Milanese are not born. They decide to assume that identity. You understood this, definitively, that winter evening immersed in the city’s fog, when soot was still an indispensable feature of the cityscape. Beyond the fortified walls, the Bastioni, Milan was a seamless forest, a carpet of vegetable gardens. A nursery, as suggested by the name of the street – Strada del Vivaio – where plants were cultivated and sold to the people of Milan. The ring of the fortifications had become too small to contain the districts of the historical city. Modernity exerted pressure, seeking space. The axes of Corso Venezia and Corso Monforte, one century earlier, had begun to be enhanced by noble palaces: Serbelloni, Cicogna, Diotti, Isimbardi. Along those thoroughfares the frontage was urban, while behind it things remained bucolic, even rustic. This was the Milan “plongée dans le vert,” as Stendhal wrote, who was French by chance, Milanese by choice, to the point of stating it in the epitaph – in Italian – engraved on his tomb at Montmartre: “Arrigo Beyle / Milanese / Scrisse / Amò / Visse.”
But Milan was in a hurry, anxious to get things done. The Beruto Master Plan, from the late 1800s, was redesigning the face of the city and its circulation. The city wanted to enter the new century with the appropriate splendor: new streets for the residences of the new, wealthy entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, near the aristocratic center; new buildings that spoke the language of the new century. Elegant, modern, Deco.
That evening you were there, in your Isotta Martini, lost in fog. You had emerged from La Scala, ready to go home. It was in that moment that you decided to become Milanese.
Because you, Angelo, came from somewhere else again. Your father was from the Lake of Monate. You were just two years old when the family moved to Rosario, in Argentina, where your mother had a jewelry store. Maybe that is why many years later Lucio Fontana often came to call at your home. Not so much for his art, very different from your tastes, as to recall the same childhood landscapes, together.
And you, Gigina, were from Pavia. Your grandfather worked with metals and smallware. A profitable activity at the turn of the century. So profitable that your father Ambrogio could afford to open a cast iron foundry, in the new century. The family, in short, was doing well. And your brother Vittorio, as his father’s son, lost no time: he founded the Necchi company, a factory to produce sewing machines; innovative, affordable products, and in fact one such machine could be found in every Italian home. Vittorio, in fact, with grace and pride, enjoyed bestowing the latest model of the “Necchi portatile” to the couple at every wedding to which he was invited. Even to noble newlyweds.