We have finally created our long awaited guide to the historic district of Milan. Luckily, working in the 5vie district for a long time allowed us to discover all the secrets this magical area has to offer.
This is an ideal stroll for a Sunday or a relaxed morning. Also – the walk is perfect for locals and tourists alike – you’d be surprised how much of the historic city’s hidden streets you still have to explore… The stroll will also include the necessary pit-stops in the milanese style (coffee and food…).
Stop 1: Santa Maria della Grazie (and breakfast of course…)
We had to start the walk at this destination… We love the Church and think it definitely deserves a visit.
To get to the church either take the tube (red or green line) to the ‘Cadorna’ stop for the green line and “conciliazione” on the red, followed by a 5 minute walk OR you can catch the tram number 16 for a 1 minute walk OR you can get the central Line 1 Bus to the stop ‘Cenacolo’.
If you’re planning on seeing the last supper make sure you get a ticket. You can access the church itself for free and the famous Chiostro from the side entrance in Via Caradosso. Make sure you read out Guide on Santa Maria delle Grazie for more information.
For breakfast in the area we recommend Bar le Grazie – it’s situated on the same plaza as the church and although expensive we promise it’s where most of the locals go.
Nextdoor to this (and across the road from the church) you can see the prestigious Vigna di Leonardo. The Vine is part of Casa degli Atellani – given to Leonardo da Vinci by Ludovico Sforza in exchange for his works. However, if you don’t feel like visiting the museum you can still look out for the pretty courtyard and take a few sneaky pics…
Stop 2: Walking down Corso Magenta (you can see Magenta Bar, Palazzo Litta and Chiesa di San Maurizio)
From here if you keep walking down corso Magenta you will start to reach the 5Vie districts.
When crossing through Magenta keep an eye out for Bar Magenta – a historic landmark for the Milanese population as it has been open for over a century! (Legend has it even Hemingway stopped over for a pint) and if it’s afternoon why not do the same! If, instead, you’re feeling more like a coffee, take a pit stop at Caffè Napoli and ask for a cremino (basically a coffee ice cream you can drink).
Keep going down Corso Magenta and you will see the historical Palazzo Litta. We recommend visiting it: the Palace belonged to one of Milan’s most influential families and represents the Italian connection with the Enlightenment when the Austrians conquered Italy. The Palace’s design displays baroque characteristics and has a scenographic interior.
Right in front of Palazzo Litta there is what the milanese call Milan’s Sistine Chapel: Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore. Don’t let the plain and austere facade deter you, it hides one of Milan’s most beautiful treasures. The church is the former largest and oldest (dating to 1503) female monastery in Milan and it was built upon some ancient roman edifices.
One of its singularities is the partition of the church in two halves: a public part and the “Coro delle Monache” (where Nuns would listen to Mass thanks to a grating). The stunning frescos are attributed to Bernardino Luini and of the ecole Leonardesca. The details to be discovered are almost endless…look out for the frescos depicting the martyrdom of S. Caterina d’Alessandria (in the Besozzi Chapel, the third on the right): a novelist of the era, Matteo Bandello, claims that the saint’s face in the beheading scene is the Countess of Challant (rich heiress, wife of Ermes Visconti) who was executed in 1526 in the Castello Sforzesco after being accused of instigating her lover’s killing.
“And whoever would like to see her face in her moment of death, go to the church of the Major Monastery, and there he will see it painted”, Novel IV, Part I)
Stop 3: Roman Ruins
If you keep going down the road to the right you will see Via Brisa turn onto the road to see some remains of the Roman Ruins. You are now officially in the 5Vie district – the roads are small, tight, cobbled and incredibly Milanese. This section of the city is riddled with hidden treasures, aristocratic homes and beautiful courtyards.
Via Brisa is like a reminder of the past – the street is pedestrian only and provides a sudden break from the hustle and bustle of the city. The ruins in Via Brisa are of the spa’s from the roman royal palace. The Imperial Palace mediolanum was built by emperor massimiliano in the 3rd Century A.C. At the end of this road you will also see Torre Gorlani – which has recently become visible again after 70 years. The tower belonged to the Palace Gorani (destroyed in world war two) which left standing just the tower. The Palace was often frequented by the likes of the Verri brothers and Cesare Beccaria.
Stop 4: Down to Piazza Mentana and SIAM
If you turn from Via Nirone onto Via cappuccio and keep going through the streets you will find yourself lost into the 5Vie district. We recommend going down to Piazza Mentana and turning onto Via Santa Marta and exploring Siam!
At the centre of Piazza mentana you will see the statue of the fallen at the mentana Battle under Garibaldi. Turning onto via Santa Marta you can see the SIAM building – Milan’s Oldest arts school born in 1838. We recommend visiting the Library (1844) where between the 6000 ancient books you will find the first italian edition of the Encyclopedia of Diderot e D’Alembert (ed. Lucca 1758-76).
Also don’t forget to keep an eye out for Via Bagnera: this street is particular for two reasons. Firstly, its known as the tightest street that a car can pass through (we can confirm… we’ve driven through it). Secondly, the street has a sinister past. Milan’s oldest recorded serial killer Antonio Boggia, ‘The Monster of Milan’ used to murder his victims with an axe and bury them in his basement in this street.
Stop 5: To Piazza Borromeo
If you keep walking down Via Santa Marta and take a left onto via San Maurilio you will eventually reach the historic Piazza Borromeo. At the centre of the Plaza you can see the Church ‘Santa Maria Podone’ one of the oldest of the city made in 879 A.C. Opposite this church you will find Palazzo Borromeo – the royal families palace. Palazzo Borromeo represents one of the most relevant private residences built in Gothic style.
Stop 6: Out on Via Torino
Turn back onto Via san Maurilio and keep going straight until you reach the shopping street Via Torino. The street is known for its shopping and big outlets so let yourself have a stroll.
Stop 7: Colonne di San Lorenzo
From Via Torino you can turn left onto Corso di Porta Ticinese. Down here you will reach the ancient Colonne di San Lorenzo – a true historical landmark. This popular nightlife spot and is filled with bars and places to chill. The area has 16 Corinthian columns moved here in the 4th century.
If you want to continue for drinks we recommend you stay onto Porta Ticinese for many local known bars. We recommend you head towards Drogherie Milanesi (in Conca Del Naviglio) if you’re looking for a nice dinner. – insider tip: ask them to take you to a secret room after you’re done with your dinner
Hope you enjoyed! Let us know in the comments below what you thought of the walk and don’t forget to tag us in your pictures with #themilanese.