After a two-day warm-up, we were finally ready to hit the Salone itself, and so we bundled into a cab for the long ride out to the fairgrounds. As we pulled up to the south gate, the driver pointed to the vast complex beyond the fence. “Un intero paese a sé stante,” he said. It’s a whole country of its own.

He was right on the money. The nearly 4-million-square-foot compound was jammed on the second official day of the exhibition, and the crowds moved slowly along the endless skyways and landscaped paths of the Massimiliano Fuksas, Hon. FAIA–designed facility. They moved slower still inside the pavilions, jostling through and between the booths—large and small—of the 3,000-plus exhibitors.

With so much to see, each stall had only a second or two to bid for the attention of passersby. What struck our roving eye? A comely attendee atop one of Gufram’s lipstick couches, from their I Multipli series. A student group, inside the Zanotta display, huddled around a tabletop fixture as if around a campfire. Italian firm Projetti, putting the cuckoo into cuckoo clock. Chiaramonte-Marin’s Space Odyssey environment for Emu. A Memphis-inflected living room ensemble from upstart designers Be+Have, in the SaloneSatellite extension.

All of which is to say that when you’re surrounded by tasteful design, sometimes it’s the oddball stuff—the chrome-plated foosball table, the stall done up to look like a rustic barnyard—that grabs you. Above their Bubblicious loungers, furniture maker Adrenalina’s slogan read, “We Are Different!” And so they were—but what would one make of that difference in any other context? Salone affords an incredibly broad view of what’s going on in contemporary design; but it may not be the best place to make calm, cool-headed decisions about quality. We’re just glad we weren’t there to buy.