Milan is a city of cities. As a pedestrian you can always discover new areas with unique characteristics of architecture, urban, and social aspects. As you explore the city from one side to the other you get to experience all the physical impacts of its transformation.
But shifting your life from one area to another can have a big impact on the way you view community attitudes within the city. If exploring the city on foot means you get to see another view, what happens when you transcend from a student to a non-student oriented lifestyle? Joining the workforce …
As a graduate student I lived in the most international and young part of the city: the university campus Citta Studi. The name “City of Studies” was given due to the fact that is the base of Politecnico, as well as most scientific branches of the University of Milan. As a consequence, it is a hub for student facilities from residences, restaurants, and libraries, to laboratories, university offices, and gyms.
The area is meant to focus on offering up the needs of young people. On the one hand, it tries to implement projects such as Campus Sostenibile in order to create a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly environment, or urban gardens as temporary solutions to urban space. On the other hand, the restaurants have a student – oriented approach and are mainly open according to the university schedule; because of its high flow of students during the week, almost 70% of the places are closed during the weekends and on holidays making it almost impossible to find a place to eat on particular days.
When I graduated and left the campus residence I also had to leave my former life – with all the habits and routines I created there. Moving from a student campus to a residential area of the city is a change of scenary. Moving from a university area to a residential area with a high density of immigrants is a change of lifestyle.
Even though it is located in one of the central traffic nodes of Milan, Loreto Square, Via Padova represents a particular social environment. It is a city within the city of Milan itself, guided by its own rules, traditions, schedule, and dynamics.
First, from a social point of view, there is high contrast with the surrounding streets. The residents are mostly non Italians, with a high concentration of Middle-East and Eastern-European populations.
Secondly, the area is always crowded. Unlike the university campus, here you can hardly find a time of the day when people are not walking or standing in front of the stores. The good part is that most businesses are owned by the locals and you can always find a place to buy groceries, even during the holidays.
There are many things that still need to be said about this particular area including both positive and negative observations. But I will argue for the completely different dynamic lifestyle that neighborhoods with such a mix have. Some consider it dangerous, some consider it “a social issue,” but I would say the area is unique in culture, and forces one to take a better look at the other sides of the city.
What’s your opinion on mixed immigrant areas that may lead to social segregation or, in some cases, gentrification?
Credits: Images by Alexandra Serbana. Data linked to sources.