In the 1960s the Italian economic miracle also happens thanks to the role assumed by the big cities as the economic motor of the country. In Milan, as in Turin and Genoa, industry and a new, massive influx of migration from the south and the countryside redesign the borders of urban space and expand the suburbs. This is joined by an explosion of consumption, leading to profound changes not only in the appearance of the city, but also in its everyday rhythms and social composition.
New protagonists appear on the scene, young people who soon begin to challenge the rules and ways of living passed down by their parents. In the name of greater freedom, schools too are impacted by a wave of protest: the case of the Zanzara of the Parini high school (1966) reflects the situation of change in progress.
1969 is a terrible year: the hot autumn and the massacre of Piazza Fontana mark the beginning of a period of bloodshed and death, in which red and black terrorism, subversive strategies and tactics of destabilization sorely test the mettle of a frightened, insecure city. The names of Antonio Annarumma and Eleno Viscardi ideally open and close the spiral of death of the so-called “years of lead,” whose victims included, among others, Antonio Custra, Guido Galli and Walter Tobagi.
The first signals of a change of direction come in 1978-79: these are the years of the reaction that invert the course of protest towards hedonism, from the “private is political” to indulgence and rabid individualism. The “Milano da bere” of a well known television advertisement becomes the symbol of this carefree, pleasure seeking era of greater affluence and ambition, in which work takes on an unprecedented frenetic pace, as does leisure, to the fast beat of disco music (or the rhythm of aerobic exercise at fitness clubs, another lifestyle phenomenon of this period).
Milan is the driving force and most ostentatious showcase of the prêt-à-porter fashion system: Made in Italy also becomes that of the great fashion designers, who find the right launching pad here for their successful rise on the international market.
But the system of doing business in the shadow of the Madonnina, in the city that is one of the reservoirs of this growing wealth, has its twisted side: on 12 February 1992 a director of the Pio Albergo Trivulzio is arrested for graft, opening up the Pandora’s box of interactions between politics and corruption. Tangentopoli – “bribesville” is the name of the judicial inquest that begins then in Milan – leads to the collapse of the system, and not just at the level of the local administration. New political forces take form, such as Forza Italia (founded in Milan) and the Lega Nord. The First Republic crumbles.
As Milan continues to seek a new balance, in March 2008 the city wins its bid to host Expo 2015.