Who goes to the Salone del Mobile on the weekend? We were there to find out what attracts the lay public to the design fair

This year, due to a complicated agenda that didn't allow me to complete the tour at the Salone del Mobile by Friday, I returned to Rho on Saturday morning.

It was the first time I visited the stands on the same day as the public of non-experts, those who, jokingly with colleagues, we call "normal people" - and it was a discovery. If it didn't sound rhetorical, I would almost say it was a revelation.

But let's start from the beginning. The taxi drops me off at the West Gate at 8.50. I choose that entrance because it is closest to pavilion 22, where I scheduled the last three interviews of this marathon that began on Friday 12 April with the press openings. Entering the Fair on a Saturday at that time is like getting your feet wet in the sea on August 1st at dawn: you fill your lungs and go, hoping in vain that in a few hours the beach won't end up invaded.

There is almost no one on Corso Italia, the architecture of Massimiliano Fuksas is a scene in search of actors, the bars have served a few coffees. I enter the pavilion and take the second cup of the day from Gessi, who has set up part of his space with a real bar.

Here the atmosphere is still that of the rest of the week: sector operators very recognizable in their trade fair outfit, someone sweeps the stand, someone else fluffs cushions.

I look out of Knoll to try to get in a few minutes before opening (we journalists always try, or at least I try...), but the answer is a polite no. A little further on, in Kettal we talk about football. After all, on Monday here in Milan there is a derby that is worth a championship, it's time for design to pass the baton.

I enter the Arper stand for the first interview of the day ten minutes early (we journalists try to bend some rules, but at least we are on time).

The dialogue is relaxed and we take all the time that is usually difficult to find for inspired chats. It's 10.30, I leave the stand and start to see the first strollers, the first kids with backpacks.

You recognize the "normal people" immediately: not so much for the outfit (we are still in Milan), but for the real cameras and the slow pace, as if we were at the Uffizi or the Louvre.

After half an hour, I feel like playing a bit and I start mentally dividing the visitors into groups. I leave aside influencers and the damned selfie-takers and really focus on that audience that, to my eye, doesn't seem to practice design every day, but breathes it and is here to touch it.

I call the first group the Fai visitor, it is that of those who do not miss an event linked to beauty and celebrate with the same enthusiasm the reopening of the historic villa and the last marble table (but the table in marble will always seem like a step backwards, "why do you want to put things the way Gio Ponti did them?").

Then there is the average enthusiast, the simple soldier of design who comes here to earn a few stars: he has 80 square meters in Isola and like a good Milanese he looks for at least one refined piece at the fair that makes him feel part of a history book (and allows him to be cool with his friends at dinner).

Finally there is him, the enthusiast / Pro level. He is between 35 and 50 years old, has a good job and lives on the Freccia Rossa. He gets information online, but also buys some trade magazines on newsstands (thank you!), he has a friend who attended Poli and is one of those who wants to know what's underneath: he lifts the armchairs, moves the cushions, looks inside the lampshades like a child inside a goldfish bowl, checks the joints and joints, asks questions about the padding. In short, he is a designer failed. While queuing to enter a stand, he already has his eyes on the one next to him.

Instagrammable scenes interest him relatively. Snobba Driade - where, instead, three guys who are apparently around 25 years old imagine how they would have redone the stand - stops at Poltronova and Memphis Italia to pay homage to the stack of magazines he has in his living room with Sottsass and Mendini, and then ends up sucked into Magis, Miniforms and Lago.

At the fair bar he drank a juice, but to eat he waits to go out. Just outside, before running towards the subway, he takes a look at the latest model sneakers he bought a month ago. Everything is fine, they are still very white, despite the design.

The Salon is beautiful - you might be thinking - but I wouldn't live there.