Isola and Moscova

This time we have been stopped by an old men with a mustache and a flat cap who greets everyone with a nod and a wave of his hand. Probably he is just kind, but we like to think that he knows everyone around here. He has kind and melancholic eyes and it is with a hint of nostalgia that he tells us about his childhood in the neighborhood: “Everything was different… it was not even possible to imagine these skyscrapers and, instead of them, there were the tenements where the poorest families and the nearby factories’ workers lived”.

The old man was right: this neighborhood has in fact changed a lot and is still buzzing with novelties.: First of all, there was a time when the Garibaldi railway station was not there and goods were carried through the Navigli (the canals). The railway construction led to two major changes: it allowed the goods to be carried quicker and more easily, thus contributing to the makeover of Milan as an industrial city; it led to the slow but inexorable closing of the Navigli, which were no longer useful. We tried to put ourselves in the old man’s shoes and to imagine what he could possibly see once he looked up to the sky: thick smoke coming from the nearby factories and tenements with ropes hanging from a balcony to the other, where the acrobats of the circus families living in the nearby Varesine used to practice their moves. Now, looking up to the sky, he can see nothing but skyscrapers topped with illuminated spires and, tending his ears, he hears nothing but house music coming from the pubs. The old man leaves us with an anecdote, which we want to share with you: “Every Sunday afternoon, we used to gather around a table where polenta was poured with hot sauce in the middle. We were given spoons and everyone ate out from this dish-table, competing against each other to reach the sauce as quickly as possible… the more and the faster you ate the better, to put it in other words! Now, on Sundays you eat vegetable crudités dipped in some sour sauce…”. He glances at us with a perplex look and we cannot but regret with him the old, gone days of hot polenta and flying acrobats.

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Explore Piazza Gae Aulenti: find out the trumpet structure that connects the two floors, play at the super long foosball, cross the bridge that connects the square to the new skyscrapers. And, if you are lucky, you’ll be able to witness the spectacle of the trumpet player who, every once in a while, climbs on the top of one of the benches and delights his audience with a few songs.
Reach the Simpliciano Church through Via Ancona, admiring the houses with their balconies full of plants and enjoying the peacefulness of the pedestrian area.
Walk: get lost in the Isola’s alleyways, discovering the tenements remained intact (we recommend in particular Via Lambertenghi and Via Confalonieri); plunge yourself in the bucolic Martesana; walk around Brera spying on the young artists painting or playing.
Don’t get enchanted by the fortune-teller who has her stand in Brera: she will read your palm hastily and you’ll feel your privacy ripped to shreds.
Do not, for any reason, pass under the bridge that connects Melchiorre Gioia to Garibaldi: there is a small sidewalk for pedestrians but you’ll risk your life at every single step. Rather, circumnavigate the station or take the underpass full of murales.
Do not go to the Bingo in Viale Zara: not even one Milanese d.o.c. has ever set foot in it!
Because it is an extremely heterogeneous neighborhood: there is something for everybody, from trendy to alternative venues, from taverns to luxury restaurants.
Because it has changed and is still changing a lot: always up-to-date, it keeps on re-modernizing its appearance, in perfect harmony with the spirit of the city.
Because he can complain about Gae Aulenti’s work in Cadorna (Needle, thread and knot) pointing out, instead, how beautiful it is the square that Milan has dedicated to her.