Milan Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Milan
SituationMilan (Milano), capital of Lombardy and Italy's second largest city, lies in the northwest of the Po plain at the junction of several important traffic routes from the Alps.
ImportanceMilan is Italy's principal industrial center, its most important railroad junction and its leading banking and commercial city. It was one of the largest silk markets in Europe and also a State and a Catholic university; it is the see of an archbishop. The main industries are textiles, the manufacture of cars, machinery and rolling-stock, chemicals (the Montecatini group) and papermaking.CityMilan is a city of predominantly modern aspect. Even the old town center around the Piazza del Duomo, though it still has many narrow old streets, is traversed by wide arteries radiating in all directions. Between the old town and the outer ring of bastioni, on the line of the Spanish ramparts built in 1549, is a zone of more modern streets, and farther out are the city's steadily expanding suburbs including "Milano 2" and "Milano 3". Since the Second World War large modern buildings, including tower blocks, have been erected in every part of the city.HistoryMilan, founded by Celts about 400 B.C., was conquered by Rome in 222 B.C. and thereafter, as Mediolanum, became the second most important town in northern Italy (after Verona). Later it became one of the capitals of the Lombard and Frankish kingdoms. As capital of the Lombard League it led the opposition to the Hohenstaufens. In consequence it was destroyed by Frederick Barbarossa in 1162, but was rebuilt five years later. Internal feuds between the nobility and the people led to the dominance of the Visconti family, who won control of much of northern Italy; and in 1395 Gian Galeazzo (d. 1402) gained the ducal title. In 1450 the Vicontis were succeeded by the dynasty founded by the mercenary leader Francesco Sforza, but the Sforza line died out in 1535, and the duchy then passed to Spain under Charles V. In 1714, after the War of the Spanish Succession, it was assigned to Austria, which apart from an interlude of French occupation in Napoleonic times (1796-1814) held on to it until 1859, in spite of repeated popular risings. In 1919 Mussolini founded the Fascist party in Milan; and in April 1945 the body of the fallen dictator was put on show in Piazzale Loreto. In the 1990s Milan has several times been the scene of outrages. In July 1993 an explosive device was detonated in the city, costing several lives and leading to demonstrations and strong protests throughout the country. The mayor of Milan said the "political Mafia" was responsible. In 1994 the "czar of the media", Silvo Berlusconi, entered politics and made his voice heard.ArtRemains of early Christian architecture have been preserved in one or two churches, notably San Lorenzo and Sant'Ambrogio. 13th century buildings are to be found mainly in the Piazza dei Mercanti. The Gothic period is represented almost exclusively by the cathedral. Around 1450 the Florentines Filarete and Michelozzo brought the Tuscan Early Renaissance to Milan (Ospedale Maggiore). The heyday of Milanese art began with the coming of Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci, who produced his major works here between 1485 and 1500; and these two masters influenced the work of subsequent generations of painters, including Andrea Solario, Bramantino, Luini, Sodoma and Gaudenzio Ferrari. The present aspect of central Milan is due to the architects of the Late Renaissance and Baroque periods, particularly Galeazzo Alessi and Pellegrino Tibaldi, the Neo-Classical architect Giuseppe Piermarini and two practitioners of the Empire style, Luigi Canonica and Luigi Cagnola. A competent Neo-Classical painter was Andrea Appiani.
Piazza del Duomo
The life of Milan centers on the Piazza del Duomo, flanked on the north and south sides by palatial buildings, designed by Mengoni and erected from 1876 onwards. Near the west end is an equestrian statue of Victor Emanuel II (1896). Under the square are the foundations of the Basilica di Santa Tecla (fourth-fifth and seventh century; "winter church") and the fourth century baptistery (Battisterio di San Giovanni alle Fonti), which were discovered during the construction of the Metropolitana (access from the cathedral). Adjoining the Piazza del Duomo to the northwest is the Piazza dei Mercanti, beyond which is the Piazza Cordusio. From the cathedral to the Piazza Cordusio extends an underground passage, with numerous shops.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
On the north side of the Piazza del Duomo, giving access to the Piazza della Scala, is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, designed by Giuseppe Mengoni and built in 1865-77. It was then the largest shopping arcade in Europe (195m/215yd long, dome 48m/158ft high; restored in 1988-89). It is known to the inhabitants of Milan as "il salotto" (the salon).
The massive Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente is among the largest in the world, and able to accommodate up to 40,000 people. It was begun in the 14th C and expanded over the centuries.
The Castello Sforzesco was built in the 15th C and contains the Musei del Castello Sforzesco, and a park with an arena and amphitheatre.
This Gothic church shows fine Early Renaissance features, along with a Baroque chapel.
Teatro alla Scala is the most important opera house in northern Italy and internationally renowned. It stands on the site of a 14th C church, known as Santa Maria della Scala.
Palazzo di Brera
West of Piazza Cavour and northwest of Piazza della Scala, in Via Brera, is the Renaissance Palazzo di Brera (1651-1773), originally a Jesuit college, which has been occupied since 1776 by the Accademia di Belle Arti. In the courtyard can be seen a monument to Napoleon I by Canova (1809). The palace contains a library (800,000 volumes) founded in 1770 and an observatory.
Piazza dei Mercanti and Piazza Cordusio
From the Piazza della Scala the Via Santa Margherita runs southwest into the Piazza dei Mercanti, center of the old town of Milan. In the center of the square is the single-storey Palazzo della Ragione (1228-33), originally a law court, with an equestrian statue of the builder on the south side. The Palazzo dei Giureconsulti (1564), on the north side of the square, has a clock-tower dating from 1272. On the south side is the Gothic Loggia degli Osii (1316), a marble-fronted building from which judgements and proclamations were issued in the Middle Ages.
Northwest of the Piazza Mercanti the oval Piazza Cordusio is the meeting-place of important streets. To the southeast the Via Orefici, lined with shops, leads to the Piazza del Duomo; to the west the Via Meravigli goes past the Exchange to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie; to the northwest the Via Dante leads to the Castello and from here an underground shopping arcade extends to the Piazza del Duomo.
Library and Picture Gallery
South of Piazza Cordusio is the Palazzo dell'Ambrosiana (1603-09), with a famous library (700,000 printed volumes, 35,000 manuscripts, 2,000 incunabula) and an important picture gallery founded in 1618 by Cardinal-Archbishop Federico Borromeo (works by Leonardo da Vinci, including "Portrait of a Musician", and by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, "Adoration of the Magi", Tiepolo and Caravaggio).
Southeast of the Palazzo dell'Ambrosiana is the little church of San Satiro (by Bramante; 1478 onwards), with an older campanile and a modern facade. The interior has a choir seen in perspective. The baptistery in the south aisle is a gem of Lombard Early Renaissance architecture by Bramante (1480-88). At the end of the north transept is the curious little domed Capella della Pietà (ninth century), decorated with terracotta ornaments and figures.
The Largo Cairoli at the northwestern end of Via Dante is crossed by the broad Foro Buonaparte, which has a bronze equestrian statue of Garibaldi. From there the short Via Beltrami continues into the beautiful Piazza Castello.
Sights in the South
Sights in the south of Milan include San Lorenzo Maggiore and Sant'Eustorgio.
San Lorenzo Maggiore
Southeast of Sant'Ambrogio, in the Corso di Porta Ticines in Milan, San Lorenzo, a fine building on a centralized plan, dates from the Early Christian period; it has a Renaissance dome (1574) and the chapel of St Aquilinus (fourth century mosaics). In front of the church a portico of sixteen Corinthian columns, the largest surviving monument of Roman Mediolanum, has been re-erected.
500m/550yd south the church of Sant'Eustorgio, a Romanesque basilica (12th-13th centuries) has a fine campanile (1297-1309) and a facade which was added in 1863. Beyond the choir is the Cappella Portinari (by Michelozzo, 1462-68), the earliest example of Renaissance architecture, with frescoes by Vincenzo Foppa. In the chapel is the marble tomb (1339) of St Peter Martyr, a Dominican monk murdered in 1250.
A toy museum (Museo del Giocattolo e del Bambino) was opened in 1989 at Via Ripa Ticinese (No 27). On display are some 200 games and toys dating from 1700 to 1950.
San Giorgio al Palazzo
Just north of the church of San Lorenzo the Corso di Porta Ticinese runs into the Piazza Carrobbio. In Via Torino, which runs northeast from this square to the Piazzo del Duomo, stands the church of San Giorgio al Palazzo, with paintings by Bernardino Luini. Cimitero Monumentale
Museo Storico Alfa Romeoa
The Museo Storico Alfa Romeo is a beautifully laid out museum located just northwest of Milano. It displays some stunningly gorgeous and technically innovative automobiles produced by Alfa Romeo over the years.
The Milan Metro was first opened in 1964. There are 3 lines with 82 stations on 67.8km/42mi of track 46.5km/28.9mi of which is underground. Trains run from 6 am till 00:20 every two and a half minutes during peak operating hours and every five minutes at other times. A 12.6km/7.8mi Line 3 extension to the northern suburbs has been proposed, along with a projection of Line 2 from Famagosta to Ple Abbiategrasso.
In northwestern Milan, at the Porta Volta, lies the Cimitero Monumentale (opened 1866), Italy's most splendid cemetery, with numerous highly elaborate marble tombs.
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Map of Milan Attractions