Milan has been known as the nation’s fashion capital ever since Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace showed up on the scene in the 1980s. Now home to dozens of labels on every fashionista’s shopping list, Milan is a mainstay on the circuit that runs from New York to London to Paris. Be sure to visit during the settimana della moda (fashion week) to get the full picture.
More broadly, Milan is a design center. We’re not talking about just clothes, but also cars, furniture, and cutting-edge household goods. The lines that define Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and the sort of kitchenware you’d like to show off were drawn by such local names as Pininfarina and Alessi. In April, the city’s exposition center holds the Salone del Mobile, the world’s premier design show. It attracts artists and architects from around the world, yet anyone who needs to be near the vanguard of the industry already lives here.
Italy’s stock market is based in Milan”no actual trading floor, mind you, as it is completely electronic”and most of Italy’s financial services are firmly rooted here. If you’re coming to Italy on a business trip, chances are you’ll be spending a few days in Lombardy.
Finally, the city holds a self-conferred title as the nation’s moral capital. This is a reference to the Clean Hands investigations, whose prosecutors worked out of Milan’s high court. Consequently, the local newspaper and Italy’s leading daily, Corriere della Sera, became a symbol of the transparency that brought the Bribesville days to an end.
The journalists, lawyers, judges, bankers, and others who make up this busy city have a different social life than many of their Italian peers, but it is contemporary and cosmopolitan in a way that Rome is only now becoming. The mosaic of nationalities reveals itself in Milan’s restaurants: Japanese, Turkish, Eritrean, Chinese, Moroccan, Sri Lankan, Korean. It does not yet have the selection of, say, Chicago, but you will be hard-pressed to find anything but Italian food elsewhere in the country. The city’s multiethnic population also reveals itself in the religious community. Milan has the largest mosque in the country, at least a couple of synagogues, and more churches than it will ever need.
Diversity is one reason that Milan draws parallels with U.S. cities. On top of that, it is sprawling, busy, and bordering on stressful. If you’re making the move for relaxation or an excuse to underachieve, this is not the Italy you are looking for. Milan is inhabited by professionals who dream of success in the boardroom, or else moving back to a quainter part of the country as soon as they have the money to do so.