How Milan is Pedestrianizing Its City Center

Milan joins a growing list of European cities embracing car-free futures for their central neighborhoods


By Feargus O'Sullivan

CityLab

Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Dublin—and now Milan. Italy’s second city is the latest of a string of European metropolises to start expelling cars from its downtown. Granted, the pace at which Milan intends to turn its city core car-free is slower than most. There is no timeline for the project and the plan is to do it gradually, almost street by street. But when Deputy Mayor Lucia di Cesaris announced the pedestrianization of central Piazza della Scala last Friday, she made it clear that it is just the beginning of a steady removal of cars across central Milan that will amount to nothing less than a “soft revolution”:

“The horizon of the final project… will consist of the total pedestrianization of the historical center.”

Banishing cars from the grand but currently underwhelming square on which the Scala Opera House is located will extend to the north the already existing pedestrian zone in Milan’s heart, consisting of Cathedral Square and the area around Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the spectacular adjacent shopping arcade. After Piazza della Scala is joined up with this zone, the car-free area will gradually extend further into the streets beyond the square, turning an area that is a hub for cultural venues into a pedestrian promenade.

Meanwhile, over on the city center’s southern edge, the canal-side Navigli neighborhood is also getting its pedestrian area expanded, creating a car-free bar and café quarter to add to the just-pedestrianized Piazza Missori nearby. Put all this together and Milan will have what the deputy mayor calls “the creation of a vast area of pedestrian privilege”, the city core passing a tipping point beyond which people, not cars, will forever dominate.

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