Chicago's Burning SoulA CITY WHOSE COLD CLIMATE IS WARMED BY THE HOT MUSIC IN ITS CLUBS. TWO BOCCONI ALUMNI TELL ABOUT THE CAPITAL OF THE MIDWEST
It is nicknamed the Windy City because of its breezy, harsh climate, which turns the immense Lake Michigan into a frozen sea during the winter. But in spite of the punishing weather, Chicago has a unique fire burning in its soul, a passion that has enabled the metropolis to become a privileged stage for major political, economic, sporting, and music events: this is the city of Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln and Michael Jordan, of Oprah Winfrey and the Blues Brothers. The origins of Chicago date back to the late nineteenth century, when it was destroyed by a fire of legendary proportions. It was a tragedy that caused loss of life and property, but also a boon for American architecture: talents like Frank Lloyd Wright moved to the city, united by the desire to put the city back on its feet. There was nothing left standing and everything had to be rebuilt from scratch, so that the first steel-and-concrete skyscrapers were erected and the urban grid that still dominates downtown was laid out. Chicago thus became a quintessentially modern city, with its steel plants and food industries, including slaughtering and meatpacking, which single-handedly satisfied half of the entire country's needs.
Today, what used to be the meatpacking district is one the city's trendiest neighborhoods, the West Loop, where the old red-brick buildings have been reconverted into luxury lofts and fashionable restaurants. In spite of the metallic aftertaste of its manufacturing past, Chicago has managed to enter the post-industrial age thanks to the big secret that keeps this metropolis alive: the warm feelings engendered by its music, art, food, and entertainment. Either from the windows of Old Town's buildings, from the new and ultra-modern skyscrapers of Downtown, or the porches of Victorian-style suburban townhouses, the notes keep pouring onto the streets of Chicago. The city lives to the rhythm of jazz – concerts are regularly featured at the Chicago Symphony Center, where you can listen to the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Jon Batiste or Trombone Shorty – and blues, which is played every night on the stage of the historic House of Blues, a characteristic but informal setting where the sweet scent of grilled meat mixes with the melodies of soul and blues. In fact, most Chicago clubs offer the possibility to warm the heart and fill the stomach at the same time, while listening to music that originated in the Mississippi delta, accompanied by dishes of any kind of ethnic cuisine. Leaving the skyscrapers of Downtown behind and going north, along the bank of the river, you run into Metro, another venue favored by Chicagoans; in the same area, you can also find The Beat Kitchen, which offers excellent cuisine and an amazing music program: the perfect recipe to free your mind from any kind of worry.
by Carola Trematerra and Michele Canzi
Translated by Alex Foti