“Be careful: You could actually love Milan!” is the english translation of the original spanish article by Sergi Escudero written in 2014, one year before EXPO2015

“Milan is the most beautiful ugly city in the world”
Guillermo Ortiz

Unlike when you travel for the first time to Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona, Budapest, Berlin or Amsterdam, when you go visiting Milan you don’t expect a lot. Playing a friendly match visiting the Duomo (the cathedral of Milan), the “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II” and the “Teatro alla Scala” after having a look at the shop windows in via Montenapoleone (your budget will be enough just to have a look at them), you’ll be satisfied. But you can come back from Milan having won the Champions’ League… And it’s not necessary going through San Siro.

The first thing you should know is that the typical “guide book-in-the-hand” tourist will get bored in the fashion capital. In half day he would have seen what his friends will ask him if he saw when he will get back. Yes, the Duomo is huge and inside there are some mummies of cardinals. The gallery is beautiful too. The Scala theatre… I expected it to be bigger, it disappointed me a bit. And what a shame those horrible dresses in the fashion shops. I don’t know how is it possible that someone could wear them. Milan is an average city. I’m not going to come back.

Luckily there are people who don’t pay too much attention to the touristic guides. For those ones, Milan will open its doors. The environment of the Lombard city brings you directly to the “Dolce Vita”. To the sixties. To the charm of its people. That aroma of pleasure in every side. The yellow tram squeaking oldness for the paved streets. The catenaries decorating the Milanese roof. The excuse of the aperitivowhen the work is over, which often goes on until late at night. The neighborhood of Brera on late afternoons. The “Navigli” at night. The “parco Sempione” in the morning, covered in snow. In Milan, maybe Jep Gambardella would have found “the great beauty” (“la grande bellezza”) that he couldn’t catch in Rome. Sometimes you feel like this great beauty is having a coffee with a nice Milanese young girl in a coffee bar looking at the Duomo in a joyful spring afternoon.

I had the luck to live in Milan for almost a year. And I learnt it by heart. I was astonished every time I saw the Duomo even if I saw it hundreds of times. And it is not easy for me to imagine a neighborhood with the same charm of Brera, the bohemian district of the city where Leonardo da Vinci and Giuseppe Verdi used to live (he died in the Grand Hotel of Milan in 1901 and nowadays many people intentionally reserve the same room when sleeping there). Walking by the streets of Brera is a stimulation of the senses. Its bars and its alternative shops are the background of its people, usually belonging from the working and high class of Milan. The “Pinacoteca di Brera”, with paintings of Caravaggio, El Greco and Van Dick, is a must. At night the tarot readers reveal the future to the young people who prepare to live their night in the crowded bars of the area.

Milan is the luxury of the windows in the golden mile , where Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley stroll elegantly . Milan is its pasta. Delicious . Milan is its art. Remember that there rests ‘ The Last Supper ‘ by Leonardo da Vinci. Milan is its people . Sociable, pleasant and hardworking . Milan is its craft ice cream. Milan is also its coffee . Perfect. And Milan, of course, is Berlusconi and his behaviour reflected in the lifestyle of many of its citizens.

It is a city that throughout its history has continued to reinvent itself. And now it’s keeping on doing it. In fact, next year Milan will host Expo 2015. While it is an event that in recent editions seems to have lost importance, it will be useful for the Lombard capital to detoxify from its pollution, to create green spaces and to make money. With the theme “Feeding the Planet , Energy for Life” , Expo 2015 will be devoted to food.

Give a chance to Milan. It deserves it. For the moment , who did give a chance to the city are the Filipinos and Egyptians, the two nationalities with more residents in it. Maybe having a few beers (it is allowed to drink in the street) at Le Colonne I can convince you . I have such awesome memories of Milan that the nostalgia sometimes hurts, even if it is hidden behind a smile.

Sergi Escudero