ISABELLA BOSSI FEDRIGOTTI
Milanese from Rovereto, 67 years old, writer

TRAFFIC CONTROL AND SAFETY: THIS IS WHAT MILAN WANTS

by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI

ISABELLA BOSSI FEDRIGOTTI

Video 1
I’m from Rovereto, I’m a naturalized immigrant.
THE FIRST PERIOD ON A BYCICLE
I came here to study at university. The first year I lived near Piazzale Loreto, I was very lost and I only knew the university and Piazzale Loreto. I used to eat a croissant at Motta in Piazzale Loreto. Eventually I brought my bike from Rovereto and it got immediately stolen, since bikes in Milan always get stolen… therefore I conquered it little by little.
FIRST IMPACT
It was wonderful, full of opportunities, full of clothes, full of shops. I was a bit scared…
UNIVERSITY POST ‘68
It was after ‘68, and suddenly at university, since my brother had studied at the same university, suddenly grades rose… That’s the first thing I realized, because suddenly grades were higher. Not because I studied more, but because things had changed after ‘68. My brother’s grades were way lower, despite the fact that he was way a better student than me… the world had changed.
VIOLENCE AND FIREBRANDS
Then of course violence started and my father used to say ‘Get away from Milan, what are you doing there? It is dangerous’. He phoned constantly, but when you are young you don’t feel danger… I was curious, I listened, I went to university, I listened to those firebrands who had many followers. I had fun too. I never participated because I am shy, and I was very shy, but I went, I listened, I learned.
TRENTINI’S QUALITY
People from Trentino have always been known as serious, respectable and honest people, trustworthy mountain people. Therefore I’ve always felt welcomed.
…AND NEAPOLITANS’
Probably this attitude didn’t apply only to the people from Trentino. My husband, who was from Naples, had the same memory of hospitality, courtesy and curiosity. Never any hostility, resentment or suspect.
MILAN, AN OPEN CITY
Milan’s openness was helped by the fact that a very large population was truly made of Milanesi who spoke dialect, and now it’s all very fragmented. The great family from Milan with strong traditions no longer exists. Now there is no strong basis, therefore the city doesn’t have the strength to welcome as before… this is my theory.
WHEN IT BECAME HOME
I felt at home when I had my family with children, kindergarten, school… no more weekends in Rovereto, but this is something that doesn’t depend on the city but on the evolution of my life… it became my home.
GOING BACK HOME
With elderly parents there is an affection that I often went to look for, even when I had my own family, I often went to look for it, even if my parents were old. Sleeping in my house… I slept better because I wasn’t in charge of the house, I wasn’t responsible for my family. And so I slept well. I didn’t have to think about grocery shopping, my job, the children, my husband… I put myself into someone else’s hands, who had to think about things. Then it wasn’t true, because we thought about things since my parents were old, however, this psychological feeling of being ‘daughter’ was beautiful.

Video 2
I am a walker… I think trekking is the best way to visit a place, a city.
EXPLORING THE CITY
And then of course my job as a reporter helped me a lot, not only through my readers column that I’ve now had for several years, with daily conversations, 10, 20 or 30 letters a day about Milan. Mostly about problems. They obviously write when they’re unhappy… you wouldn’t write when you are happy, you write when you are angry.
SUPPORTIVE MILAN
With my column I’ve realized that in case of problems, the Milanesi are there. Therefore, rarely but on a regular basis, I publish letters of people who need a job, some sort of support or anything else and there is always someone who offers an answer, help, assistance, advice and even hospitality…
THE CAPITAL OF VOLUNTARY WORK
In Milan there is a lot of voluntary work, there is an army of volunteers… These are the things that mark a city, that characterize it.
MILAN TODAY
I see a city in good shape. It must be said that the Expo helped, no one can deny that. It helped Milan to become more appealing, to get back on track.
MILAN’S PRAGMATISM
Pragmatism I would say… we get straight to the point, without too many words. This is something I find in the newspaper. People say ‘We want to know, we don’t want words, we want the facts. What can we do? How can I can take action? What do you suggest in practice?’. For any kind of problem… I would say this is the attitude that characterizes the Milanesi: pragmatism, concreteness.
HOW WE CHANGE
My job has changed me making me very tolerant… because after listening to all of those stories, one stops judging.
MILAN FOREVER
I came here to study. You don’t go to a smaller town. I had thought about going to study in Padua because everyone from Rovereto went to Padua. My father was a very intelligent man, and not only he suggested my brother, my two brothers, to come to Milan… but he wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of me studying… because women had to marry, cook well and look after the house… but, since I wanted to study, he said ‘go to Milan’.
FREEDOM
Writing for me was a window, a door to freedom that healed me from all diseases of the province, family difficulties, problems, rules. I think I could have opened it everywhere…
YES TO THE MOSQUE
Of course there should be the mosque, obviously I wouldn’t want to see it in my… but that is a bad thing to say. But sure, there must be a mosque… I don’t know how many millions of Muslims… no, not millions… how many thousands of Muslims are here.
PISAPIA’S SUCCESSOR
I like Pisapia… I hope not Salvini, but I don’t think the Milanesi would vote for him, because Salvini’s promises to the Milanesi and Italians can’t be kept. I have nothing against him but he misleads voters because he says ‘We can prevent immigration’. We can’t, there’s no way… Either we shoot at them or we welcome them.

Video 3
AND THEN, MADRID
I was desperate because I had to leave my job, my husband was appointed correspondent of the Corriere in Madrid. And the wife follows the husband. There I was always desperate, I didn’t know anyone. And Madrid is a very closed, very classist city. I remember the Popolari with the Popolari, the Socialists with the Socialists, they hardly mingled. It was also quite difficult to settle the kids in school. Then (with time) I had an amazing time there, I must say. A magnificent ciudad. They told me ‘How wonderful te vas rumbo to Milan’. Milan was seen as a shiny place.

THINGS TO CHANGE
The control on the territory, the rules… not only those regarding the traffic, which are perhaps the most urgent and the dearest to the people in Milan, the respect of ‘no parking’ areas, control on irregularities, music at night, the noise… the small violations. People want a clean city, they want a tidy city, because that’s the way it is, that’s how we are.
I STAY IN TOWN
One stays where friends are. My children… one has already migrated… because of the known employment issues in Italy, the other one works in Milan but one can’t lean against children… One can rely on children but not lean against them. We must rely on friends…
NEVER IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
My grandmother used to say, who has always lived in the country, she said ‘Girls, when you are old, don’t live in the country’.
OUR CITY
When I reply to the letters I always write ‘Our city’, but I don’t do it to ingratiate myself with… but because I really feel it. It is our city, where I lived, where I still live, where I worked, where I made my fortune… Here are the publishers, here I met people whose advice has been precious to me, the writers I met at the Corriere. People I’ve talked to, people who helped me, who I respected. In short, Milan is a big treasure house, the cultural treasure house in Italy.
THREE DEFINITIONS
Mixed, at all levels. Mixed with different populations, but also rich and poor, beautiful and ugly. Energetic, because if not here, where would we find energy elsewhere in Italy…? And then, in spite of everything, I would say generous.