THE IMPORTANCE OF LOOKING BEYOND THE APPEARENCES
At first glance Milan may seem like is not an immediately comprehensible city for its visitors, especially due to its origins as bastion of defence, rather than as representative city. Therefore almost all its jewels are well hidden behind apparently sober facades, with a large part of its history hidden 3 meters underneath the ground. Centuries of materials have melded together, as a lack of mines close to the city has forced the ancient inhabitants to recycle demolished buildings in order to build new ones. Having said that, slow down the pace and take the time to discover places and corners you wouldn’t notice at first sight, but that are truly worth a visit. See some uncommon addresses below.
In 49 BC Milan became a municipium civium romanorum and between the 3rd and 4th century AD, the capital of the Roman Empire. It originally had a cross plan with a thistle and a decumanus which crossed on the Forum – currently open for visits.
Ancient Mediolanum hides an underground and sacred crypt of 1030: known as umbilicus civitatis by San Carlo Borromeo, who used to pray here, and dedicated to the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre returning alive from their first crusade.
Legend has it that in 1498 Ludovico il Moro, Duke of di Milan, gifted Leonardo da Vinci with a vineyard right next to the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie where the master used to seek refuge at sunset after working on the Last Supper.
The headquarter of the University of Milan is the most majestic building of the Renaissance in the city: a former hospital built by the Sforzas in 1456, conceals an historic archive under suggestive frescoed vaults and catacombs, open to the public.
An unexpected sight behind a quite ordinary façade: a former female monastery of the XVI century hides a jubilance of Renaissance frescos by di Bernardino Luini. The beauty of this place earned the name of Cappella Sistina of Milan.
A small work of art of illusionistic architecture by Bramante’s skilful hand who added depth to a small church with a ‘magic’ painting at the end of the 1400: the pillars and the apse behind the altar do not actually exists.
Right in the historic town centre, a very special journey through a collection of works that narrate the connection between man and faith, in a church dated XVI century: famous names of contemporary art have shown here the exploration their spirituality.
The Sospiri bell tower is dated XI century and it’s the most ancient one in Milan: 175 steps to reach the stunning panoramic view which includes the church’s dome where the braids used to lay their bridal bouquet to gain favour with their wedding.
Inside the Duomo, 3 m underneath the parvis, there’s the first Christian octagonal based baptistery. In 387 A.D. Ambrogio, the bishop of Milan christened St Augustine by immersing him into a tub and reviving him to eternal life.
The relics of a Roman apse rise in the middle of the traffic jam, in piazza Missori. Just below the congested street, an ancient crypt dated IV century and belonging to an early Christian basilica is now open to the public.