By Claudia Quesito
Milano is the administrative center of Lombardia—one of the biggest and wealthiest regions of the country—and it is often described as the only truly international Italian city. In fact, in the last decades, Milano has established itself as a fashion, design, and innovation hub. It has always been the financial and economic heart of Italy, so it is much deserving of the title capitale economica, while Rome is unquestionably the capitale politica.
In addition to all of this, Milano is a major tourist destination. It has several prestigious universities such as the Università degli Studi di Milano and Università Bocconi—mostly known for its economics curriculum— and a lively cultural scene.
Long known as hard-working, always in a hurry, and a little brusque, milanesi—the residents of the city—have historically proven to (also) be pleasure-loving and welcoming. As for the pleasure-loving side, the aperitivo as we know it today was born in Milano. While it used to be a quick drink before dinner, paired with a few chips and maybe olives, Milano has transformed it in an authentic social event. Fare l’aperitivo (or ape) means to meet with friends and chat, sometimes for hours, with some serious food that can easily replace dinner. Sometimes it is indeed called apericena.
Milano is undoubtedly a welcoming place, and that applies to tourists and fellow Italians alike. Being the economic core of the country, the city has always attracted people from all over Italy, so much so that there’s a saying that goes i veri milanesi non esistono più. Tourism has seen a big increase in the last decade or so, stimulated by a growing cultural offering and a general visual and cultural renaissance.
Long labeled as città grigia—its architecture is, indeed, dominated by grey, but grigia really referred to pollution and traffic—Milano was blooming before being hit very hard from the 2020 pandemic. Waiting for the city to reshape and reinvent itself, you can always explore it online, although you’ll need to pay a visit to experience its amazing art (does Ultima Cena from Leonardo da Vinci ring a bell?), shopping opportunities, or to attend one of the super-chic fashion events during la settimana della moda.