05.12.2022

The challenge of Greater Milan to compete in Europe and the world

For the last ten years or so we have been hearing more and more about Greater Milan, the metropolitan area made up of the agglomeration with Milan and its urban area as its fulcrum, which, according to how it might evolve, could come to include, in addition to the metropolitan city of Milan, the provinces of Monza and Brianza, Varese, Bergamo, Como, Lecco, Cremona, Lodi and Pavia: one of the most densely populated homogeneous European urban areas, with about 7.5 million inhabitants, according to OECD data.

Moreover, precisely in 2023 will fall the centenary of the aggregation of the first-tier municipalities, an event that has profoundly characterised the development of the city as it is today.

Today, like Greater London or Grand Paris, the vision is to relaunch the transformation of Milan and its agglomeration into a 21st century world metropolis, improving the quality of life of its inhabitants, bridging territorial distances and building a large, sustainable and interconnected urban area.

In the idea of the ‘big city’ there are certain social, economic and demographic characteristics that, from their maximum intensity in the city centre, tend to fade as one moves further away. A seamless ‘urban core’ with high indices of education, employment and income compared to non-metropolitan municipalities, low indices of agricultural activity or low education. Added to this is the phenomenon of commuting, or Daily Urban System, with large numbers of people commuting daily to the metropolis or within the metropolitan area for study and work.

Now the challenge is to extend urban quality beyond the city boundaries by innervating the Greater Milan area. By urban quality we obviously mean connections and transport, basic services, culture and work. But the new post-Covid sensibility and ‘new normality’ also require raising environmental protection, the level of urban and territorial regeneration, urban order, technological connections and in general the perceived quality of living in a Greater Milan.

Unlike London or Paris, to remain in Europe, Milan is not a megalopolis, neither by extension nor by population or population density. Since Expo 2015, the transformation has continued with the construction of new metro lines and the extension of existing ones, the reuse of railway yards, and the participation in major projects for the redevelopment of degraded and derelict areas. Moreover, with the prospect of the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics, Milan and its metropolitan area are destined to become increasingly global and attractive, catalysing foreign investment but, at the same time, mobilising local energy and resources.

The challenge and vision now are to draw on the positive aspects of being a large metropolis (from the material ones such as transport, services and value creation to the immaterial ones such as the attractiveness of human and economic capital), and to avoid the deteriorating aspects such as speculative bubbles and build a vision of the future in the image and likeness of the traditional Milanese values of efficiency, solidarity, balance and style.