#GetToKnow is a project of ESN Italia and its local sections, which promote their cities through their historical attractions and traditions, as well as their hidden beauties.
The six sections of ESN a Milano Unita are jointly working on this project in order to help international students #GetToKnowMilano!
Piazza Gae Aulenti
With the construction of Piazza Gae Aulenti, in 2012, Milan claims its role as the Italian city of the future! With its huge skyscrapers and charming fountains, the square is the centre of the new futuristic Isola district. It is designed to create a particular merge between sky and water, thanks to its concentric structure underlined by the textures of the building and the stream of the water.
The square takes its name from one of the most famous architect of Milan: a woman who worked world wide spreading the values of the Italian skills.
The Atlantic Codex
Milan is deeply culturally linked to Leonardo da Vinci: among the others, it hosts the widest collection of writings and drawings from thr artist, called “The Atlantic Codex”. It is possible to see it in the charming environment of one of the most important cultural institutions: the “Pinacoteca Ambrosiana”.
The name "Atlantic Codex" indicates the atlas-like breadth of da Vinci's work since it covers a great variety of subjects, from flight to weaponry, from mathematics to botany.
Art Nouveau flourished in Milan from the beginning of the 1900s. The original Italian designation was "Stile Floreale" (floral style), until "Stile Liberty" was adopted as 'official' name, after an English store, "Liberty & Co".
Milan is one of the most important Italian centers of Stile Liberty as it is one of the few areas where a mercantile class could afford expensive status symbols. There are allegedly several hundred Stile Liberty buildings in Milan. The places were used as weekend retreats by wealthy Milanese, such as Stresa, Bellagio and Verbania.
Some of the most beautiful building are: Palazzo Castigioni, Casa Galimberti, Cinema Dumont, Aquarium Pavillion and Casa Cambiaghi.
The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana was established in April 1618, when Cardinal Federico Borromeo donated his collection of paintings, drawings and statues to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, which he had founded in 1607.
Inside the Pinacoteca’s expositive path, articulated in 24 rooms, we can admire some of the greatest masterpieces of all times, like The Musician by Leonardo, The Basket of Fruit by Caravaggio, The cartoon for the School of Athens by Raphael, Adoration of the Magi by Titian, Madonna del Padiglione by Sandro Botticelli and the magnificent Vases of Flowers by Jan Brueghel.
In addition to Renaissance artworks, the museum’s collections include paintings by important 17th century Lombard artists, as well as 18th century artists like Giandomenico Tiepolo, Fra’ Galgario, Francesco Londonio and also a notable cluster of 19th and early 20th centuries authors like Andrea Appiani, Francesco Hayez and Emilio Longoni. Walking from a room to another you can also discover a series of genuine curiosities, like the gloves that Napoleon wore at Waterloo, the armillary spheres from the Settala Collection or the case that keeps a lock of Lucrezia Borgia’s hair, in front of which many famous poets like Gabriele D’Annunzio and Lord Byron came to take inspiration.
Teatro Alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala is one of the most important opera theatres in Italy and Europe, inaugurated in 1778. Most of Italian and international greatest operatic artists have appeared at La Scala during the past 200 years. The theatre is regarded as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and has an associate school, known as the La Scala Theatre Academy, which offers professional training in music, dance, stage craft and stage management. La Scala's season traditionally opens on the 7th December, Saint Ambrose's Day, who's Milan's Patron Saint.
Museo Fondazione Prada
Fondazione Prada is an important and dynamic cultural institution aimed to allow the stream of innovative ideas and art masterpieces. This institution played its role in the past, organizing exhibition dedicated to some of the most important names from the world of the contemporary art like Anish Kapoor (1995). The new location of Fondazione Prada, inaugurated last year, has already hosted some of the most stimulating contemporary art exhibition that Milan has ever seen. The building includes also a kids’ area designed by a group of students from the École Nationale Supérieure d'Srchitecture de Versailles and a bar where director Wes Anderson has recreated the typical mood of old Milan cafés.
Brera is a district of Milan: the name stems from Medieval Italian "braida" or "brera", derived from Old Lombardic "brayda", meaning a land expanse either cleared of trees or naturally lacking them. This is because around the year 900, the Brera district was situated just outside Milan's city walls and was kept clear for military reasons. Brera houses the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and the Brera Art Gallery, which prominently contributed to the development of Brera as an artists' neighborhood and a place of bohemian atmosphere. Other features that contribute to the character of Brera include restaurants, bars, night clubs, antique and art shops, colorful street markets, as well as fortune tellers booths.
Carnival in Milan starts when it ends in the other italian cities.
This unique tradition has its origins, according to a legend, in the fourth century when during the Carnival celebration the city’s Patron, Sant’Ambrogio, was not in town as he was gone on a religious pilgrimage. In order to wait for his presence to start the celebrations, the Carnival was postponed and that's why the last day of Carnival is Saturday and not on Shrove Tuesday.
Villa Invernizzi, via Cappuccini 3 in Milan, is a nice building inspired by classicism that overlooks on Corso Venezia. The rear garden, instead, is an exclusive oasis in the middle of the city center in which a large colony of pink flamingos live. This villa is a private property of the Invernizzi family, so it’s not allowed to gatecrash into the garden, but it’s possible to peek through the gate to admire the flamingos while they are bathing in the fountain or meditating while standing on one leg. On the other hand they are uptown Milanese flamingos now, even if their ancestors came from Chile and Africa. This flamingos community has 25 years old specimens. The guardian takes care of them everyday preparing a perfectly balanced meal: “Vitamins and shellfish are fundamental for the pink pigment of their flamboyant plumage”.
San Bernardino Alle Ossa
Just a few steps far from the Duomo you can see a tiny church famous because of its peculiar decoration completely made of...bones!
In San Bernardino alle Ossa skulls and femurs are attached to pillars and doors and walls in all sorts of different designs and patterns, completely covering the room. Most of the human remains here are from the overflowing cemetery or hospital that once were nearby.
Statues of Duomo
Who of you, observing the Duomo of Milan, has noticed that among the 3200 statues that dot the Cathedral facade, there is the Statue of Liberty?
The one located in the Milanese cathedral is, al least, 70 years older than the more famous one in New York. It is located on the central balcony of the facade and has been watching passersby since 1810. Designed and sculpted by Camillo Pacetti (1758-1826), neoclassical artist who taught at the Brera Academy, the statue represents the New Law and is flanked by the statue of the Old Law, holding the tablets in her hands.
Other special features include: the face, now disguised by a turban, of Benito Mussolini, Primo Carrera, the first Italian to win the world heavyweight championship, tennis rackets, rugby balls and much more.
The Planetarium of Milan is located in the Indro Montanelli Gardens, close to Porta Venezia: it is the largest planetarium in Italy and has been in activity since 1930. It was designed by the architect Portaluppi for Hoepli, who gave it as a gift to the city.
A curiosity: the dome-shaped screen is decorated with the silhouette of the Milan skyline as it was when built in 1930.
The Planetarium has about 100,000 visitors a year. It is as well the headquarter of the “Circolo Astrofili di Milano”, the oldest and most important amateur astronomy club in the city.
Piazza Cinque Giornate
Milano. March 18th, 1848.
The population rises against the Austrians, after three decades of domination. Street by street, many barricades are erected, in order to fight against the army of General Radetzky. It’s the beginning of “Le Cinque Giornate” (The Five Days) of Milan, one of the most famous episodes in the history of the Italian Risorgimento. The clashes follow each other relentlessly, but despite the overwhelming numerical supremacy of the Austrian army, insurgents, organized into a council of war and motivated by a deep patriotic pride, realize an heroic uprising, pushing the enemy out of the city. On 22nd of March, in fact, the Austrians retreated: Milan is finally free.
Today, in “Cinque Giornate” square it is possible to remember that action through an obelisk, built in 1881, and five female figures symbolizing the “Five Days”: the bell; pain, incitement, fame and victory . The star on top of the obelisk is a symbol of a new day.
At the end of the 90's Cadorna square became one of the most congested places of exchange in Milan. This growth brought to an intervention of urban restyling that interested both the inside of the station and the surrounding square, the project was assigned to the architect Gae Aulenti.
This is the genesis of the enormous sculpture Needle, Thread and Knot, inaugurated in 2000. It is a gigantic needle attached to a thread of different colors (red, green and yellow), that ideally holes the square as if it were a fabric, leaving out the knot (in correspondence of the fountain) and resurfacing from the other side, in front of the station, ready to baste another point.
A 18 meters high sculpture, realized with steel and fiberglass and rich of symbolic meanings. The principal idea is that of a train that passes through an underground gallery, alluding to the subway, whose identifying colors of the lines (red, green and yellow) are the same ones of the Thread. The sculpture also represents a homage to one of the Milanese excellences, that is Fashion, for which the city is known all over the world, and to the laboriousness that characterizes it. Moreover, as the same Gae Aulenti has declared, it constitutes a paraphrase of the coat of arms of the city of Milan as well, that is the big grass snake of the Sforza.
The Marriage of the Virgin
For the first time in the history of art two editions of the same painting “The Marriage of the Virgin” are shown together in the wonderful “Pinacoteca di Brera”, one of the most important collections in Milan.
The painting by Raffaello has always been one of the masterpieces of the Pinacoteca, but Perugino’s composition adds to it new value. Raffaello emulated Perugino and proved to know how to give balance and focus on details to a work of art.
The topic shown in both the paintings is the marriage of Mary and Joseph, which follows the rules of classical iconography. Joseph has a flowering branch in his hand proving that the marriage is approved by God, while another suitor is breaking a dry one. The painters show their mastery of painting human figures and architecture by implementing a prespective that creates order and grace in the compositions.
The Perugino’s painting will stay next to Raffaello’s one until June 27th.
“Pinacoteca di Brera” is open from Tuesday to Sunday and the admission is free the first Sunday of the month.
You thought Milan was a totally flat city? You're wrong!
We have a little mountain, very rich in history, and we are really attached to it.
Mount "Stella", also known as San Siro Little Mount, is an artificial 50 meters elevation situated in the North-West area of the city. It was formed by the accumulation of ruins caused by bombs during the II World War.
The hill was designed by the architect Piero Bottoni who dedicated it to his wife, Elsa Stella, after whom the hill was named.
The hill is popular among milanese because of the view you can admire from its top: during clear days you can also see the Alps and the Apennines.
Palazzo Reale has ancient origins and its history is interwoven with Milan and those of the families who governed the city. From the Sforza dynasty to Napoleon and from the plague to bombardments, countless people and major events have shaped both the structure and the functions of the Palazzo; it is a reflection of the influential powers that alternated in the city government and which changed the appearance of the building over the centuries, until it became the prestigious location for major art exhibitions in Milan.
During the Visconti and Sforza lordships it became Town Hall and after the French rule it became Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace). Subsequent to the alternation of power between the French and the Sforzas, Milan passed into Spanish rule. The new governors took up residence the Palazzo and embarked upon major renovation and expansion works. The first theatre in Milan was built in its interior.
The architect Piermarini, in the second half of the XVIII century, renewed the Palazzo which acquired a neo-classical appearance. From then on it became the Palazzo of the rulers, comprising Maria Theresa, Napoleon, Ferdinand I and the Savoy kings of Italy.
In the XIX century, the Palazzo reached the pinnacle of its splendour thanks to the embellishment work entrusted to Andrea Appiani, Pelagio Palagi and Francesco Hayez. The Savoy royal family, from 1861, whilst still the owners of the building, seldom frequented it and used it mainly during official events such as for the Universal Exhibition in 1906. In 1919, the last official visit to Palazzo Reale was that of President Wilson, welcomed to Milan by Vittorio Emanuele III.
Bombing during the World Wars brought destruction to Palazzo Reale, which was then restored and began its real exhibition vocation in 1951.
Piazza XXV Aprile e Festa della Liberazione
Are you wondering why April 25th is national holiday in Italy? Here's the answer! April 25th is the anniversary of the liberation of Italy. In order to defeat the Nazi regime that oppressed our country for years, the Partisans, a young group of people with a strong patriotic spirit, fought with every means available all over the country against violence and oppression to restore freedom and democracy. On April 25th , 1945, the Partisans, with the support of the Allies, broke into the major Italian cities initiating the historical process of the liberation from the Nazi occupation. The uprising caused the fall of the dictator Benito Mussolini, who died three days later.
The beautiful Piazza XXV Aprile celebrates the anniversary of the liberation of Italy. In the middle of the square you can see Porta Garibaldi and, from there, Corso Como, piazza Gae Aulenti and the new financial area.
Quadrilatero del Silenzio
Milan is known worldwide for its famous Quadrilatero of Fashion, but few know that there is also the Quadrilateral of Silence, a true oasis between four-way where the bustle of the city will go out and you can feel the stories of families, writers and crystallized artists over time. The term essentially depends on the contrast with the Fashion District located on the opposite side of Corso Venezia. Two Quadrilaterals, Two Worlds. The Quadrilateral of Silence is the heart of the Art Nouveau style that has characterized the high Milanese bourgeoisie in the early Nocevento. Corso Venezia was the birthplace of cultural movements of the time. Urban area was ennobled under the Habsburg Empire when, among many buildings, straight roads and buildings, also saw the construction of the Villa Reale, and the Public Gardens; the area then went enriching itself in the nineteenth century, with beautiful mansions in the neoclassical style, eclectic and liberty and remained a privileged area '30 years until the twentieth century, to which date back years Palazzo Fidiae Villa Necchi Campiglio.
Walking in the Quadrilateral of Silence you will be enchanted including statues and mosaics, among the hidden gardens and interesting sculptures by Adolfo Wildt, from glimpses of cities to be discovered, where echo the words of writers and literary men who fell in love with the city just by observing and experiencing this area. And in fact this district, the historical and literary memory of Giuseppe Parini, Alessandro Manzoni, Cesare Beccaria and Stendhal, is much appreciated today and this mixes with the reminiscences of the writings of artists like Carlo Carrà and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who lived there.
San Siro Stadium
In 1925, President of A.C. Milan Piero Pirelli called for the construction of a soccer stadium near the Hippodrome for Trotting Races. The Stadium was built to host mainly matches of A.C. Milan, but in 1947-1948 it became the home of F.C. Internazionale (aka Inter) as well. In 1980, this “Temple of Soccer” was named after “Giuseppe Meazza”, in order to honor the unforgettable Milanese player who played both for Inter and Milan and was a two-time World Champion with the Italian national team. In 1990, on the occasion of the World Cup, the City of Milan decided to work on a deep renovation of the stadium, discarding the idea of building a new structure.
The color of the seats marks the sections of the stadium: red and orange for the back straight bleachers; green and blue for the curves. The 85.700 seats are covered by polycarbonate slabs for spectator comfort. The game field remains uncovered, allowing the matches to take place with natural light and weather conditions. A new lighting system has been installed, as well as a new heating system for the grass keeping its temperature constantly controlled, preventing the ground from freezing.
On June 8th, 1990, the stadium hosted the opening of the World Cup with the match Argentina–Camerun.
The “Temple of Soccer” is now the home of thousands of fans, hosting an average of two matches a week during the sport season.
Rotonda della Besana
“Rotonda della Besana” is the best place for people curious about hidded but dynamic areas of Milan.
The structure was built in the Eighteen Century and it was born as a cemetery for dead patients coming from Ospedale Maggiore (the main hospital).
In the very centre of the area there is an old church called "San Michele ai Nuovi Sepolcri", which is rounded by a nice garden and big old walls. In the Napoleonic period it may have been used to bury well-know and prestigiuos people, but the project was never achieved.
The area became one of the property of the City of Milan only in 1939. Then it was fixed and converted in a green area meant to host many cultural exhibitions and shows. Since 2014 it is also the location of MUBA – Children Museum.
Portinari Chapel in Sant'Eustorgio Church is one of the examples of the Lombard Reinassance.
If you look very carefully you will find something very strange in one of its frescoes. In the southern wall, infact, stands out "the miracle of the false Madonna" , fresco in which is represented the Virgin holding a child...and they both have horns!
Click here if you want to discover the meaning of this strange representation!