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Five things you’ll only know if you live in Milan

Milan is famous as Italy's economic and style capital, but there are a few things you'll only know about the city if you spend time living here. The Local's Milan-based reporter Giampietro Vianello tells us what to expect.

Milan's Duomo square
Milan is the Italian city with the greatest degree of international appeal but there are things that only its residents know. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Milan is well known for being Italy’s economic powerhouse and one of Europe’s most prominent fashion and art capitals, and it is by far the Italian city with the greatest degree of international appeal.

But, much like most other major cities in the world, there are some things about Milan that only residents are really privy to. 

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

Here are five things that you’ll know if you live in the northern metropolis.

Electric bikes galore

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… no, it’s an e-bike whizzing past you at the speed of light. 

Over the past three years, Milan’s urban landscape has been radically changed by a sweeping e-bike craze.

The main driver behind the city’s e-bike mania has been the staggering rise of affordable online rental services, with five different companies now offering residents a chance to quickly locate and hop on an e-bike from anywhere within the city limits.

E-bikes in central Milan

Milan residents love to move around the city on e-bikes. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Regular bikes are also available for rent, but residents seem to have a penchant for darting down the city’s streets on e-powered two-wheelers. 

To be fair, e-bikes have become popular in most Italian major cities over the past few years, with the trend propelled by Covid-related restrictions first and government-backed ‘green’ initiatives after.

That said, e-bikers seem to thrive in Milan more than anywhere else in the country as the city offers a total of 144 kilometres of cycle lanes and e-bikes allow residents to quickly slip through the city’s traffic.

Apericena: myth or reality?

Milan is the official birthplace of the so-called apericena: classic Italian aperitivi or pre-dinner drinks are served along with a number of snacks (here that’s usually skewers, bruschetta and pizza or focaccia) which can essentially replace dinner. 

That all sounds great. However, here in Milan only rarely does the concept match the actual execution as the amount of food served isn’t usually that substantial. 

READ ALSO: ‘It takes time’: Foreign residents on what it’s really like to live in Milan

Of course, if your plan is to drink on an empty stomach and see double by 9pm, the whole thing might work in your favour.

Otherwise, an apericena in Milan will generally mean forking out anything between 20 and 30 euros and yet feeling peckish for the rest of the night, which is definitely not ideal.

The land of the ‘imbruttiti

Generalisations are never good and different people shouldn’t be painted with the same brush. That said, as a Milan resident, I’d be remiss not to mention that most Milanesi are indeed fairly short-fused.

While the reasons behind locals’ quick temper still elude even the most respectable of social scientists, you might be interested in knowing that there’s an expression for it: ‘il Milanese imbruttito’, which roughly translates to ‘the pissed-off Milan resident’.

Not convinced? Try pressing the accelerator a tenth of a second too slowly after a traffic light switch and you might just find out the hard way.

Traffic light in Italy

Being slow off the mark after a traffic light change is the easiest way to draw the ire of Milan residents. Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

Unbearable suffixes 

Diminutive suffixes like -ino, -etto, -uccio and -ello are variously used by Italian native speakers to refer to either a particularly small object or place (for instance, a ‘paesello’ is a small ‘paese’ or ‘village’) or to something that’s very dear to them (a ‘fratellino’ is a beloved brother). 

Most Italian speakers use these sparingly, only resorting to them when they’re essential to the meaning of a sentence.

But many Milan residents seem to have somehow missed that memo and nonchalantly pepper their conversations with a barrage of suffixes – such as ‘cinemino’ (cinema), ‘cafferino’ (coffee) and ‘vinello’ (wine).

READ ALSO: Why Milan is a much better city to live in than Rome  

Even ‘whatsappino’, the latest, hotly-debated Italian neologism, enjoys a certain popularity among Milan locals.

While foreign nationals may find this behaviour amusing, native speakers born and raised far from the northern city usually find it excruciatingly childish and have a hard time putting up with it.

Cases of skin rash following exposure to these dreaded suffixes have been reported in Italy, and we have no intention of verifying these claims.

Padel on the weekend

For those who might not yet be privy to the game’s sacred rules, padel is a racket sport which is in many ways similar to tennis.

However, there are three main differences: the court is enclosed by walls and balls can be played off them; players use solid, stringless bats; finally, when serving, the ball must be hit at or below the waist level.

People playing padel

Milan is Italy’s padel capital, with the city currently boasting as many as 61 padel courts. Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP

Though you might not think much of it based on the above description, padel is a lot of fun and Milan is second only to Rome when it comes to the sport’s popularity among residents.

In Milan, most locals tend to play doubles during the weekend, especially on Saturday. So, if you’re new to the city, it’s only a matter of time before one of your colleagues or new city pals sends you a message along the lines of ‘Padelino sabato?’. 

Of course, there’s only one correct answer to that question: ‘Dove e a che ora?’ (‘Where and at what time?).

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Five expert tips for getting your Italian elective residency visa approved

Here are the main things you should know if you want to succeed first time round when applying for Italy's popular - but elusive - elective residency visa.

Five expert tips for getting your Italian elective residency visa approved

The elective residency visa (ERV) is a popular route to permanently relocating to Italy, but the application process can be hard to navigate and the rejection rate high.

To help readers who are considering taking the plunge maximise their chance of success first time round, The Local spoke to three experts about how to put together the best application possible.

Based on what they told us, we put together a detailed guide to the process, as well as specific advice for UK applicants.

Here are five key takeaways on how to make a successful elective residency visa application.

Write a convincing cover letter

Most consulates require a letter of motivation along with your application explaining why you want to move to Italy.

Applicants often put minimal effort into this, simply saying they love the Italian food and weather, says Elze Obrikyte from Giambrone & Partners – and that’s a mistake.

She says ‘pre-rejection’ decisions are often issued on the basis of this letter alone, even if all the other requirements are met. 

EXPLAINED: How to apply for an elective residency visa to move to Italy

That’s because consular officials want to see you have a strong interest in moving to Italy permanently, not just coming for short stints on holiday.

Because of this, you want to make sure you underscore your ties to Italy, your familiarity with the town you plan to move to, and any other supporting information.

While language skills aren’t a requirement, “if you mention that you are studying Italian or you know Italian, which helps you to integrate better, this is also an advantage for your application,” says Obrikyte.

You should provide as much evidence as you can for a successful ERV application. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.
Showing you have a strong connection to Italy will help your application. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Get your finances in order

Because you’re not allowed to work or receive an ‘active’ income when you come to Italy on an ERV, you need to be able to demonstrate that you have a ‘passive income’ of at least €31,000 per year (€38,000 joint income for married couples).

Nick Metta of Studio Legale Metta says applicants sometimes think that having a large amount of money invested in bonds or the stock market is sufficient, but this won’t satisfy the officials reviewing your application.

READ ALSO: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Italy (and stay here)

Whether it’s in the form of a pension, annuity, rent, or some other mechanism, you need to prove that you receive a regular income stream in perpetuity and won’t become a burden on the Italian state.

If you don’t currently have passive income of at least €31,000 you may want to speak to a consultant about restructuring your finances, as you won’t be granted an ERV unless the consulate can check this box.

More is more

Consulates can differ in their exact requirements for the ERV, with some saying you don’t necessarily have to provide a letter of motivation or travel tickets to Italy.

But our experts were all agreed: it’s always best to include as much documentation as possible with your application to be on the safe side.

Even though not all consulates require travel tickets, “it’s always better just to enclose them,” says Obrikyte; “I always advise our clients to close as many documents as possible, just to reduce the risk of rejection”.

READ ALSO: How to apply for an Italian elective residency visa from the UK

“The cover letter for some consulates is not a requirement, for some consulates it is a requirement,” says Metta. “We always recommend that you prepare and file a cover letter with every single elective residency visa application.”

The experts also recommend providing a separate cover page with a contents summary for all the documentation submitted, to make things easy for the consular official reviewing your application.

Agencies can assist you in making sure all your paperwork is in order.

You should provide as much evidence as you can for a successful ERV application. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Be polite and deferential

The Italian consulate in charge of reviewing your ERV application has total power over whether or not it’s accepted – including the ability to raise the income threshold above the official minimum.

That means you want to be as deferential as possible all your interactions with staff, and avoid coming across as entitled or demanding.

READ ALSO: ‘Seek legal advice’: Your advice on applying for Italian visas post-Brexit

“You don’t want to go there and say ‘oh, here is the printing of the law’ and this and that – absolutely not,” says Metta.

You’ll also want to make sure you book your travel tickets for at least 90 days after your appointment date – the full period allotted for the consulate to review the application – so it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to rush their decision.

There’s room to negotiate

Finally, our experts stressed that if your application is rejected, that decision isn’t necessarily final.

Obrikyte says it’s typical for consulates to issue a ‘pre-rejection’ notice before delivering their final answer that specifies what the sticking point is, giving you a chance to fix the issue.

“In that occasion it is possible to try to negotiate and change their mind, and this happens very very often,” she says.

When a client of his was told he needed income of at least €100,000, “we contacted the person in charge, exchanged correspondence, provided some extra legal support in terms of evidence and official sources, and we got another appointment and the person finally got their visa,” Metta says.

While you can appeal a rejection in court, Metta says he advises his clients just to reapply, as it’s “so much faster, easier.”

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For further information on the ERV and how to apply, visit the Italian foreign ministry’s visa website.