Of the narrow and not so narrow streets
that intersect in the regularly elegant grids of the
world-renown Milanese quadrilatero –the plein air
fortress of Italian luxury, well dressing and savoir vivre
whose perimeter is indeed quite small, but whose
appeal is immensely pervasive all over the world–
via Gesù is an unicum.
This hush-hush piccola via –“street” being
too much of a prosaic label for such an Italian feat
of architectural poetry and uttermost harmony–
is a linear successions of grand palazzos hiding
beautiful gardens –some so big they once housed
animals and even stables, causing a stir and some
grumpy yet courteous fights in the neighborhood–
Fifties and Sixties buildings and a continuous line
of gentlemanly shop windows that still retain, in
these days of massive globalization, an indisputable
The reason for such uniqueness is simple: apart
from its industrious activities, via Gesù is still
a residential area, which means that luxe and real
life intersect and interact naturally. It does not
happen anywhere else, you know. Furthermore,
via Gesù houses Milan’s most discreet and luxurious
hotel –The Four Seasons– as well as the intoxicating
beauty of the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, a singular
mansion turned into a cozy museum, plus the city’s
sought after addresses for the happy few.
Via Gesù is a mixture of familiarity and ease,
of privacy and business. It invites its denizens,
the passing ones and the ones who have been living
here their whole life –there are many, their stories
and anecdotes creating a fable that is a magnet
“Via Gesù has a soul...”
of charm of its own right, their elegance a testament
to what being an individual of distinction truly means–
to delve into the two activities that are integral to the
etiquette of a gentleman, and a gentlewoman, worth
their own philosophical salt: otium and negotium.
Which, in other words, means that via Gesù is at once
a luxurious retreat and a busy shopping area. However,
it manages to hide everything, even the hustle
and the bustle, behind a pervasive aura of suffused
calm. Indeed, a quintessentially Milanese quality.
On via Gesù, taking your own time to chat with the
locals, gossip with the Four Seasons’ concierge and
discover the latest news through a casual encounter
with your discreet neighbors is not only possible, but
mandatory, if the term would not suggest something
forced. Because, you know, “forced” is the only
adjective that on via Gesù is banned. For the rest,
everything can happen, from stumbling into a pop
star to exchanging ideas with an artisan to having
a bespoke suit made for you.
Where else in Milano –and not only Milano– could
you find the mansion of one of Italian fashion’s
imperial dynasties –just as excessive and tragic–
a palazzo that once belonged to another dynasty,
of publishers, sitting alongside a convent turned into
an hotel? Where else do you have the city’s first house
equipped with electrical supplies and a hot-water
shower sitting atop a cozy restaurant that’s a labyrinth
of rooms and courtyards added one to another?
Not to mention, of course, the shops old and new,
all with their own little secrets.
Singularly, in a world that, more or less deliberately,
is prone on forgetting everything as fast as possible,
via Gesù keeps records of its own history: by word
of mouth, in non official ways, yet still effectively.
It is a street with memories in fact: one where
every new addition, every change of owners
at a given addresses, is just another layer of a rich
novel in the making, not the sudden erasure
of the previous page. Porters and residents, here,
perfectly remember who lived where and when,
what they did and who they got along with
or not. Via Gesù is a small community, coalesced
on mutual trust, gentle manners and uttermost
respect for the street itself.
It was the joint effort of the “Via Gesù Society”
–the association of the street’s residents–
for instance, that made sure the via did not turn
into a car park: they put flower racks instead.
Napoleon himself deliberated in protection
of such beauty, and the lesson remains.
Via Gesù has a soul. It is a burg now because it
has always been, way back when this area was out
of the Roman walls of Milano and fashion was
far from the horizon. Later, it hosted commercial
activities and housed some if the most elegant
men in town. The fact that via Gesù turns now
into a gentlemen street is just the closing of
a circle and the opening of a new chapter that’s
a prosecution of what has been written before.
So, take a stroll, watch around and enjoy.
Welcome to la via dell’uomo.