10 Unusual Things to see in Milan
Milan is best discovered on foot, walking without plans but paying attention to details… The reason why you want to explore the city on foot is that the best curiosities about Milan are hidden in the details. These are the most beautiful hidden places in Milan, curious things to see in Milan that you do not expect.
Milan: 10 unusual things to do!
Little mermaids bridge
Inside the Sempione Park, over a bend in the pond is the Ponte delle Sirene, Little mermaids’ bridge.
This pedestrian bridge, designed in 1840, was the first iron bridge in Milan.
At the time of the inauguration, it caused a great scandal, due to the sensual and naked shapes of the four sirens. However, its romantic character attracted the couples of the city, thus fueling the legend that those who exchange a kiss on the Ponte delle Sirenette in Milan will love each other forever.
The bridge was located on the Naviglio Paderno, but when in 1930 Milan decided to close the canals for health reasons, the bridge was shortened and moved to Parco Sempione, a few steps from the Castello Sforzesco.
Igloo little town
Between viale Zara and via Melchiorre Gioia, you will feel like you are entering another world. These streets are full of two or three floors Art Nouveau buildings and green spaces that have made this district the first example of a garden city in Italy.
The most famous houses were built after the war (1946) as a temporary housing solution for the displaced by the war. The engineer Mario Cavallè designed modernist and unusual houses: mushroom-shaped houses and igloo-shaped houses.
The mushroom houses, two-story dwellings were unfortunately demolished in the 1960s. Of the original twelve igloo houses, today only eight remain, all in via Lepanto.
Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa
Located in Piazzale Santo Stefano, this church was built in 1269 near the Hospital of Santo Stefano alla Ruota and the adjacent cemetery.
In 1642, the Church of San Bernardino was partially destroyed by the collapse of the nearby bell tower and the architects of the time decided on a definitely original renovation.
The bones in the cemetery were rearranged according to decorative schemes and the vault of the ossuary was frescoed in a style that blends macabre with the grace of Rococò.
The king of Portugal John V on a visit was so fascinated by it that he commissioned a similar structure in Èvora – Portugal, later known as Capela dos Ossos.
Looking at the Castello Sforzesco, and in numerous other points of Milan, we see a mythological figure halfway between a dragon and a snake. It is the Biscione, the city’s coat of arms and also the Visconti family’s heraldic symbol.
The Biscione is not the only dragon in the city. In the parks and in the most diverse corners of the city, there are green dragons, or vedovelle, who instead of breathing fire, pour drinking water.
These are cast iron fountains widespread in the main Italian cities, but in Milan are affectionately known as green dragons because of the dragon-shaped tap.
The Devil’s Column
The Devil’s Column, or imperial column, dates back to Roman times and is located near the Church of Sant’Ambrogio. The column was part of the Roman imperial palace in Milan, built by the emperor Maximian when Mediolanum (the modern Milan) became the capital of the Western Roman Empire, a role it had since 286 AD. to 402 AD
Legend has it that the devil tried to tempt Saint Ambrose to abandon his role as bishop. The saint gave him such a powerful kick that he banged his horns against the column, leaving two small holes that are still visible today.
Albergo Diurno Venezia
In Piazza Oberdan, halfway up the steps leading to the subway, there is a small door that carries one of the best-hidden jewels of Milan.
Under Porta Venezia is the Albergo Diurno Venezia, built in the 1920s to offer rest and relaxation to citizens and travellers passing through Milan. It was a place of passage, not a hotel for sleeping, but for spending the day. A splendid example of Art Nouveau and Deco-style public baths offering: barbers, manicures, luggage storage, pedicures, or telephone service.
Unfortunately, now the guided tours are suspended until the restoration works are completed. The premises of the former Albergo Diurno Venezia will in fact become the headquarters of the National Museum of Digital Art.
In the basement of the Ambrosiana library, there are the remains of the Roman Forum, the ancient main square of Mediolanum, the name by which Milan was called in Roman times.
The Roman forum had its period of greatest importance until Mediolanum was the capital of the Western Roman Empire.
It was here that an important edict for the development of Christianity was issued: the edict of the emperor Constantine, in 313 after Christ, also known as the edict of Milan or the Edict of Tolerance.
On the ruins of the Forum first, a small church was built and then a much larger church which took the name of Santo Sepolcro.
In 1607, at the behest of Cardinal Federico Borromeo, the first large public library of the modern world was built: the Ambrosiana Library.
Today part of the archaeological remains of the forum can be visited from the basement of the Ambrosiana Library and the Church of San Sepolcro.
A few steps from the Naviglio Grande is the oldest still active clay furnace in Milan: La Fornace Curti.
Fornace Curti was founded in the 15th century at the Colonne di San Lorenzo. In that period, the furnace of Giosuè Curti, a nobleman in the service of the Sforza, produced the tiles and shaped bricks for the Ca’ Granda Maggiore hospital and the Certosa di Pavia at the service of the Sforza.
Despite the various changes of location over the centuries, the Curti furnace has always been the reference point for those detailed and very fine terracotta decorations that characterize Lombard decorative production. The Curti furnace also produced the decorations of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Abbey of Chiaravalle, the Duomo of Monza, the Fossati Theater.
Visiting the Curti furnace means rediscovering the history of Milan in a sort of “mini village” within the city.
Let’s go back to the Porta Venezia area to admire a singular building in via Carlo Poerio 35: “Casa 770“.
The building is known by the Milanese as “the Dutch house” because it recalls the Flemish style of the Netherlands.
Its origin, on the other hand, dates back to the borough of Brooklyn, New York, at number 770 of Eastern Parkway in the house where Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson found refuge in 1940.
The house became a landmark for the community and was so successful that in the following years the wealthy Lubavitcher family had 770 more houses built in various cities around the world.
The one in Milan is the only one in Europe with 12 identical copies worldwide and still functions as a synagogue.
Today the 770 house in Milan is also a cultural centre where events from art to food are organized, strictly kosher.
Strolling near Via Meravigli, a few steps from the remains of Massimiliano’s Imperial Palace, you will find a pretty little square that keeps an open-air secret. It is an open-air church that dates back to the 12th century.
For years, Vicolo Santa Maria alla Porta has been a neglected passageway and used as a parking lot.
A recent restoration has brought to light the original pink and grey marble floor and the fresco of a Madonna with the child that had been covered by the bombings of the Second World War.
Legend has it that, in the mid-seventeenth century, in full Spanish domination, a worker who was working on the reconstruction of the adjacent Church of Santa Maria alla Porta, peeling off the old lime from the exterior wall, discovered the dusty face of a Madonna. After having cleaned the fresco with his apron, the man recovered from his lameness and the place of the miracle became sacred to the Milanese. So much so that in the eighteenth century a special octagonal chapel was built dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Miracles, called precisely Madonna del grembiule (apron).
Today the square is an ideal corner of peace for a break, furthermore, a building from 1960 and the beautiful Casa Tonolli built-in Art nouveau style in 1922 overlook here.
Finally, it is also worth visiting the Church of Santa Maria della Porta. Today it is the church of the Polish Community of Milan, in which all the writings are bilingual, mass is celebrated in Polish and there is the reproduction of the Madonna of Czestochowa and the statue of John Paul II.