Milan scrubs up after years as Italy's ugly sister

Tue Sep 8, 2015 11:53am EDT
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By Isla Binnie

MILAN (Reuters) - Long the ugly sister to Florence, Venice and Rome, Italy's business capital Milan is enjoying a renaissance, its once drab skyline coming to life and a new creative vibrancy emerging.

Host of the 2015 Expo, Milan has taken advantage of the World Fair to rejuvenate its image, attracting new investment in a makeover that officials hope might mark the start of a broader revival for the whole country.

The sleek headquarters of Italian bank Unicredit, the centerpiece of one of several new developments that dot the northern city, is a state-of-the-art reminder of Milan's status as a financial hub.

And while the gothic Duomo cathedral and Galleria shopping arcade recall past glories, modern ventures -- such as the "Vertical Forest" apartment blocks whose balconies bloom with trees and plants -- point to a newfound confidence.

Milan has absorbed more than half of all investment in business real estate in Italy in the first half of this year, while tourism has grown faster over the past six years than in Italy's other big cities.

"The majority of what I heard about Milan was that it's industrial, not a beautiful city, but the Duomo and the Galleria are really grand," said visitor Cameron Dibb, 24, an American film student who lives in Surrey, England.

"And when you go further outside the center the architecture is still impressive," he added.

Despite appearances, Milan is not immune from Italy's bureaucracy, corruption and weak economic growth.   Continued...

People walk along the Naviglio Gran Canal in Milan, August 29, 2015.REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo