At Via Filodrammatici 5, in the center of Milan still cluttered with postwar wreckage, the Casa della Cultura was opened on 16 March 1946. After the fall of the regime and twenty years of dictatorship, the need to return to expression of opinions, to know and investigate, to freely discuss and reflect not only on politics but also art, cinema, education and culture in general as immediately and urgently felt. Precisely to address these needs of private citizens and associations who wanted to be involved in this rebirth of thought, the Casa della Cultura provided a meeting place, also to promote and spread anti-Fascist values.
Ferruccio Parri, a protagonist of the Resistance and head of government in the first months after the end of the war, was appointed president; the vice-presidents were Antonio Banfi, the renowned anti-idealist philosopher, and Edoardo Majno, a lawyer; the director was Giovanni Ferro, another anti-Fascist who had fought against the regime. The first members included Elio Vittorini, Valentino Bompiani, Carlo Carrà, Raffaele De Grada, Giulio Einaudi, Livio Garzanti, then Mattioli, Morandi, Montale, Manzù, Pajetta, Treccani, Venanzi, Wittgens and Sereni.
During the first year, the facility was utilized for activities by, among others, the circle of the Il Diogene theater, which included Virgilio Tosi, Mario Apollonio and Giorgio Strehler, namely the founders of the Piccolo Teatro; the Fronte della Cultura directed by Antonio Banfi; the Movimento Studi per l’Architettura, directed by Ignazio Gardella; the Società per le Belle Arti Esposizione Permanente, headed by Carlo Accetti; and the Centro Economico per la Ricostruzione, chaired by Antonio Pesenti.
On countless occasions the Casa della Cultura was able to become part of the current debate, and some of these cases were very prestigious: on 3 July Jean-Paul Sartre spoke on Existentialism and Humanism; Piero Calamandrei gave two lectures, on 8 December 1946 on Cesare Beccaria and on 9 December on the power of the judiciary under the new Italian constitution; a few days later, on 17 December, Cesare Musatti, who would later become president of the Casa della Cultura, brought to Italy the echoes of the latest, controversial frontier of the psychological sciences, psychoanalysis.