Italy's Booming North: Land of Autocratic, Energetic Business Giants

ITALY'S BOOMING NORTH

EACH opening night during the opera season, Milan's Via Manzoni is transformed from a bustling commercial street to a river of wealth and elegance. Bumper to bumper, a seemingly endless line of Mercedes, Alfa Romeos, Lancias and Maseratis inches toward the Piazza della Scala, their high-powered engines being raced by traffic-frustrated drivers. Pulling up before La Scala's neoclassic facade, the cars discharge their cargoes—usually an Italian businessman, resplendent in white tie, and his bejeweled wife, dressed in a Fontana, Capucci or Dior.

Milan's opulence is no sudden sparkle or passing phenomenon. The...

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