After two fantastic days in Florence, our group took the three hour bus ride over to the much smaller city of Verona. The city was founded by the Romans and has roughly 260,000 residents today. Nevertheless, Verona attracts millions of tourists from the across the globe each year with its historical architecture and connection to the iconic tale of “Romeo and Juliet” being set in the town of Verona. Upon first arriving in Verona, the differences between this city and Milan are obvious. Like Florence, there is not a modern skyscraper in sight and the majority of the buildings are just a few stories high. Many of the streets are narrow and cars are a bit of a rarity compared to the heavy population of pedestrians. The city was built long ago and the infrastructure has not changed to the point where cars would be a viable mode of transportation across the city. I noticed in Milan that the city has been built with practicality in mind, meaning that there are larger roads that run through the city and keep traffic moving. This is not to say that there is not smaller side roads because there are but Milan has four million residents so the city needs to have better transportation routes or else they will be trapped in a logistical nightmare. The roads that ran through the middle of the city were large highways that had many lanes. There was also the metro system that was incredibly efficient and relatively simple after just a few rides. Milan’s streets were much less crowded during the day and I heard a lot less people speaking english in passing. The people of Milan seemed to move with a much greater level of urgency compared to those in Verona.
The core difference between Milan and Verona is their focus on the local economy and what industries contribute to it. I learned that Milan is the business capital of Italy, meaning that many banks and company headquarters are located there. This obviously is a driver for economic growth in the city as companies continue to expand and global brands establish offices in Milan. Also, the Italian stock exchange is based out of Milan. Furthermore, having a business focused city like Milan leads one to believe that many of the citizens are possibly wealthier and are able to boost the local economy of the city (ex: restaurants, cafes, boutiques) so the benefit of having big business expands to smaller businesses within the city. Verona seemed to polarize Milan in this sense. Though Verona is storied and iconic in its own right, the city’s main revenue comes from the tourist industry. As I stated earlier, the city brings in millions of tourists each year and this brings in plenty of money for local shops and restaurants to benefit off the additional vacationers. This however, does not come close to the type of money that is generated from having business or banks establish headquarters (like in the case of Milan).
Though the financial differences are clear between these two cities, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Milan has established itself as the business capital of Italy and I do not see this changing anytime soon. The scope of the city and an already solid infrastructure has helped build Milan into an international global hub. Like Verona, there is a tourist aspect but it does not compare because the city was not built to appeal to tourist but rather to hold a massive population and operate practicality. Verona, on the other hand, is built to appeal to the wandering tourist who wants to see ancient Roman ruins and feel like they are in a city that they cannot find at home. Unfortunately, Milan really does not have the capability to create the type of tourist industry that Verona has. Likewise, Verona cannot replicate the global business presence that Milan has. If these two cities attempted to copy what one another respectively excels at it would not go over smoothly. The forcing of this type of large scale transition would be awkward and would most definitely leave both cities in a weaker position financially than they started.