Milan, and more in general Lombardy, is the locomotive of Italy, and one of the economic powerhouses of Europe. The city is at the heart of a manufacturing system that generates 21% of Italy’s GDP; the region has a pro capita income that is almost double the national level, and an unemployment rate that is half that of Italy’s. This enviable position is rendered even more stable by the city’s strategic role within the global geographical and economic network: Milan is at the centre of three major trade routes, it is the southern corner of the European economic quadrilateral; it is at the centre of the east-west European axis, Corridor 5, and it is the northern hub for connections to other Mediterranean countries.
However, the reasons that underpin the ancient origins of this vocation for productivity and development are not just geographical and economic. In De Magnalibus Mediolani (The greatness of Milan), written between May and December in 1288 by Bonvesin de la Riva, a brilliant Milanese poet who was born in about 1250 and died in about 1320, the city is already described in glowing terms. Bonvesin writes of houses, palaces, shops, the way in which the people of Milan dress, the city’s hospitals, and its charitable organizations. From then on, Milan has demonstrated, with talent and determination, that local systems can lead growth and development in the age of globalization.
Ever in the front line for foreign relations, Milan is a leader for exports. This trend is continuing in the sectors of new technology, communications, design and fashion, but also in art and crafts. Milan excels in these sectors by means of a system of cooperation that has generated “company incubators,” networks of public and private organizations supporting new companies making their first appearance on the manufacturing or services market, and constantly introducing innovation into a diversified panorama of business activities.