06/14/2013 06:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

In Milano, The 1% Salutes the 99% with a Massive Middle Finger

Milano may be Italy's no-nonsense business and banking capital, but locals still have a sense of humor. Here's a new listing (from my upcoming Rick Steves' Italy guidebook for 2014) about a new monument that has quickly become a fixture:


Piazza degli Affari and a towering middle finger mark the center of Milano's financial district. The bold Fascist buildings in the neighborhood were built in the 1930s under Mussolini. Italy's major stock exchange, the Borsa, faces the square. Stand in the center, appreciate the modern take on ancient aesthetics (you're standing atop the city's ancient Roman theater), and find the stern statues representing various labors and occupations, and celebrating the nobility of workers--typical whistle-while-you-work Fascist themes. Then, notice the equally bold modern statue in the center. After a 2009 contest to find the most appropriate sculpture to grace the financial district, this was the winner. Of course, Italy has its financial problems, and a similar sentiment that powers the Occupy Movement in the USA rumbles in this society as well. Here we see how "the 99 percent" feel when they stand before the symbol of corporate power in Italy. (Notice how the finger is oriented--it's the 1 percent, and not the 99 percent, that's flipping the bird.) The 36-foot-tall, Carrara marble digit was made by Maurizio Cattelan, the most famous--or, at least, most controversial--Italian sculptor of our age. L.O.V.E., as the statue is entitled, was temporary at first. But locals liked it, and, by popular demand, it's now permanent.