West of Milan’s Central Station and North of the City center, you find the 19th Century quarters of Porta Nuova (formerly Porta Comasina or Porta Garibaldi, also known as the Varesine, as there used to be a station for trains to Varese), and the Isola, separated one from the other by the Porta Garibaldi train station. Historically working-class quarters, also because of the presence of the Porta Garibaldi freight depot and of industrial yards and light industry at the Isola, these quarters are becoming more and more fashionable as a new bohemienne and hip area of town.
While the Porta Garibaldi area has already lived a requalification since the early 80’s with the construction of the Centro Direzionale office center, the Isola is living that rebirth now. Known as the “Isola” (the island), as the construction of the railway line isolated it from the rest of the City, this part of town was a typically working-class quarter, considered by the well-to-do milanesi as the isola dei làder (“island of thieves”), and during the 60’s-70’s filled with illegal gambling dens and became the headquarters of some infamous organized crime gangs. In the past decade, on the other hand, it has gradually become a fashionable quarter, due to low rents, has been the object of an influx of young professionals and students (the area is close to the new Bovisa campus of the Politecnico di Milano and with Milano-Bicocca State University).
The construction, to be completed within 2015, of a series of skyscrapers, surrounded by a 50.000 sq.m park by Andreas Kipar and defined “a bonsai-Central Park” will better connect the two quarters between them and better integrate them with the rest of the City. These include the Regional Government building (already complete, by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners of New York, together with Caputo Partnership and Sistema Duemila of Milan), of new Town Hall offices, of the “Fashion City – MODAM”, of an “Arts Incubator, and of residential and office buildings by famous architects such as Cesar Pelli, Stefano Boeri, and Nicholas Grimshaw. Of particular notice is the so-called “Bosco Verticale” (Vertical Forest) by Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca, and Giovanni La Varra, which is nearing completion.
These two areas of town are already flourishing with pubs, clubs (among them the Milan Blue Note jazz club), trattorie serving milanese and italian cuisine, ethnic restaurants, art galleries and studios, preserving however, and not only by day, the peaceful atmosphere of the old quarters.
Because of the construction work complicating circulation, and of the lack of parkings it is advised not to reach this area by car. Rather, it is quite well-served by Public Transportation: it is at a brief walk from the metro M2 (green line) stations of Garibaldi and Gioia and the M3 (yellow line) stations of Repubblica and Zara, and by various buses and trams. Within 2013 there will be an “Isola” station of the M5 (purple line).