Milan, capital of Lombardy, is heaven on earth for opera buffs, art lovers, fashionistas and gourmands. Headquarters to Italy’s largest banks and multinational companies, it is also the main industrial, commercial and financial center of Italy.
With one of the highest population and industrial densities in Europe, Milan is home to roughly 9.3 million people. Even so, its health care and education systems rank among the best.
While business-centric Milan has long since done away with the good old three-hour pranzo (lunch), food-loving Italians and expats need not suffer. Local sandwich bars in the business district have made paninis an art form, with some offering over 100 variations of delectable toppings.
Whether it be opera at La Scala, honing your fashion IQ on Milan’s haute couture powerhouse the Quadrilatero d'Oro (golden rectangle), feasting your eyes on Da Vinci’s Last Supper, or on the Pinacoteca di Brera art museum’s modest, yet exquisite collection of works, culture vultures will find no shortage of distractions in this alpha-European city.
Just near Linate airport on the city’s outskirts, you can find Mussolini’s man-made Lake Idroscalo. Evocative of a Mediterranean resort, you’ll find beach clubs, barbecue areas, shores lined with pedalos (pedal-powered paddleboats) and kids splashing in any of three open-air swimming pools. There is truly something for everyone in Milan.
What is special or unique about your city?
With two international airports, train lines and a motorway, it is easy to get to. Once there, it offers convenient access to mountains, lakes and the seaside.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
A typical first impression of Milan is of a chaotic city, filled with many people at work who are rushing from place to place. Some are surprised to see how few public parks and playgrounds there are for children. Many newcomers also comment that it is difficult to find ideal housing within their expected budget.
Are these impressions likely to change?
No. Unless you decide to live in the outside of the city, these initial impressions are fairly accurate.
What is the local language?
The local language is Italian but people - especially younger people - understand English.
Furthermore, Italian people are generally helpful and will go out of their way to help foreigners who do not speak Italian.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
You could manage fairly easily without knowing Italian, as people will try to help you out. However, when dealing with bureaucratic tasks involving the Italian Government, such as immigration, knowledge of Italian is absolutely necessary. In addition, many day-to-day documents, such as banking forms, are usually available in Italian only.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Italian people are friendly and easy going. But avoid making stereotypical references, for example, about all Italian people being associated with the Mafia or eating pizza and macaroni every day.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Summers can be very hot and humid so, when walking around the city, it is a good idea to bring a bottle of water and wear a hat. Autumn and winter are quite rainy and, therefore, it is a good idea to carry a small umbrella in your bag.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
People in Milan work quite long hours, especially compared to the southern parts of Italy, and are very proud of this work ethic.