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With a deep sense of history, design and beauty at its heart, Milan has a glowing and thoroughly deserved reputation as one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities.
Famed for iconic global landmarks such as the stunning Duomo (the second largest cathedral in the world which represents the very centre and heartbeat of the city) and the Teatro alla Scala (one of the world’s most noted opera houses), one would be forgiven for associating Milan with all that is beautiful.
I am currently half way through a six month secondment in the Linklaters office here in Milan. The office is fantastically located within a stone’s throw of both the Duomo and the Teatro alla Scala; set within a quaint array of cobbled streets overlooking the old fashioned trams which criss-cross their way around the city like the blood pumping through its veins. Whilst in a beautifully idyllic setting, however, one thing that I have quickly come to realise is that Milan is also a serious, ambitious and financially oriented city.
Impressively, Milan combines a remarkable sense of culture with the unmistakable core of a modern and business driven city. Almost all of the big international law firms have a presence here, as well as many of the large, global investment banks, hedge funds and private equity houses. Milan is Italy’s business capital and this is reflected by the impressively high volume and value of deals coming out of the city. Milan has a GDP of $115 billion and is one of Europe’s richest cities.
Whilst its impressive economic figures already go a long way in justifying the immense pride the Milanese have in their city, a closer look at the key contributors to this successful economy provides further evidence of the successful co-existence of business and beauty. High fashion, whilst seen by many as frivolous and expendable, is actually a key contributor to Milan’s economy. Numerous globally recognised and successful fashion houses such as Gucci, Armani, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada and headquartered in Milan and play a key role in the financial success of the city. In fact this tradition of luxury and design is inextricably linked to Milan’s history.
My introduction to this balance of fashion and business was swift; the first deal with which I assisted during my secondment was the refinancing of the debt into one of the world’s most noted fashion houses. I have heard that deal closing presents are not all that common these days, but one can only hope…
Outside of the office, there is a very high quality of life in Milan. People take family, friends and food very seriously, the latter being a particular highlight. The city is steeped in culture and the list of things that one can do, from seeing an opera or ballet at the Teatro alla Scala, experiencing the truly incredible atmosphere of a football match at the San Siro stadium, or simply strolling around the Parco Sempione with a gelato in hand, is seemingly endless. My time here so far has flown by; I will be sure to soak up as much as possible of all that Milan has to offer in the time that remains.