The 55th edition of the Milan Design Week has just ended and finally the city can take a breather. This is Milan’s most action packed week of the entire year. It brings out the best of Milan but obviously there are some downsides as well.
Originally the Design Week was just a furniture fair with focus on Italian furniture. The name Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano, which still is used for the main event of the week, clearly indicates that we’re talking about furniture. Over the years the trade show has grown into a full blown spectacle. Outside of the fair area (that is "Fuori Salone” a.k.a. "Fuorisalone") you’ll have hundreds of design and art related events and exhibitions scattered all around the city.
Collectively all of the events, including Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone, are called Milan Design Week.
Having experienced three Design Weeks in a row, let me give you a brief description of what I like and don’t like about the Design Week. Additionally, in the end of the blog post you’ll find three photo galleries with my favourite shots from this year’s Fuorisalone (featuring Zona Tortona, Zona Brera, and Zona Ventura Lambrate).
Salone del Mobile is the third largest trade fair of its kind in the world, and it keeps on growing. This means that the city is packed with people. The streets are crowded and the same goes for hotels and restaurants. The furniture fair itself attracted this year “only” 372,151 attendees (up 4% from 2014), but Fuorisalone attracts a lot more people and naturally activates the locals as well.
When an Italian city is packed like Hong Kong there will inevitably be a certain amount of hassle. That goes for everything from basic services like public transportation to accommodation. Forget about the traditional tourist attractions like Il Duomo or L’Ultima Cena by Leonaro da Vinci. You’d probably lose your mind in the crowds.
The best hotel rooms in the city centre must be booked three years in advance and obviously prices are higher than normally. For a standard double room you’ll easily have to pay 300 euros per night. Everything else tends to be a bit more expensive as well.
Due to the huge amount of events and exhibitions, it’s really hard to know what to check out and what to skip. Fortunately there’s lots of information available in online magazines and blogs, but you can’t avoid wasting some amount of time on things that really isn’t that good or interesting.
The Design Week is by nature an international event attracting participants and talented exhibitors from all over the world. Even if you’re an über designer and artist yourself (which I’m not), chances are high that you’ll stumble across at least something that is truly mind-blowing.
If I would be in the design or furniture business, I would absolutely participate every year in order to meet interesting new talents and broaden my horizons.
It’s a good thing everything takes place in April when the weather is nice and mild in Milan. Usually it doesn’t rain that much and the average daily high is around 19°C (66°F). This is a blessing especially if you’re more focused on Fuorisalone and want to explore the city.
Finally, despite the fact the city is bubbling the overall atmosphere can be quite friendly and occasionally even relaxed. Especially the Italians know how to relax and enjoy life and this can clearly be seen in the evenings when people go out for Aperitivos or dinner.
The Design Week is a spectacular carnival you should experience at least once. Preferably as a vacation trip without small kids and with flexibility in your daily schedules. Don’t make it your first trip to Milan, especially if you want to see all the traditional places the city is famous for.
The sensory overload you’ll experience during the Design Week is amazing and it will give a huge boost to your own creativity. Admittedly you’ll be tired and even exhausted after a trip like this, but it'll be the good kind of fatigue that strangely will give you a lot of energy and inspiration for the rest of the year.