More than forty years have passed and yet every now and then the joke still pops out: “Milano da bere, Milan to drink”.
Ironic but at the same time nostalgic, an expression of a Milan that, perhaps, is no more. But what exactly does “Milano da bere” mean?
Story has it that it is a journalistic expression of the eighties, when Milan aimed at socio-economic recovery after the disastrous years of lead. However, the one who invented the expression was Marco Mignani, a brilliant Milanese advertiser who created the slogan “Milano da bere” to advertise the bitter Ramazzotti. The spot was particularly successful for various reasons, including being able to portray with great effectiveness the vision that the Milanese had of themselves and that the rest of Italy tended to attribute to them: a class at the forefront, hard-working and dynamic yuppies devoted to competition and social climbing.
Besides the successful commercial, the expression “Milano da bere” soon became representative of all that Milan was in the eighties, which were a decade nothing short of extraordinary. It was a message of optimism, confidence, of desire to do and to dream. There was an exciting air in the “Milano da bere”, there were artists such as Giorgio Gaber, Enzo Jannacci, Dario Fo, Franca Rame, Nanni Svampa and I Gufi. Inter and AC Milan were always winning.
Although the magical atmosphere of the “Milano da Bere” widely spread throughout the city, over the years certain places were identified as emblematic of those times. First among them, the Bar Magenta, which in those years hosted both the bourgeoisie and the young revolutionaries. Then there was the Camparino which, being close to Piazza Duomo, often had at its counter the political forces of the city, sometimes accompanied by the directors of La Scala. Then there was the Gattullo, the bar of musicians and journalists devoted to political discussions and long nights. Finally, right in our beloved Brera neighborhood, there was, and still is, the Jamaica, perhaps the most representative venue of the ferment of that period. This was the meeting point for more or less penniless artists. Painters, sculptors, writers, photographers and filmmakers. Everyone met at the Jamaica, to find solace in alcohol, to talk about culture and to trade art for food and wine glasses.
Those years are gone, and with them the collective delirium of the eighties. But Brera still exists, the Jamaica still exists, art still exists and, above all, artists still exist. In between exhibitions, they come to Stendhal to eat our Milanese “cotoletta”.