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Everybody is crazy for NoLo, Milan’s trendiest area

24 August, Il Fatto Quotidiano

How is an urban myth created? In Milan, everybody’s crazy for NoLo. It’s the new brand standing for North of Loreto (like SoHo in New York stands for South of Houston), comprised between Loreto, Via Palmanova and Ferrante Aporti, basically the railway tracks of the Central Station. The area has never been considered of any significant value, with its square reminding more to a motorway junction and Via Padova frequented by groups of the extreme right. The shops and businesses in the area are mainly run by foreigners from China, South America, Egypt and Pakistan. Now NoLo has become trendy.

The area has seen the opening of bars, especially around Piazza Morbegno (Ghepensi Mi, Salumeria del Design, NoLoSo, Caffineria, etc.). Art galleries have opened, together with architect studios, cultural centres and coworking spaces. Radio NoLo has started broadcasting from here. The NoLo Social District was created, connecting the social streets in the area and creating a Facebook page with 6 thousand users and a waiting list of 1,500. Nobody talks about the stabbings, the gangs of “latinos”, or the neglect. The local newspapers and the socials happily twit: the area of young creatives is born.

According to the legend, perhaps is true, the NoLo brand was born in Brooklyn. “The idea of NoLo came out about five years ago”, said Francesco Cavalli, LeftLoft founder and creative director, a design and marketing company with offices in Milan and New York which also worked on the rebranding for Moleskine, Mondadori and Inter. “I was at the Brooklyn Social Bar with Luisa Milani and Walter Molteni, two designers of La Tigre studio. We were joking about the idea of creating a brand for a neighbourhood, a sort of a container for its transformation, as artists, professionals and young people started moving in the area”. This part of the city was rough, yet not far away from the centre, apartments were cheaper than elsewhere. As a result, young people started moving here, as they couldn’t afford houses in better places. They were okay with sharing the place with the urban melting pot made of thousands of ethnicities, languages and origins in an area that used to be proletarian in the Seventies was.

In the past few years, immigrants and young people joined the working-class population. A partial gentrification process started, as it happened with Isola, which saw the transformation of a working-class neighbourhood into the centre of Milan’s nightlife, with the resulting spike of property prices. Cavalli concludes: “after all, NoLo ended up being a rebranding operation at zero costs thanks to word of mouth. We started using this name, and it started circulating”.  Today, the brand is used by real estate agencies for selling or renting houses at inflated prices. Those suspecting a carefully-planned marketing operation are probably exaggerating. What is certain is that who bought a house, a studio or a loft here more than five ago can see the property’s real estate value multiplied.

On the other hand, the diffused racism has decreased; while the right mix of Chinese massage parlours, Middle Eastern kebabs places, South American shops and hipster and trendy bars has grown. People here can pretend to live in New York. At least until people will start kicking out immigrants.

Source: Il Fatto Quotidiano

Translator: Cristina Ambrosi