Milan changed rapidly in the second half of the 1800s: though lagging a bit behind other European cities, phenomena like industrialization, immigration from the countryside, and penetration of socialist ideas modified the city in every aspect, from forms of production to urban planning, political-social theories to the protagonists of the political debate, family ties to class relations.
Also thanks to an increasingly enterprising bourgeoisie conscious of its own potential, the city lays the groundwork for its candidacy as the economic and moral capital of Italy: workshops become true industrial factories, a brilliant, lively literary scene is driven by great publishers, and crafts of very high quality that form the roots of Made in Italy are just some of the causes of greater affluence and social mobility than exists in the rest of the newborn United Italy. All this is also joined by the effects of the presence of the court of the House of Savoy, though only in the summer months at the Villa in Monza, on local economic and social life.
The new face of the city, however, is not represented only by the sparkling showcases of the Universal Expositions (1881 and 1906): away from such spotlights, the miseries of the past are joined by new social problems, forms of poverty and neglect never seen before, alcoholism, exploitation of child labor and women, new health issues, insalubrious living conditions in working class zones: fertile ground for tireless philanthropy, without a prevailing political allegiance. But also fertile ground for the social uprisings that explode in the spring of 1898 and, on 6 May, are cruelly halted by the cannons of General Bava Beccaris.