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 Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
MM1/3 Duomo

The architect Mengoni was responsible for refurbishing piazza Duomo in the mid 19th century, and he also designed the sumptuous covered arcade, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, that has always been the traditional meeting-place for an informal business discussion, socializing, or just watching the people of Milan go by. At the time (1865-78), the use of iron and glass for the roof was innovative, even daring (the Eiffel tower would be built in 1889): the concept of a covered arcade with shops on the ground floor, offices and apartments on upper floors, was also new at the time, and would be copied, for example in Naples and in Moscow.


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 Teatro alla Scala
Piazza Scala, MM1/3 Duomo

Teatro alla Scala was built from 1776 to 1778, following the destruction of the Regio Ducale Teatro (built 1717) that had formed part of Palazzo Reale in Piazza Duomo. Its construction was funded by the nobility of Milan, with the assent of Maria Teresa of Austria, who was empress of Austria and Duchess of Milan. The architect, Giuseppe Piermarini, designed a severe Neoclassical facade (which became a prototype for many other opera houses in Italy) and above all created an interior which from the start was exceptional as regards its acoustics.

 


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 Palazzo Marino
Piazza Scala, MM1/3 Duomo

Palazzo Marino was commissioned in 1558 by Genoese banker Tommaso Marino from architect Galeazzo Alessi, with instructions that “When finished, it should be the finest palazzo of Christendom”. Marino was a senator in the Spanish government that ruled Milan in those years; he lent money to the emperor, the Pope, the viceroy of Sicily, and he collected taxes in Milan. His extensive household included an “army” of 27 men authorised to circulate in the city fully armed and “licenced to kill”. Palazzo Marino became the seat of the municipal government in 1861, when Italy finally won its independence. The facade facing Piazza San Fedele is original, built by Alessi: that facing Piazza Scala is almost identical, but was built by Luca Beltrami in 1889.


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 Piazza Mercanti
MM1/3 Duomo

The north-west corner of Piazza Duomo opens into a pedestrian street, Via Mercanti, and this brings you to the Medieval heart of the city. Originally an enclosed square, the area has a large brick building at its centre, Palazzo della Ragione.

This building was founded in 1228, and for hundreds of years was the centre of Milan's government and trade. Under the porticoes, notaries and laywers had stalls at which they settled deeds and transactions of all sorts: on the first floor, meetings of the City council were held, with the 900 representatives (at that time, Milan had a population of 150,000).

 The top floor of Palazzo della Ragione is a later addition: the building is empty and disused at present. On the south-west façade there is a high-relief equestrian monument (perhaps the earliest of its genre in Medieval art) of Oldrado da Tresseno, at the head of the city-state when the building was erected: it is thought to be by the greatest early 13th-century sculptor in Italy, Antelami, but, like the rest of the building, it is in a sorry state.

At the centre of Piazza dei Mercanti there is a well, and at the end of the Piazza, Gothic arches with terra-cotta surrounds are what remain of the 15th-century Palazzo dei Notai.


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 Castle
Piazza Castello, MM1 Cairoli, MM2 Lanza, MM1/2 Cadorna

The Castle is situated in a position that was once on the city walls, at least at the height of its development in 1450-1500. It was founded in about 1350 by Galeazzo II Visconti, extended by Gian Galeazzo Visconti (who also founded the Cathedral), greatly damaged by public uprising after the demise of the Visconti reign, rebuilt and extended by Francesco Sforza in 1450, and finally rendered one of the finest palaces of the Renaissance by Ludovico Sforza. In 1500, Ludovico was defeated by the French invading army, and over the next four hundred years, during which Milan was a territory belonging alternately to the French, Spanish and Austrians, the Castle gradually deteriorated until about 1895, when the Municipal government had to decide whether to bulldoze what was left and build houses, or restore it.
Luckily they decided to restore it, and during restoration rediscovered a Leonardo da Vinci fresco as well as preserving Milan's second major monument (after the Cathedral). The Castle is most easily reached from the Metro stop Cairoli (MM1, red line), but it is a very pleasant walk from the Cathedral, down Via Mercanti, Piazza Cordusio and Via Dante. In the latter street, there are many cafés that make an agreeable break for a coffee, beer, ice-cream or aperitif depending on your mood or the time of day.

 Museum of Ancient Art inside the Castle

The Pietà Rondanini, inside the museum, is not an easy work of art to appreciate. It has nothing in common with the Pietà in St. Peter's, Rome, with its supernaturally beautiful Madonna cradling the dead Christ. Nor with the muscular Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, or the elegant statues in the Medici chapel in Florence. Milan's Pietà is a tortured monument to the great artist and his creative spirit, unquenched even in the last months of his life.

La Sala delle Asse was decorated by Leonardo da Vinci, who had been commissioned, by Ludovico il Moro. It takes its name from the wood panelling lining the walls.


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 Pinacoteca di Brera
(Brera Art Gallery) Via Brera, 28 • MM2 Lanza, MM3 Montenapoleone; tram 1, 4, 6, 12, 14, 27; bus 61,97.
Up the monumental staircase at the bottom of the first courtyard.
€5, free for EU citizens under 18 or over 65, free for children under 12, €3.10 for EU citizens aged 18-25. Open Tues-Sun 8.30-19.15, last entrance at 18.15, closed on Mon. Opening times may vary. Info: tel. 02.722.631, 02.8942.1146. www.brera.beniculturali.it.

One of the finest galleries for Medieval and Renaissance Italian art. Famous works include Raphael's "Marriage of the Virgin", Piero della Francesca's altarpiece with the Duke of Urbino, and Mantegna's Dead Christ in dramatic foreshortening. There is a Last Supper by Rubens, in which the eyes of Judas seem to follow your gaze as you move through the room. The ultra-romantic "Kiss" is by Francesco Hayez, a very skilled 19th-century painter who was so celebrated in Milan during his time that he was commemorated with a statue in Piazzetta Brera, to the right of the entrance to the Museum. Guidebooks in English, Japanese, French, German, Italian.

The building itself is exceptional: it was constructed from 1591 as a Jesuit theology college, and greatly extended by the architect Richini from 1651. Under the rule of Maria Teresa of Austria, in the 18th century the Jesuit order was suppressed, and the building became the seat for various institutions of learning, along with the Botanic Garden (which still exists behind the Palazzo) and the Astronomical Observatory. The art collection began in the late 18th century, as a means of gathering work suitable for copying by students: it was greatly extended between 1805 and 1811, when the new French rulers of the city confiscated works from churches and monasteries, and installed them here, building an extension to house them. In the first courtyard, a statue of Napoleon by Antonio Canova depicts the emperor naked, with a Winged Victory in his right hand. The Winged Victory was stolen in 1978, and replaced only a few years later. The entrance to the Brera gallery is up the stairs at the end of this courtyard.

Observatory: the Museum of Antique Astronomical Instruments is situated in the Brera building. Admission free, open 9.00-16.00 Mon-Fri, closed Sat and Sun, tel. 02.805.7309, infobrera@unimi.it.


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 Leonardo’s Horse

Leonardo worked on the project for the greatest equestrian monument of all times from 1482 to 1499: he virtually completed the original, in plaster, ready for casting, but the great sculpture was destroyed by the French invaders who ousted Leonardo’s patron, Ludovico il Moro, from power. Now, the fantastic project has become reality.

In 1977, Charles Dent, American pilot and a great enthusiast of Renaissance art and Leonardo in particular, read about the story in National Geographic magazine, and decided that it was time to build the horse. He collected all possible information on Leonardo’s many sketches, drawings, studies and notes on the mammoth sculpture. In 1982 the “Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse Incorporation” was founded, a non-profit organization whose sole purpose was the creation of the monument. The first model, about 8 feet high, had been completed by 1992; a fibre-glass version was completed the year after; but Charles Dent died on Christmas day, 1994. But the Foundation had gathered steam, and it was not long before a 24-foot version had been completed by the sculptress Nina Akamu. The Tallix Art Foundry, Beacon, New York, used 12 tonnes of bronze to cast the horse in 60 pieces, that were then welded together to form 7 subsections. These were transported to Milan on 19th July 1999, assembled here, and the final sculpture was unveiled by the American ambassador Thomas Foglietta on 10th September.

The horse is situated at the Ippodromo (horse racing stadium), Piazzale dello Sport 16. The nearest Metro stop is Lotto (MM1), from where there is a one-kilometre walk down Via Caprilli to reach Piazzale dello Sport. Alternatively, take tram 16, get off at Via Aldobrandini (just before the “Trotter” racing stadium) and walk down this street for half a kilometre to reach Piazzale dello Sport. Open every day, 9.30-19.30. Admission free.


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 State University
Via Festa del Perdono

The State University, Università Statale, is housed in Via Richini, in what is also known as “Ca’ Granda”. This was founded as a hospital in 1456 by Francesco Sforza, and the earliest part of this enormous complex was designed by Antonio Averulino da Firenze, better known as Filarete. The earliest section is that closest to San Nazaro. The hospital and orphanage began to operate in 1473: it was funded by land outside Milan that had been left to the institution by Francesco Sforza and his wife Bianca Maria Sforza. A special rotating hatch was built at the entrance of the hospital, into which unwanted babies could be placed unseen: these children were cared for by the orphanage and given the surname “Colombo” after the dove (colomba) that was used in the emblem of the institution.  

Over the centuries, the building was extended with other cloisters that however continued the style of that by Filarete. Next to the Filarete section is the Carcano section, named after the businessman who financed it: it was built in the early 1600s by Richini; finally the Macchio section was built in 1800 by engineer Pietro Castelli.


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 San Nazaro
Piazza San Nazaro (Corso di Porta Romana), MM3 Missori

San Nazaro is one of the churches founded by Sant’Ambrogio in 382 AD: it was damaged by fire in the 12th century and rebuilt in Romanesque style, though preserving the general Paleochristian shape and structure. In about 1520, Bramantino built the “Trivulza”, a chapel dedicated to a family of knights who served both the Visconti and the Sforza dynasties, onto the front, hiding the original facade. The tombs are now empty: later in the 16th century, Carlo Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, decreed that from then on only saints could be buried in churches, and so the remains of the Trivulzios were removed.

Some of the original Paleochristian structures can be seen just inside the glass entrance door that leads from the Trivulza into the church. The single nave is typically Paleochristian. In the right transept there is a painting of the “Last Supper” by Bernardino Lanino, 1550 circa; in the left transept there is an early 16th-century piece of gilded German sculpture dedicated to the Adoration of the Magi.

The Santa Caterina chapel, half way down the left hand side of the nave, is a Renaissance structure with frescoes by Lanino and G. Battista della Cerva, dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria.

Have a look at the apse from outside: it represents the earliest surviving Romanesque architecture in Milan.

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 San Simpliciano
Piazza San Simpliciano (Corso Garibaldi), MM2 Lanza

San Simpliciano is one of the four Basilicas founded by Ambrose, patron saint of Milan, in the 4th century, and it is remarkable above all for the wonderful atmosphere of peace produced by an interior that has remained much the same for 1700 years or so. Outside, the lower parts of the walls, in enormous ashlar blocks, are original late 4th century, while much of the brickwork (not all) can be dated to rebuilding in the 12th century, in the Romanesque style. There are two lovely organs with frescoed decoration, and the apse includes a fine fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin by Bergognone, 1508. The church closes at lunchtime from about 12.30 to 15.30.


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 Sant’Ambrogio
Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, MM2 S. Ambrogio (Closed until September for restorations)

The Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio is of prime importance to Milan because it was founded by, and dedicated to, Ambrose, the Ancient Roman-born citizen who was elected bishop of the city by popular acclaim, in 374 A.D. Today, the church is basically Romanesque, 11th-12th century. Closed at lunchtime from about 12.00 until 15.00.

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 Santa Maria delle Grazie
Piazza S. Maria delle Grazie • MM1 Conciliazione, MM1/2 Cadorna

Santa Maria delle Grazie was built in the latter half of the 15th century, as a Dominican monastery, and in fact until 1490 it was named San Domenico. But the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, wished to make this into his family mausoleum, and in order to do so he summoned Florentine architect Donato Bramante and commissioned the total reconstruction of the church in the new Renaissance style. At the same time, Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint the Last Supper in the adjoining refectory. Bramante started work at the east, apse end, along with the Sacristy and the Small Cloister to the north of the apse. But in April 1500, Ludovico was defeated by the French and exiled, and so reconstruction came to a halt. This is why the church is partly in the severe late Lombard Gothic architecture favoured by the Dominicans, and partly in the gloriously harmonious Renaissance architecture visible in the apse and dome. This contrast is also visible inside, from the relatively low and dark nave to the spacious geometrical spaces near the altar.  

The first chapel on the right includes a painting by Bonifacio and Benedetto Bembo, along with a 15th-century tomb; in the fourth chapel on the right there are frescoes by Gaudenzio Ferrari dedicated to the Passion (1540 circa). The next chapel features Mannerist frescoes by Giovanni de Mio da Schio (1541). The first chapel on the left includes remains of frescoes by Montorfano, 1490 circa, the painter who also created the Crucifixion in the refectory, opposite the Last Supper.
A wooden door in the left transept leads to the Chiostro Piccolo (small cloister), one of the most beautiful and peaceful locations in Milan. On the west side of this cloister, there is a small slab with the words Beatrix Dux, recalling the death of Beatrice, Ludovico’s wife; while on the east wall there is a slab with a bas-relief of Ludovico himself. The funeral monument that he had commissioned from Solari, which remained in the church until 1564, can now be seen in the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery to the south of Milan.

The Last Supper is not accessible from the church: the entrance is to the left of the church in Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie.


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 San Lorenzo
Corso di Porta Ticinese

San Lorenzo is a lovely building, with an enormous heritage of history, but unfortunately repeated fires, destructions and collapses have made its interpretation similar to the task of a paleontologist who reconstructs an epoch from fossils. Very large (the tallest and most spacious of Milan’s churches after the Cathedral), it was founded soon after the edict of Milan (313 A.D.) in which emperor Constantine granted freedom of religion to the Christians.


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 Central Station
Piazza Duca d’Aosta, MM1/3 Centrale F.S.

The enormous building of the Central Station is one that people tend to arrive at and flee from as quickly as possible, but it is worth at least a brief look while you are there.
 It was designed by Ulisse Stacchini in 1912, and he combined the style in vogue then, Art Deco, with the grandeur of Ancient Roman thermae, including an extensive use of mosaics, bas-relief sculpture and ceramic decoration reflecting the nationalistic fervour that was sweeping the country. The decision to keep the train lines at a higher level than the streets induced him to design the great monumental staircases.

Work on the station was interrupted during the First World War, started again rather sleepily in 1919, and finally gathered momentum in 1925. The Fascist regime that had meanwhile come to power found the design perfect for its grandiose approach to things, and so the project was enlarged, with the five enormous cylindrical canopies in iron and glass added to protect travellers on the platforms instead of the series of platform-wide shelters originally planned: various motifs expressing the regime and depicting Mussolini were also added.

The station was opened in 1931, and has remained virtually the same since: the Fascist emblems were removed after 1945 (a few remain in rather hidden locations), and in one of the mosaics on the first floor departures gallery, Mussolini's face has been removed while leaving the rest of the scene intact. The building is remarkable in its sheer scale, and in its decorative programme that bears comparison, in concept, with the Cathedral: its connections with Fascism have led to neglect on the part of historians.
 



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 Fashion district

From Piazza Duomo, Corso Vittorio Emanuele is a pedestrian street lined with some smart shops, making for a pleasant stroll. But the full-blooded fashion district starts from the other end, from Piazza San Babila. In fact Via Montenapoleone is home to some of the top names, and the surrounding streets share the same refined, stylish atmosphere, with superb window displays that are always entertaining. Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Sant'Andrea, Via Gesù, Via Santo Spirito, Via Borgospesso and Via Manzoni offer the greatest concentration of chic, but also the museum Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi, Via Santo Spirito 10, that extends right through to Via Gesù 5, with a lovely courtyard constructed in Renaissance style during the 19th century.


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Cimitero Monumentale/Cemetery

Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale • MM2 Garibaldi; Tram 3, 4, 11, 12.
Admission free. Open Tues-Fri 8.30-17.15, Sat and Sun 8.30-17.45, Mon closed.

Milan's most prestigious cemetery is built over an area of 250,000 square metres. The structure that dominates the entrance recalls the Gothic cathedral of Siena, but in fact it dates to 1860 and reflects the eclectic architectural style of the time. Inside, the cemetery is not so interesting for the people buried there, but rather for the tombs, which represent an open-air gallery of late 19th and 20th-century sculpture.

On the left just inside the forecourt, there is an office that distributes leaflets in English and German with a map. Within the cemetery, panels with maps indicate the most significant tombs.


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 San Siro Tour & Museum
Gate 14, Via Piccolomini 5 • MM1 De Angeli then tram 16.
€12.50. Open every day 10.00-17.00. Info: 02.4042.432.

 

For football enthusiasts, everything about Milan's two teams and the legendary stadium. With 24 life-size statues of Milan and Inter heroes (including Gullit, Rijkaard, Liedholm, Rivera, Van Basten, Mazzola, Suarez, Matthaus, Meazza, Rumenigge) made by the Viareggio Carnival papier-maché artists. Projections of match action. Includes visit to the stadium. Opening times may vary on match days.


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 Santa Giustina, Affori
Viale Affori, FNM Affori

The rather unextraordinary church of Santa Giustina, in Affori, on the outskirts of Milan, possesses a small panel painting above an altar in the left nave. This picture is like a little door opening onto an extraordinary and mysterious world, a world of art and religion, mystery and dispute, in which nothing is certain, or rather the only certitude is doubt.

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