milan remains among the most expensive places to live in Italy, although the slowdown in the economy has made for easier negotiations in this business-minded city. If you demand a place within the loop road, expect to pay at least ‚700 a month for a small one-room apartment, and at least ‚1,200 for two bedrooms. The prices go up from there. The average monthly rent for an apartment sits at about ‚1,200, which takes into consideration every size, location, and level of luxury. A nice alternative for young people is to scour the universities for postings, which can sometimes turn up a room in a student-held apartment for about ‚500 per month.