On a hunt for interesting street art in Milan, I went to Quartiere Isola, near Porta Garibaldi metro station, which is the number one area to spot street art and graffiti in the city. Isola was a “popular district” for low-income families that was built in the late 19th century, and the name “Isola” (island) refers to the fact that it was isolated from the rest of the city by the train tracks. This was, literally, the “other side of the tracks”.
Before and after WWII, Isola was inhabited mostly by factory and railway workers, for whom popular housing was built by some of the era’s important Rationalist architects. Although now mostly gentrified, Isola remains a bit rough around the edges and is in the process of being “cleaned up”. The area’s administrators have embraced street art to combat bad graffiti, commissioning art in and around Porta Garibaldi station in three phases starting in 2011 and lasting 2 years (see Esco ad Isola). Numerous restaurants, an active nightlife, offices and a high population density (thanks to those popular apartment blocks) make Isola a vibrant area of Milan, in which last month Google Italy announced it would be opening its headquarters. Experimental forms of neighbourhood communication are taking place here through the blog “zona isola“. I find that the area is not very Italian feeling, in a good way.
The street art here, unlike the street art in Berlin, tends to be by local artists (as far as I can tell) rather than by international big names. The metal pull-down gates in front of stores are mostly commissioned pieces, often handled by the IsolArt Center Association.
Street art in Milan Map
This very useful map of street art in the Porta Garibaldi / Isola area was creatd by a blog called street art techniques in occasion of the Public Design Festival 2011.
Visualizza Public Design Festival 2011 Garibaldi Street Art Map in una mappa di dimensioni maggiori