The city in which everyone has a project
“Ritratto di Gaetano Pesce” (Portrait of Gaetano Pesce) is a documentary directed by the thirty-year-old Giuseppe Carrieri, a former student of IULM, one of the most important universities in Milan. In the film, the internationally renowned designer and sculptor talks about the sources of his inspiration and how his artistic career gained considerable momentum when, after the death of his mother and well into adulthood, he moved to New York. Before this he lived in Paris, a city that is not so pivotal, but from which he was able to reach his family in a few hours. Gaetano Pesce emphasizes the impetus that New York can provide for the success of an artist and notes how, to find inspiration, one only needs to stop at a subway exit and observe the individuals forming the incessant flow of people, the color of their skin, the way they dress: “Diversity is essential to spark creativity”.
The power of Milan
Although the genotype of the inhabitants of Milan is without doubt more homogeneous than that of New Yorkers, the creative excitement perceived in this city, even when the Salone del Mobile furniture fair is not on, is noteworthy and, in a certain sense, has even more energy than New York, as Milan is more concentrated and does not give the same sense of disorientation and inadequacy that the American metropolis can convey. I know lots of young people in Milan who have jobs with a high level of technological research, jobs with titles that are neologisms, which have to be explained to you. I know others who, after taking their undergraduate and masters’ degree, are encouraged and guided to find internships, which are subsequently transformed into regular employment and decently paid.
Diversity is essential to spark creativity
Sometimes I talk to UberPOP drivers – Egyptians, Tunisians and Italians who all have second jobs: qualified nurses, app designers, veterinary assistants, as well as being drivers. I know young people who leave an attractive secure job to go it alone. I myself arrived in Milan, a city where I knew nobody, from the provinces, and managed to become what I wanted to be: a writer. My brother, who wanted to undertake a career in finance, also came to Milan and, without any connections, a stranger among strangers, was successful in this.
My cousin, a young aerospace engineer who studied in Milan, went to work in Germany for a few years and then returned, when he and some friends were awarded a bursary by the Polytechnic for the best start up. His Latvian fiancée, who’s an architect, managed to find work as designer and art director of photography sets, which she now likes better than her job in Munich.
The highest productivity levels are achieved in city areas
There are places in which those who strive to achieve results are concentrated, and this concentration causes them to be produced. The Harvard economist Edward Glaeser debunks the myth of telecommuting (and of provincial life) in the essay Triumph of the city. According to Glaeser, the Internet has not eliminated the need to live in large urban centers. The highest productivity levels are achieved in city areas, where interpersonal relations that spread innovative ideas can take place. A 100 meg connection or rail link is not sufficient in order to become part of a social fabric that communicates productivity. This is why the atmosphere in Milan, despite the initial difficulties, which are an inevitable part of any start up, is extremely positive.
A few days ago I got a letter from a Neapolitan journalist, who had worked for three years in the field of scientific communications in Philadelphia, before deciding to return home for the usual obvious reasons related to quality of life: food, climate and family. He now lives in Naples, but last month came to visit Milan: «It’s a city in which I appreciated the greenery (unexpected), the church of San Lorenzo, the frothy cappuccinos and the sense of possible».
For who are looking for the “sense of possible”
For some, the concept of quality of life is given by continuously comparing what they had when they lived with their parents. We heard about young people who turned down a job at Expo, a job for which they had passed the first selection stage. Between inconvenient shifts and the cost of living away from home, they would have been left with so little money that, in their opinion, it wasn’t worth it. Expo commissioner Giuseppe Sala commented that: «Perhaps they had found another job in the meantime». Let’s hope that this is the case.
However, there are others who know that there are times in life when you don’t work for a fair return, but to invest in yourself, and when it is important to be there, so that one day you will be able to say that you have accrued this specific and unique experience. Milan, with or without Expo, is a city that attracts people who want more, who want to give it their best shot, who are looking for the “sense of possible”.