28 September, La Repubblica
There is an area in the heart of Quadrilatero in Milan stretching for over ten-thousand square metres that has been left abandoned for years. Galleria Manzoni was built in 1947 by Alziro Bergonzo. It used to accommodate a cinema, not in used for many years, and a theatre dedicated to Renato Simoni in Piazza San Fedele. In 2015 the City administration approved the requalification project agreed with the owners, grating other 12 years to the theatre’s activities and aiming at giving a new life to the gallery. After one year, Prelios Sgr, former Pirelli Real Estate, and Stam Europe entered an agreement to co-manage the requalification of the gallery. The objective was to relaunch the spaces through a partnership with Stam, the manager of the asset, for a value of about one billion euro. Besides the preservation of the theatre, the plan also included the implementation of a boutique hotel, a restaurant and commercial spaces. But, as Prelios confirmed, the fund has been recently transferred to the British investors of Petricca & Co Capital, while the City of Milan stated that the project is stuck.
The works started a couple of months ago, but there is still no trace of what was promised in the rendering of the project. The last business to close was the art gallery Quadreria dell’800 which moved to Via dell’Orso. Instead of a luxury district, there is a desert. In the same area, towards Via Borgospesso, there used to be a famous Einaudi bookshop which was regularly visited by Eugenio Montale, Leonardo Sciascia, Gillo Dorfles, Paolo Grassi, Lalla Romano, Luigi Nono, Renato Gattuso, Max Ernst, Enrico Cuccia, Elio Vittorini, as well as many international intellectuals. The gallery was at the centre of Milan’s cultural and artistic scene, along with some upscale shops beloved by the city’s middle class.
In the Sixties, Harry’s Bar was just across the bookshop. It was then replaced by the shoeshop Sebastian, then by the luxury furniture of Mpl and finally by the fashion designer Laura Biagiotti, when fashion was booming in the whole Quadrilatero from Via Montenapoleone to Via della Spiga.
In the Seventies, when passing by the small square facing on Via Borgospesso, it was possible to admire the sculptures of artists such as Calder, Pomodoro and Spagnulo. There was also Noè, the high-end toy shop, where kids from wealthy families used to queue to buy their toy soldiers. A few steps away, there was the jeweller Schreiber, the optician Citti, and the record shop Durium. There were the small bar in front of the cinema/theatre and the clothes shop Battaglia which then became a carpet show room. Among the famous clubs, there was the night club Maxim. The club was then renamed William’s, before moving to Via Turati.
The cinema and the theatre are still leased to Fininvest. The theatre saw the performance of actors such as Carmelo Bene, Vittorio Gassman, Gino Bramieri. A place from the past with many shop windows waiting for a new future.
Source: La Repubblica
Translator: Cristina Ambrosi