Milan is still the heart of Italian fashion, design and finance, the gateway to Italy's industrial north. However, in recent years the city has lost some of its lustre and organisational flair. Anyone who has not visited Milan for several years will notice the difference; there is now a weary air about the city, instead of the bustling confidence of even a decade ago. The restoration of buildings and art treasures has fallen behind that in Rome.
The traffic is just as chaotic as in Italy's capital city and even with two airports and several train stations, travel in and out of the city can be difficult, especially in winter. However public transport within the city is excellent, thanks to the efficient metro and bus services.
There are few parks and sports facilities, perhaps because the Alps and the Italian lakes, with their winter and water sports, are only a couple of hours away. The choice of facilities for English-speaking expatriates is not as good as it is in Rome, with only four international schools, two English-speaking churches (one Roman Catholic and one Anglican) and two bookshops (see resources for addresses and telephone numbers). However, most north Europeans will feel more at home in Milan than in Rome. The city is within an easy drive of France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany and the history and efficiency of its neighbours is reflected in the way Milan goes about its business. The magnificent restoration of its cathedral (the duomo) and the on-going remodernisation of the central railway station in addition to two new major property developments, one in the heart of the city (between Porta Garibaldi railway station and Porta Nuova) and the other by the British architect Sir Norman Foster on the south eastern outskirts (Milano S. Giulia), could give this proud old city a new sense of purpose.