Milan as Location

Perhaps just as fascinating as the furnishings that make their debut during the Salone del Mobile is the location that serves as its backdrop. The city of Milan has a rich and fascinating history of being a mecca for culture and creativity, long serving as a magnetic point for designers, artists, photographers and models.

Considered to be one of Italy’s most modern and avant-garde cities, Milan is also the country’s main industrial, commercial and financial center. It is often said that if Rome represents the “old” Italy, Milan symbolizes the “new” Italy, and this sense of newness is reflected in the city’s sweeping showrooms, modern architecture and fashion forwardness.

Much of Milan’s modernity can be attributed to the massive rebuilding – economically and architecturally – that was necessary after World War II that left much of the city devastated. Italians turned to two industries they excelled at to increase their exports and subsequently boost the economy: fashion and furniture.

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Family-run furniture manufacturers capitalized on the post-war demand for products and modernized their production process, while still retaining the craftsmanship that marks the high standard of Italian furniture. This new era of production ultimately paved the way for Milan to become the world capital of design as we know it today.

When compared to other Italian cities like Florence or Rome, whose charm and histories are so apparent in their architecture and art, Milan is unique in that its character can be defined by its absence of traditional Italian character. Its architecture is relatively new and very much progressive, with a skyline that boasts more skyscrapers than ruins. It is largely industrial and has a thriving cosmopolitan business center.

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Milan does place a high value on contemporary cultural activity: there is art to see (Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper is housed in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie), music to hear (Milan’s Teatro alla Scala is a world-renowned opera house) and monuments to visit (the Duomo di Milano is stunning and is Italy’s largest church) – but by and large, visitors flock to the city for its fashion and furniture design.

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Next: Salone del Mobile: An Education