This route is suitable for those who come to Milan for a day or for those who stay in the city. We will visit the Dome Square, get acquainted with the architecture of the town, and feel its spirit, born during the formation of independent Italy. We will walk along the quiet streets of the bohemian region of Brera and plunge into urban life in the Castello area. Stories, bars, restaurants, shops, and comfort will accompany us at every step.
Opened on August 15, 1782, the Piermarini fountain is the first modern fountain in Milan. Carlo Giuseppe di Firmian, the emissary of Maria Teresa monarch of Austria, ordered the architect Giuseppe Piermarini to design this fountain as a symbol of the greatness of neoclassical renaissance held by Austrian emperors. Thirteen years of work took Piermarini to solve the water supplying from the Seveso river. The insufficient slope between the fountain and the source of water was solved by placing a water pump in Via Delle Ore. Next to the fountain and the Piazza is Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura. On December 12, 1969, an explosion occurred at the bank. Twelve people were killed, and more than 90 were injured. On the same day, an unexploded explosive device was found in the Banca Commerciale Italiana in Piazza Scala, and three more explosions occurred in Rome. After dozens of years of investigations and trials, the identity of attackers is still unknown.
The museum of the Milan Cathedral, located in the Royal Palace of Milan, is part of the gallery of art. Do not miss it up with the Duomo museum. The Royal Palace was initially designed to include two courtyards, but later the architecture plan was changed to arrange the place for the construction of Duomo. The most visited and famous Caryatids can be found in the Hall of Caryatids on the main floor. https://www.duomomilano.it/en/
Milan Cathedral or Duomo or Cathedral of the Nativity is dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The construction was begun in 1386 but was completed only at the beginning of the 19th century, by order of Napoleon. Some details were completed until 1965. In size, Duomo is only smaller than St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
Celts were the first who used to make worship in this place. After them, the Romans built the temple of Minerva. The Christian church appeared in 335. Leonardo and Bramante worked on the temple; the wealthy Milanese have donated an expensive marble from the best quarries. In 1769, a 106-meter spire erected carrying a four-meter statue of the Madonna made from gilded bronze. The event was followed by a decree that no building in Milan should hide the patron saint of the city. The only exception of this rule - the Pirelli skyscraper, has been signified by an exact enlarged copy of the statue of Madonna. The main piece of art of the cathedral is the golden statue of the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Milan (La Madonnina). The nail, which, according to legend, was used to crucify Jesus is above the altar. Every year on September 14, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of the Lord, the Nail is lowered down using a particular device - Nivola - a cloud-shaped elevator.
The gallery of Victor Emanuel the second in Milan is perhaps an architectural monument not less recognizable than the Dome Cathedral itself. It was built according to the plan of the architect Giuseppe Mengoni, who tragically died after falling from the scaffold a few days before the completion of construction. Often, we are impressed by the beauty of the structure, its scale, the intention of the architect, and almost always the fate of the man is hidden from us. Rumors say that Mengoni committed suicide because he could not endure the stress, fearing that the work will not be completed on time and that he will have to pay heavy fines and as if King Immanuel himself did not like this building. But in fact, the king was simply ill and the customers did not disturb the architect because he was already famous and won a competition for the construction of the building, coming first between 176 applicants, and yet he was not particularly surprised. He had to endure much more loss throughout his life - the death of his eighteen-year-old brother and a year after that, the death of his father. Most likely it was just an accident, and the tragedy is that the architect did not see the grand opening of his brainchild, which was designed to show the unity of the four continents, to display agriculture, science, industry and art and to be, as Mengoni himself said: “Something not inferior to the creations of Michelangelo and Raphael.” Mengoni never knew that one of the world's first indoor passages, connecting Dome Square and the square in front of the La Scala Theater, would become the symbol of Milan - exactly as the architect wanted it to.
The gallery is named after the first king of united Italy and carries important political symbolism. At the intersection of the two galleries, covered with steel and glass, a dome rises, and the mosaic on the floor depicts the four most important centers of the United Kingdom of Italy - Rome, Milan, Turin, and Naples. Each of them has its symbolism. The immutable symbol of Rome - the she-wolf who nurtured Romulus and Remus is easily recognized. But the bull symbol of Turin is not known to everyone. Although, in the name of the city of Turin - you can hear the root of “Tur“ or “Tor” - which means bull. On the mosaic, there is a place where tourists are advised to step on and spin around their own axis. Like that, a wish will come true. This place is the bull’s balls. It seems that a tourist will do anything to make their wish come true, and few people remember that the tradition began with the rivalry between Turin and Milan. The Milanese just came here - to crush Turin’s balls.
We went to the square in front of the Teatro La Scala from the most common side. That is the way most tourists come to this square from the Dome Cathedral. In the middle of the square is a monument. It depicts a sullen man who, as it were, bowed his head in front of the most famous theater in Europe. This is a monument of Leonardo Davinci. It was his famous Last Supper that made Milan one of the most famous museum cities in the world. The square, like the monument and the whole modern center of Milan, is the creation of the architect Luca Beltrami and the sculptor Pietro Magni. They were both born in Milan, they knew the center of art and culture of the 19th century, Paris, and both supported Garibaldi in creating a new country - a new Italy. If you look closely, Leonardo’s face is not so gloomy. He is thoughtful and proud. Just like the awakening of Italian national self-determination in the nineteenth century. Like ancient symbols, which from now on are not an impersonal world heritage, but a heritage that has a nation - the Italians.
Speaking about the most famous opera house in Europe, one can't but recall the sad story of Antonio Salieri. With great enthusiasm, he wrote the opera "Europa riconosciuta" in 1778 at the opening of the first season of the La Scala. The opening of the seasons in the theater falls on December 7, the day of Sant'Ambrogio, the patron saint of Milan. Opera Salieri was not performed in La Scala until December 7, 2004, when the theater was reopened after reconstruction. It was either that the bad fame of Salieri, unreasonably created by Pushkin in the little tragedy of Mozart and Salieri, played a cruel joke or the other operas were more interesting and gathered the audience - it is not clear, but the score for the opening of the 2004 season had to be created from scratch, based on ancient manuscripts. La Scala owes its birth, oddly enough, to the fire that utterly burned the old theater of Milan, and the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa commanded the construction of a new one. For this purpose, they chose the place of the dilapidated old church "St. Mary on the stairs." So thanks to Mary and the name Scala remained from the stairs. Funds for the construction were raised through the sale of lodges, and the owners of lodge No. 13 wished to remain anonymous and covered their entire lodge with mirrors - apparently not to jinx it. Despite the great importance of the theater, it is not difficult to notice that its appearance is not particularly impressive. Sometimes it can even cause frustration and bewilderment. But, let's recall that the theater was built half a century before the square in front of it. It was built at a time when Austria ruled Milan, and a magnificent square appeared as an expression of the grandeur and splendor of independent Italy. Therefore, the architecture of La Scala Square surpasses the architecture of the theater, which gave the square its name.
This palace is sadly connected with the assassination attempt on King Karl Albert, the father of Victor Emmanuel the Second, already known to us. Karl Albert fought unsuccessfully with Austria for the independence of Italy. The Austrian empire did not at all want to part with the wealthy Lobmardian-Venetian kingdom, the capital of which was Milan. After losing an important battle, Carl Albert tried to reassure the citizens by going out onto the balcony of this building on August 4, 1848, and nearly died from a shot. Two days later, on August 6, Austrian troops occupied Milan, and on the 9th a ceasefire was signed preserving Austrian rule in northern Italy. A year later, Carl Albert abdicated the throne in favor of his son Victor Emanuel and died in Porto - Portugal.
This elegant fountain is one of seventy-four city fountains and is dedicated to the history of love and loyalty of Federico Confalonieri and Teresa Casati. He was a wealthy industrialist and passionate patriot of Italy. She was a famous Italian noblewoman from the Casati clan. When the Austrians crushed the uprising supported by Confalonieri in Naples and Piedmont, he was arrested and sentenced to death. Later, the death penalty was replaced by life imprisonment. Neither the situation, nor the connection, nor the entreaties of the inconsolable Theresa, saved her husband. Because of his adamant decision not to give out his connection to King Carl Albert (remember the king on the balcony?), Confalonieri was treated with, unusually strict. Only after changing the throne in Austria, Federico was able to go free and find refuge in America. In 1840, he was allowed to return to Milan to visit his gravely ill father, but his wife Teresa was already dead. Confalonieri himself died nine years later, not having lived to see Garibaldi and the freedom of Italy. In 1955, in Italy, a film called Conte Aquila appeared on the screens and depicted the story. There are two female images on the fountain - one symbol of generosity, the other - a symbol of fidelity. Near the fountain is an old mansion - the family estate of Confalonieri and Casati.
The history of Milan begins in the six hundredth year BC. The Celts built the settlement at this place. It is believed that Milan is only a hundred and little years younger than Rome. Rome conquered the city of the Celts at the end of the third century BC and created in its place the settlement of Mediolanum, from which the name Milan derives. Barbarians captured Milan, and behind its fortress wall, to protect it, a wide field formed. This space began to be called Bride or Brad - similar to Broad - a wasteland. That is how the name of the most bohemian district of Milan - Brera, came to be. Our future path will take us through there.
Brera is interesting. Different. Cozy and unexpected and always kind. This unusual monument on a pedestrian lane near the metro station is dedicated to the seventh president of Italy. His name was Sandro Pertini. He ruled in the late seventies and was a socialist. By the way, he was the only socialist president of Italy. The mind behind the cube monument with a fountain inside is Aldo Rossi, a cult Italian and architect with a world-renowned name, from the second half of the twentieth century.
Borgo Nuovo Street got its name thanks to a combination of old and new. In general, everything with the word Borgo in its name in medieval Italian meant that it is behind the fortress wall. Indeed, this part of the city, like the whole of Brera, was once outside the ramparts. Only in the seventeenth century, when they began to build here expensive mansions this part of the city began to be called “new”. That is how Borgo Novo appeared. The house with the balcony and smooth walls was built as a mansion for the Orsini family in the seventeenth century, but today it houses the headquarters of Giorgio Armani.
There are many famous mansions on this street, for example, the palace of the Russian Countess Samoilova in house number 20. The famous picture "The Horsewoman" in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow shows Giovana Pacini - the daughter of composer Pacini and a pupil of Samoilova. The girl was often in this house. Directly opposite to it we can see the Palazzo Moriggia Palace, which belonged to the old Morigi family from Lake Maggiore. Today it houses the Museo del Risorgimento of Milan.
We take a turn to a small street, via dei Fiori Oscuri, which smoothly turns into via dei Fiori Chiari. Both of these streets are named after the noble family Fiori. One part if the streets was closer to the city gates of Porta Nuova, the emblem of which was dominated by the black color. That is where the word Oscuri comes from. On the symbol of the gate of Porta Comasina, there was mostly red, hence Chiari.
Two parts of the flower street Contrada dei Fiori are divided by Brera street – that shares its name with the Brera quarter. There are many cozy, tasty and friendly places here. In the evenings this part of the city is especially pleasant. The large building on the corner of Flower Street and Brera Street is the famous Pinacoteca. This building was once conceived and built as a Jesuit college, but eventually became the center of science and art in Milan. It houses an art gallery with the works of Raphael, Bramante and Caravaggio, the Astronomical Observatory, the Institute of Science and Literature and the library. https://pinacotecabrera.org/en/
In a small side street between houses number one and three on Via dei Fiori Chiari, the now defunct San Carpoforo Church is located. She stands on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Vesta.
From here you can clearly see the back of the church of San Corpofor. We now turned onto Madonina street. Here, perhaps, all the charms of the Brera quarter are revealed in full glory. Boutique shops that sell shoes, perfumes or jewelry, combined with cozy restaurants and cafes attract many tourists here. Typically, the sales season in Milan is the first week of January and the first week of June.
Madonnina Street got its name from the nearby church of St. Mary Madonna, which we will see later. It’s just charming to know that a small street of the Madonna will be called the Madonnina.
In 1838, a young man from a remote province came to Milan. His name is Carlo Francesco Maciachini. He passed his childhood and youth on a family farm, but he was destined to become the founder of a special architectural style. You cant disagree, the facade of the church is both elegant and modern. This building attracts the eye and invites you to come closer. Carlo Francesco created a special Milanese style called Milanese eclecticism. He studied here in Brera, and he is the mind behind the magnificent entrance to the famous Milan cemetery. The facade of this church was designed by Carlo Francesco Maciachini in collaboration with Giuseppe Pestagalli, who owns the famous Dal Verme Theater, but we'll see it a little later. The first church in this place appeared thanks to the Carmelite monks in the 12th century. The church quickly gained the respect of the Brera inhabitants and became a parish church for the rich.
On this small square, Ponte Vetero street intersects with Del Orso street. Ponte Vetero Street descended to the city's hayfields and its name translates as Old Bridge. Apparently this is a Roman name. And Del Orso is one of the richest medieval families of Milan.
This large square in front of the Sforzesco castle was conceived during the time of Napoleon and got. the name Foro Bonaparte. This grandiose project was to include a huge colonnade enveloping the square against the backdrop of majestic Baroque buildings, and an artificial canal was supposed to connect this part of the city with the canals of Navigli. But even the French did not have money for such an exciting project. Over time, a monument to Garibaldi was erected in the center of the square, luxurious baroque facades gave way to Italian neoclassicism and only the name remained as a reminder of the magnificent project. Foro Bonaparte.
We are now walking on one of the most famous pedestrian streets of Milan, Via Dante. Named after the Florentine poet, who laid the foundations of the literary Italian language, it is rich with prestigious shops, modern bars, and beautiful buildings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Dante Street connects Sforzo Castle with the city center - Dome Square.
We will turn off Via Dante to Giorgio Giulini street, names after the archaeologist and court historian of Milan. It was not easy for the Italian to be the court historian of Maria Theresa of Austria. Nevertheless, having received the title of “count” from the rulers of the Habsburg Empire for his labors, he never once turned the history of his native city into political propaganda. On the opposite side of Dante Street was the Giulini Mansion, and just down Dante Street is the famous Piccolo Teatro di Milano – The Small Theater. It began its history after the war in 1947 with the Gorky premiere of "At the Bottom". Soon, the theater, which occupied the old cinema building, was liked by the general public thanks to innovative directing of classics of world literature.
A somewhat unusual church with unusual architecture, absolutely taken out of context of the surrounding buildings, is the church of the Orthodox parish. On Sundays, flocks of about two hundred people, mostly Russians, gather here. The church has been operating since 1985 thanks to the efforts of Father Dmitry. Its full name is the Orthodox parish of Milan "Rev. Sergius of Radonezh, Rev. Seraphim of Sarov, Rev. Vincent of Zaragoza." The church inherits part of a medieval monastery whose central church was dedicated to Vincent Zaragoza.
We continue to walk around Milan of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries - in Milan of the revival and formation of independent Italy. Remember the unusual church of St. Mary Del Carmine? Two architects worked on it, and only one of them worked on an elegant small theater located opposite to the church. Giuseppe Pestagalli embodied modest restraint in the theater building, unlike his colleague, who set the style of Milanese eclecticism. The Dal Verme Theater is named after its patron - the famous Milanese family Varme. The theater arose on the site of the vulgar semi circus performance of the rider Gaetano Ciniselli, which did not suit Milan at all in the late second half of the nineteenth century. From a merchant city became an intelligent and sophisticated one. Although, in the theater of La Scala, bull prices were still discussed, and in the intervals they played cards.
From the Verme Theater on the street of Giacomo Puccini, we again walk out to the great Bonaparte Forum Avenue, and in front of us is Luigi Illica. The theater culture, so significant in Milan, owes its grandiose success to him. After all, he wrote the libretto for the glorious operas of Puccini. His most famous opera librettos are La Boheme, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, and Andrea Chenier. Even in the era of silent cinema, which went into fashion at the beginning of the twentieth century, the best movie ads were on-screen photographs of Luigi. By the way, he has always portrayed in half-turn hiding the right side. Luigi lost his right ear in a duel. To this day, the most prestigious and oldest award given to world-famous opera singers, conductors, directors, and authors is the prize is the International Luigi Illiki Prize, established in 1961.
In the year 2000, this part of the city was touched by the hand of modernity. In front of you is a monument called the Needle Thread and Knot. It has a lot of symbolism. The thread curving around the needle resembles a blue snake - depicted on the coat of arms of the Visconti clan - an old ducal clan that laid the foundation for Milanese statehood. The needle is a symbol of the diving and rising metro that permeates the entire city. Three colors of threads - three metro lines, each marked with its own color. The theme of cutting and sewing is a tribute to Milan's world-famous fashion and style, and the location of the monument tells us that we are close to the famous train station of the city, which we will talk about at the end of the walk.
We are completing our walk in Milan. The train station will help us get to other cities of Lombardy and northern Italy. And before we say goodbye to the city, we will recall that we saw Milan - from the Dome Cathedral to the history of the nineteenth century, the formation of independent Italy and the definition of Milan as the northern capital, art, science, trendsetting and design, and all this done in Italian style - unhurried, cozy, bohemian - Brersky. When you find yourself in the station building, know that this is not the largest railway station in Europe, but the most pompous. The inner space is covered with a roof equal to two football fields, despite the fact that it was built in the early 20th century. The First World War interrupted construction, which ended in the days of Mussolini. As a result, architectural styles were mixed from modern to fascist.