...where the grass is green
And the girls are pretty
Oh, won't you please take me home...
The grass is also vertical, pretty or not people seem fairly happy and the city is booming...
Next year I will celebrate a special 10 years anniversary. On October 5th 2007 I boarded a one way Milan-London flight, leaving my hometown and a partially broken heart behind and kicking off one of the best, funniest chapters of my life.
I have visited Milan so often in these past 9 years that I don`t really feel like I have ever really left. I used to go back once a month before kids, and probably every two or three months even now that "leaving for the weekend" means packing the house and enduring occasional kids` melt-downs while queuing with half of Northern Europe at the Gotthard (by the way, can Northern Italian citizens have a reserved lane when driving back home please...?)
I partially missed it. Somehow Milan has become, in the last few years, an irresistible magnet for young people from all over the country, from different continents, who flock there to work in design, media, fashion and food. Mediolanum, as the Romans called it "the city in the middle of the land", does conveniently sit a few kilometers south of the Alps, close to lakes, rivers, Ligurian seaside, snowy slopes, historical beauties.
It is in an ebullient mood. Last year’s expo, with 21 million visitors, seven million of them from abroad, was an unexpected success. The city’s annual Salone del Mobile, the annual furniture fair, is now the benchmark for the furnishing and design industries, the largest of its kind in the world. This month it attracted 400,000 visitors — 70 percent of them foreigners — and transformed the city in another weeklong movable feast.
High-rise towers are going up across the city, transforming the skyline. Fashion, design, art, advertising, publishing — Milan is the go-to city for all these sectors, as well as, increasingly, manufacturing and finance.
Beppe Severgnini, Italian columnist for the New York Times has put together a fantastic piece about 'Milano Capitale'. While I would never wish for my city to have our political circus flocking there from Roma, I believe the article deserves a good read.
In the summer the new Alptransit will connect Milan to Zurich and German speaking Switzerland further, connecting those 280 km efficiently and cutting travel time to under 3 hours.
If you are planning a visit there, my 'Milan in Pills' post gives first-hand, tried and tested (by me, friends, family and initially suspicious-now-in-love-with-Milan German husband) tips.
During our last visit this May we treated ourselves to a dinner date in the newly open 'The Stage' restaurant in one of the new hearts of the city, Piazza Gae Aulenti. Exchange rates currently in favour of Swiss visitors, we enjoyed Michelin star level cuisine at the cost of a pizza in Switzerland.
The next day we headed to 'Volandia', a place we were recommended to visit, great for kids (of all ages) to watch old airplanes, historical trains, trams and buses, and enjoy modern playgrounds.
I have to admit that after 5 years in Switzerland I have absorbed the contagious, unfair for those who know the world, 'Swiss is best' credo and so I immediately figured that 'Volandia' could not possibly even compete with the more publicised, beautiful, yet pricey, 'Transport Museum' we normally go to in Lucern.
Hey, was I wrong and trapped in a stereotype.
Probably Volandia has not (yet) hired the best marketing teams and lacks the typical Swiss self-esteem because the place is fantastic but only a few know about it.
Probably bigger than its Lucern counterpart, surrounded by a green park with benches and picnic areas, playgrounds, indoor soft play area, interactive games, a good restaurant and snack bar, all sorts of historically relevant and beautiful airplanes, buses, trams, trains, even reproductions of space shuttles. A clean, organised paradise for children of all ages and their parents. A step back in history that I personally enjoyed very much.
Have a look at some of our shots of the day.
Italians, are we finally starting to be better marketeers of ourselves?
150 years old Milan tram.
Wow, what do I climb on next?
The playgrounds outside of the exhibition areas.
Memories of communism in Eastern Germany and Russia. The only car available for everyone at the time, with 15 years waiting list. No gas indicator. It was customary to pull up and measure the gas left with a stick. Just wow.