Within an hour or so train journey from Milan are a number of interesting towns and cities. Pavia is an historic nearby town that used to be the capital of the region during the years when Milan was a fading star. The city of Como is beautifully located on the lakes near the Swiss border to the north, and Bergamo is a town worth more than just a look from the airport when you arrive on a Ryanair flight from Stansted.
I passed through Monza on the way into Milan by train, and went to a party there on New Year's Day. Monza is famous for its formula one race track and its fantastic royal villa. The villa, which can be found at the end of a long tree lined boulevard, is an immense and beautiful palace. Monza is to the north of Milan and can be reached both by both train and local transit bus.
At the top of our to-do list in any city or village we visit is walking about the neighborhood where we are staying - especially those away from the tourist hot spots.
Many of my best, or at least favorite, travel photos are from such walks. Here are some from Milan.
Via Brisa is a small street connected to Corso Magenta, and it is worth a short detour - here you can see some of the Roman ruins that are left from Mediolanum. These ruins were only discovered in 1949, after a bomb had been dropped here during the war six years earlier.
It is highly probable that the ruins once belonged to an imperial palace. Mediolanum was chosen as Imperial Residence by Emperor Maximianus in 286A.D. The palace was not one single building, but rather a big area of many connected buildings and dwellings. Today, it is still possible to see a part of the heating system.
Close to the palace, there was a huge circus which was connected to the palace itself, and where races and gladiator fights took place.
The court was transferred to Ravenna in 452A.D., but the palace was left intact for several centuries longer. It then fell into disrepair, and by the time of the early Middle Ages, there was almost nothing left of it.
Address: Via Brisa, access from Corso Magenta
Piazza Fontana is a small piazza in the Duomo area where we had a little break. I enjoyed it very much because it was a pleasant place that is not crowded at all - a relief when you come here from Piazza del Duomo or Piazza della Scala! There were not many tourists there, and we sat down on a bench in the shade. The piazza is a pretty place with its historical fountain, the trees and the surrounding buildings.
The fountain that gives the piazza its name was created in 1782. It was designed by Guiseppe Piermarini, the architect who designed the Teatro alla Scala.
On the 12th of December 1969, a bomb detonated on this piazza and killed seventeen people, it was an act of right-wing extremist terrorism.
Address: Piazza Fontana - access from Via Larga and Via San Clemente
Directions: Close to the Duomo
Piazza Meda is a piazza north of the Duomo. There is a lot of traffic there, so it is not a nice place to sit down, but what is interesting is the work of contemporary art that was installed there. It is a big disc made of bronze. According to my guidebook it should rotate, but it didn't do that when we visited. The artwork was made in 1980 by Arnaldo Pomodoro from Milan. When I did some research about Pomodoro, I was surprised to see that another work of his can be seen in Cologne, namely at the adult education centre (VHS). Pomodoro mainly uses geometrical forms in his works.
Address: Piazza Meda - access from Via San Paolo and Via Catena
Directions: North of the Duomo
I can't remember exactly where this was but I do remember the coffee only being 90 cents and that the waitress was stunningly beautiful (pics are in my private collection).
You know that you are "Off The Beaten Path" when the coffee becomes this inexpensive ;-)
Oh and I almost forgot about the pretty woman with the bicycle I passed on my way - pic #2
Once I'd sort of gotten my bearings here in the city centre I felt quite happy just to wander and see where my feet would lead me - this is my favourite way of discovering a city.
This is where Milan opened up. I would just wander and be nosy and maybe end up places I shouldn't but Hey! That's me!
Half of the time I had no idea exactly where I was but I always knew there had to be a bar somewhere and I could always get directions - even if it did cost me the price of a beer ;-)
So here's a few pics:
The Milano Clock Tower is located in Via Mercanti, alomost overlooking Piazza del Duomo. It is better known as Torre del Commune and is situated on the top of Palazzo dei Giureconsulti, home of the chamber of commerce. Torre del Commune was built here in 1272 by Napo Torriani who ruled over Milano until he was defeated by Ottone Visconti in 1277. This event heralded an era of rule by the powerful Visconti family over Milano, which would last until the mid 15th century.
In the central position of Piazza Cordusio, a very bussy Milano's square, stands the monument to Giuseppe Parini (1729-1799), a famous Italian poet and teacher. His talent for teaching made him professor of fine arts in the Brera. During the period when Bonaparte ruled the Cisalpine State, he made him a member of the municipal government.
The monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi stands in the central position of Largo Carioli, the huge open space right in front of Castello Sforzesco. The monument was placed here in 1895 and is work of the sculptor Ettore Ximenes.
Giuseppe Garibaldi, 1807-1882, is the most significant person in the history of the Italian people. Known by his personal courage and tactical intelligence, he managed to defeat Bourbons and have unificated the peninsula in one state known today as Italy.
The Home for Elderly Musicians, erected in the Venetian style in 1899 and enlarged after the Second World War, is a foundation set up by Giuseppe Verdi o shelter elderly impoverished musicians.
The crypt contains the mortal remains of Verdi and his second vife. In the courtyard is a monument to Arrigo Boito by Secchi.
The Home is situated in Piazza Buonarroti with Enrico Butti's monument to Giuseppe Verdi.
***MUSEUM CLOSED FOR RENOVATION ON FEBRUARY 7, 2011. Rumor has it that the closure may be permanent. :( ***
This wonderful museum, located in the old Alfa Romeo factory in nearby Arese, includes six floors of Alfas, from the first 1906 prototype to the present day - even Alfa airplane engines and jeeps.
It is out of the way and open only on weekdays, but it is well worth the effort. Children will especially like the top floor, which features glass cases of toy Alfas.
Admission is free. However, you will need to leave your ID with the security guard at the gate.
Driving directions on the website. See my travelogue for more photos and detailed directions for reaching the museum via public transport.
Milan was, of course, a Roman city....Mediolanum...and although it has far fewer obvious remains than other Italian cities it has more than you might expect.
I came across this little collection quite unexpectedly. spotting an interesting ruin in the middle of a bus traffic intersection I made my way over to it, to find that the restored crypt below had many historical and archeological points of interest.
S Giovanni in Conca was built on the site of a 3rd century Roman residential district. It dates from the 5th century, but was deconsecrated in the mid 1700s, used for storage and gradually dismantled over the subsequent centuries. All that now remains of it is the curved section of apse wall in the photo (deliberately crested to look like a ruin) and its crypt.
The crypt itself is a marvel of pillars and barrel vaulting, and one of the few examples of its type to be found in Italy. But it also displays various Roman artefacts found on the site....statues, inscriptions, sections of mosaic.....as well as the open excavation of a Roman water cistern.
It was within the crypt that I spotted a map of various Roman sites within the modern city, with route marked and information about each site in Italian and English. I'm sure you can get this in the form of a leaflet from the tourist information office and, if you are a Romanist, it would be well worth seeking out.
If you are in the vicinity of Piazza Missori, it's worth visiting this site. From the Duomo walk south along Via Mazzini and after about 500m you will come to the Piazza.
Open Tuesday to Friday 0900 -1300, Saturday 1430-1830.
Local markets are an integral part of the every day life. I found one on Piazzale Segrino and it was on Saturday morning; I am not sure if they organise it on any other week day. On this market, they offer a wide variety of foods - from octopus and fish until spices. Those markets offer a possibility of bargains. They are held in most of the districts of Milan, for sure in the following:
- Fiera di Senigallia - Via Calatafimi, Milan, Italy
- Mercato di Viale Papiniano - Viale Papiniano, Milan, Italy
- Via Armorari - Piazza Cordusio, Duomo, Milan, Italy
- Mercato di via Lorenzini - Via Lorenzini, Milan, Italy
- Via Fiori Chiari - Near Via Brera, Milan, Italy
- Mercato dei Fiori e delle Piante - Piazzetta Reale, Milan, Italy
- Mercato di Abbiategrasso - Piazza Mercato Abbiategrasso, Milan, Italy
- Mercatone dell'Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande - Alzaia naviglio Grande, Milan, Italy
- 'Oh bei, oh bei!' - Fiera di Sant'Ambrogio - Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, Milan, Italy
- Lunedì dell'Angelo - Piazza Sant'Angelo, Milan, Italy
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