Street Art in Milan is historical, committed, inclusive and forward-looking!11 July 2022
Finding great names of Street Art in Milan is easy; I could have started with the easy way by presenting you the works of international artists. But you are beginning to know me and I prefer to show you a committed Street Art in a neighborhood that is not much talked about. This district is a former bastion of the Communist Party. All the actors who fought against fascism and against Mussolini lived there. Many artists also lived there, trying to get their message across in their creations. Separated by a river from Milan, this district was a real nettle field, hence its name Quartiere dell’Ortica! I went there on a hot day and I don’t regret it at all because you rarely have the opportunity to see such an atypical place!
Ortica a district of Milano where history is written on the walls
It is the collective of artists Ortica Noodles who launched this crazy project of Street Art in Milan, called Orme Ortica. They decided to pay tribute to all those personalities, local and Italian, who worked against fascism, war, mafia, and all other forms of injustice. When you arrive in the heart of the district it is quite impressive to see these huge faces. We have both the impression of being scrutinized and on the contrary, the strange sensation of being transformed into a voyeur, because for us, strangers to the history of Italy, these faces are only strangers! I’m not going to display a huge gallery of portraits, I’ve just selected one that jumped out at me.
I remembered from all these faces, this lively look, with an intelligent eye. Curiosity helped me to learn about the history of this woman who has been in the news for over 20 years in Italy. Daughter and granddaughter of mafiosi, Lea Garofalo wanted to get out of the mafia to give her daughter a chance at a normal life. After ten years of escapes, protection and improbable twists and turns, she is lured into an ambush by her own husband, the father of her daughter, dies in atrocious circumstances and is not given a funeral until ten years after his death. A strong woman, she defied the mafia, lost her life and succeeded in protecting her daughter who now lives incognito.
I’m sure you’ve just realized how committed and powerful Milanese street art is. I had planned to tell you about several of these characters, but as the rest is not very light either, I thought that a little airing in the article with the jewel of Milano could not hurt 😉
Tribute to the impressive Duomo of Milan
Who goes to Milan cannot miss the Duomo! One of the largest cathedral in the world! Its gothic facade that stretches over 150 meters imposes itself! The details of this one are incredible, a work as gothic as lacy and light. But the most grandiose thing about the Duomo is its immense nave which can accommodate 40,000 people. It is therefore not surprising to find this vertiginous nave and its magnificent perspective on a wall in the heart of Ortica.
Facing this nave, a modern day Mary that seems to be haloed by the stars of Europe. A little further on in this part of the city you will find the emblematic Lion that stands on the Duomo square.
The small street that contains these treasures does not look like much and it is a real breath of fresh air before going on to other parts of Italian history.
“You have to know war to love peace”
This sentence inscribed on a fresco can be chilling… especially in these dark times. The underside of the bridges in the dell’Ortica district all have a theme, the one about the war is poignant. It highlights the great names of the resistance but also the appalling figures of these immensely sad times.
Interloqued in front of this fresco which makes duty of memory, I read at the end this sentence: “Not to celebrate the war and not even for those who took part in it, but to remember and keep alive the memory of those who had to do it”. I am left speechless, as if the authors wanted to apologize for this fresco that gives a glimpse of horror. Learning from history is what the whole world is forgetting at the moment. So I chose to put this sentence forward to accompany them in this process.
Street Art in Milan is inclusive, tolerant, explosive!
Labels often stick to the skin… We imagine the Italian to be a little macho, a little racist sometimes because of his soccer fans, not very tolerant because of his politicians and TV presenters… And then we realize that the Italian is inclusive, tolerant, benevolent. The district of dell’Ortica displays its values and I must admit that after discovering the walls talking about the war or the great Italian demonstrations, it is a real breath of fresh air!
The district of dell’Ortica, because of its communist past, is welcoming to immigrants, not racist,… besides, when you walk around you quickly realize that the population mix is much more present than in the center of Milan. The sentences « We all bleed the same colour », «Siamo tutti umani », « We are refugees », « Stop racism » sound like obvious facts.
An opening to the world and to Europe
So far you must find that Street Art in Milan, especially in the quartiere dell’Ortica is a bit navel-gazing! A tribute, made a few months ago, to David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament shows an opening towards Europe… of course he was Italian 😉 But in fact the Ortica Noodles collective also honors the men and women who try to move the lines around the world. One can easily recognize a portrait of the young activist Greta Thunberg.
When we go to the stadium we find a tribute to great athletes. Obviously Fausto Coppi is represented, but he is accompanied by Mohamed Ali or Martina Navratilova!
I retrace my steps in order to find a street that will allow me to reach the center of Milan easily, and of course I come across other works that punctuate this amazing discovery.
Should you visit Orme Ortica to discover Street Art in Milan?
My feeling is mixed on this very atypical place. I find the realization of this project a little redundant in terms of style and would have liked the Ortica Noodles collective to invite other artists to come and express themselves on the subjects treated. This would have perhaps given a little more breath to this stroll through history.
But at the same time I can’t help but think that if that were the case, it would certainly take a lot of power away from the words.
I’m not going to tell you to run and visit this neighborhood, but the initiative is so special and certainly unique in the world that it is worth a look. The community of Ortica is very close-knit and the only other experience that reminds me of urban art is my visit to Vitoria Gasteiz in the Spanish Basque country where the inhabitants participated in the realization of the frescos.
It’s up to you! If you feel like taking a cab from Porta Venezia to the Ortica cooperative in Via San Faustino, a large café with an old-fashioned look, where you will be given a map of the area to find your way around. The cab will cost you 7 euros and will save you from complicated bus changes! From there, it will take you about three hours to discover everything 😉 If you still hesitate, I’ll post at the end of the article the Facebook’s live I made the day I discovered the place 😉
It’s summer and I wish you all a great vacation! I promise I’ll find you some very nice Street Art spots between two swims 😉
See you soon for new adventures.