Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Italy

Street art in Milan’s quartiere Isola: the other side of the tracks

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”.

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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

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Stefanie Claus

    Thanks for the great introduction into Isola street art! I like to explore Milan by its districts. I will definitely check out Isola soon!

  • StephinOttawa

    This is lovely, Alexandra. It calls to mind Jane Jacobs and her thinking about how cities and neighbourhoods can thrive. I have always found this a fascinating topic.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    HI Steph – interesting! Do you have a reference for these theories? And how DO you know so much :) !?
    Alexandra

  • StephinOttawa

    Oh gee, I don’t know so much. Jane Jacobs’s most famous book is The Death and LIfe of Great American Cities. It’s a very interesting and readable work that she wrote mostly on the basis of keen though unschooled observation, in the early 1960s. I think it’s still read by planners. I used to be interested in the effect of non-monetary benefits and qualities of cities on wages, and I like the organic quality of urban development, so I read a bit in the urban planning literature.

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    You continue to surprise me :) !

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