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Milan is located in the Po Basin of northern Italy and is the capital of Milano province and the region of Lombardy. With a population of 1.35 million (2017), it is the country’s second largest city, after Rome.

Above: A view of Piazza del Duomo showing Milan Cathedral (Duomo) and the arched entrance of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Milan is believed to have been founded by Celtic tribes in the 7th century BC. It was conquered by Rome in 222 BC and became a Roman colony known as Mediolanum. The city developed as a major commercial and religious centre and became the capital of the Western Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages and early modern-era, it underwent centuries of warfare and foreign domination, although Milan occasionally rose to dominate the region, such as during the signiorial period from 1277 to 1447. It was a powerful Italian state under the Sforza family from 1447 to 1535, when it was taken by the Spanish. The city is noted for its art and the school of Milan is a school of Italian painting that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its leading artist was Vincenzio Foppa, before the arrival in the city of Leonardo da Vinci who, with his followers, thereafter dominated the school. The city fell to Napoleon (1796 to 1814) and became part of Italy in 1860. Although historically less important than Rome, in the years following World War II, the city became the chief centre of Italy’s economy.

Above: Milan’s modern skyline as viewed from Torre Branca

Milan is known globally as a centre of fashion and design, and is also home to modern manufacturers of products such as machinery, textiles and chemicals. The de facto capital of northern Italy, Milan is the headquarters of the Northern League (a political party based on the belief in greater autonomy from Rome for regions and provinces). The following sections contain photographs and descriptive text on some of the city’s sight seen during a visit here – this is by no means comprehensive as Milan has so much to offer the visitor. Below is a fully zoomable map centred on the city for the convenience of the reader of this webpage:

Above: Fully zoomable map of Milan (courtesy of

Below are described some of the main sights to see in Milan. Being such a large city, the scope of this webpage is limited and not comprehensive, but it aims to at least describe what can be seen during a short-break here and is also dictated, in-part, by the author’s personal interests.

Milan Central Station

Above: The exterior of Milan Central Station

Completed in 1931, Milan Central is gigantic and although slightly clumsy in style, it’s grandiose nature put the author of this website in mind of Chicago’s Union Station and New York’s Grand Central Terminal, both railway stations to be admired and worth visiting for their architectural appeal whether taking a train or not. Milan Central is frequently considered a notable example of Fascist-era architecture, although its design predates this period and is influenced, rather, by the Liberty style. The building is fronted by an impressive concourse, measuring some 656 feet (200m) long and 236 feet (72m) high. It is encased in white Aurisina stone, decorated with murals, reliefs and statues. With a not-to-be-missed grand interior, its 24 platforms are sheltered by a vast arched steel roof that stretches for 1,119 feet (341m).

Above: The interior of Milan Central Station

The winner of a competition to redesign the station in 1906 was discarded and in 1912, a second competition was won by Unlisse Stacchini (1871-1947). Construction of his design was delayed by World War I and the station was completed some nine years into Mussolini’s regime. During World War II, Stacchini revised his plans, incorporating Futurist ideas with those he had already worked on influenced by the baths of ancient Rome. The result was a building with a remarkable façade, behind which lies a highly functional interior and although less elaborate than the exterior, one where there are still a range of mosaics, sculptures, ceramics and stained-glass windows to admire.

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) is Milan’s main square and named after the city’s Duomo (Cathedral) which represents it’s most dominating feature (see lower down). The piazza marks the centre of Milan not only geographically, but also from an artistic, cultural, and social point of view. The 4.2-acre (1.70Ha) piazza is rectangular in shape and includes some of the city’s most important buildings. Originally created in the 14th-century, along with the Duomo, that took almost 430 years to complete, it has been developing ever since. The overall form of Piazza del Duomo seen today dates back to the second half of the 19th-century and is largely due to architect Guiseppe Mengoni. Apart from the Duomo and the Royal Palace (see below), many of the main buildings around the square are to Mengoni's design, notably the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II arcade (see lower down). Some general photos of the Piazza del Duomo are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

Palazzo Reale

The Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) is located on the south-eastern side Piazza del Duomo and is a true symbol of Milan. Home to the Visconti and Sforza families, it was once the seat of government of the city for many centuries. It has been a protagonist in Milan’s history in the past with the political events that have taken place within its walls and today, it serves as a cultural centre and home to various exhibitions.

This Royal Palace has ancient origins. It was first called "Palazzo del Broletto Vecchio", and it was the seat of city's government during the period of medieval communes. It originally had two courtyards, but was partially demolished to make space for the Duomo. After the construction of the Duomo, the palace underwent a large renovation under the government of Francesco Sforza (1401-66). Further renovations took place over the years and major rebuilding took place in 1774, directed by Giuseppe Piermarini, in collaboration with the Viennese Leopold Pollack. Piermarini was Empress Maria Theresa’s favourite architect and he gave the building a neoclassical overhaul. Piermarini eliminated the side of the courtyard to the Cathedral, leaving the other three, creating the Piazzetta Reale and he built the Neo-Classical façade which is seen today. The palace was extended in 1939-56 with the Arengario, a towering pavilion on the Piazza del Duomo (shown right of centre in photo number 7, in the previous thumbnail gallery). The Arengario is home to the Museo del Novecento (museum of the twentieth century), which displays about 400 modern paintings and sculpture, most of them Italian. The Museo del Duomo (Duomo Museum) is located inside the Royal Palace. In here are many original items from the Duomo, including statues, stained-glass windows, paintings, tapestries, architectural models, terracottas and plaster casts. It is also in the main entrance, where tickets may be bought for the Duomo.

Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)

Known more formerly as the Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary, Milan Cathedral (Duomo) is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan and, as mentioned above, took almost 430 years to complete. Milan Cathedral is the largest church in Italy (St. Peter's Basilica is larger, but situated in the State of Vatican City), the third largest in Europe and fifth largest in the world. Milan’s layout with streets radiating out from or circling the site of the Duomo, show it to be where the most central site in Roman Mediolanum was. This would have been where the public basilica was located, facing the forum. The first cathedral, dedicated to St Thecla, was completed by 355 and an adjoining basilica was erected in 836. The old octagonal baptistery, the Battistero Paleocristiano, dates to 335 and can still be seen under the Duomo. After a fire in 1075, the older cathedral and basilica were rebuilt as the Duomo. Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo began construction of the Duomo in 1386. The building wasn’t completed until 1813, with the construction being kept to the Gothic style. With over 3,500 exterior statues and held up inside by 52 gigantic columns, the Duomo is certainly a sight to behold.


Above: The facade of Milan’s Duomo (left) wasn’t finally built until 1805-13. It has intricate reliefs and bronze doors, the central one of which was by Milanese sculptor Ludvico Pogliaghi. 356 feet (108.5m) above ground level at the top of the Duomo’s central spire, stands La Madonnina (right). Translating to “Little Madonna”, this polychrome statue of the Virgin Mary was designed and built by Carlo Pellicani in 1774. It was made during the episcopacy of Giuseppe Pozzobonelli who supported the idea of placing it at the top of the Duomo. By tradition, no building in Milan can be higher than the Madonnina. With newer and taller buildings being constructed in the city, each new build consequently had its own replica of the Madonnina placed on top of it.

Some more photographs of the exterior and also of the interior of Milan’s Duomo are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge). Inside, there are many points of interest and these include: St Bartholomew flayed (see photo 28, the most famous statue of all the Cathedral , Marco d'Agrate’s work from 1562 shows the saint’s flayed skin thrown over his shoulders like a stole - according to legends he was skinned alive and beheaded), the Duomo’s dozens of stained-glass windows as seen with the light coming in (e.g. photos 35 and 39; the windows in the cathedral range in age with the oldest dating from 1470 and the newest from 1988), the Funerary Monument to Gian Giacomo Medici (photos 53 and 55, tomb of a local mercenary general created in 1560-63 by Leone Leoni, which includes a life-sized bronze sculpture of the general dressed in armour), the Ambulatory and Crypt (photo 36, the ambulatory is only open to worshipers, but stairs lead down to the crypt and treasury), and the Duomo’s naves (which include 52 columns ringed with statues of saints and Gothic “tracery” on the vaulting of the four outer naves, which is actually 16th-century trompe l’œil paintings). Finally, the Battistero Paleocristiano, where a stairway near the entrance leads down to excavations which revealed Roman baths, a baptistery from 287 AD and the remains of a basilica, dating from the 4th-century and also in the north-eastern corner, stairs (or a lift) lead up to the roof, where it is possible to see the Duomo’s Gothic crown of spires, statues and gargoyles, as well as admiring the views from the rooftop.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Completed in 1877, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built to serve as a covered walkway between the Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala to the north. The idea of a covered arcade with roofs of iron and glass was not new in Europe. However, no predecessor of this fine structure was as large or as lavish. Serving as a superficial meeting place and shopping centre, it was built as a symbol of the newly unified Italy, specifically of the union between church and state. The structure was designed by Mengoni in 1865 and includes a cross-shaped floor plan reminiscent of a church and an entrance facing the cathedral modelled as a triumphal arch – a nod to the country’s imperial past. Unfortunately for Mengoni, a few days before the inaugural ceremony, he was killed when he fell from the roof.

The centrepiece of the Galleria is a glass cupola beneath which is a circular mosaic composed of the symbols that represented the cities of the newly unified nation (Rome, Florence, Milan and Turin). Within the galleria, also, may be seen elegant architectural features which reflect the past (Renaissance and Baroque) and also look forwards to a bold industrial future, illustrated by the glass and metal vaulted roof. Today, as well as the many visitors, shoppers are greeted by high-end boutiques and cafés, including the historic Zucca and the newer Gucci Café at the other. Rather cunningly (and clearly not as to lower the tone of the Galleria), tucked away just outside of the eastern arm of the arcade is a McDonalds, perhaps ideal for those seeking a coffee at a not-so exorbitant price. Some more photographs of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

La Scala

Just north and slightly west of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is La Scala, which stands on a piazza bearing it’s name. La Scala (Teatro alla Scala is one of the world’s great opera houses. It was designed by Guiseppe Piermarini (who rebuilt the Palazzo Reale) and opened in 1776.

La Scala has been the scene of many premières, including Rossini’s La Pietra del Paragone, Bellini’s Norma, Verdi’s operas Nabucco, Aïda, and Otello (with Rossini), and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. The Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini was its artistic director from 1898-1907 and 1921-31, periods considered by many to be the finest in the theatre’s history. The building was heavily damaged by bombing in 1943, during World War II, but was quickly rebuilt and reopened in 1946, with a memorable concert conducted by Toscanini. As well as seeing the world-class performances, surrounded by a lavish interior with excellent acoustics, for the visitor, La Scala also has a museum and guided tours are available of the theatre.

Castello Sforzesco

Sforza Castle is one of Milan’s principal attractions. This grand rectangular bastion is, in fact, a complex of fortresses, castles and towers begun in 1451 for Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. Its quadrangular plan, with buildings grouped around three courtyards, includes massive defensive walls, towers and gates. The castle was renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries, making it one of Europe’s largest citadels. It was later extensively restored in 1891–1905 by Luca Beltrami, and again after massive damage during World War II. Its many museums and collections include art and sculpture, dating from the Middle Ages to the 1700’s, decorative arts, Oriental art, musical instruments and archaeological artefacts. Photographs of the castle are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

Highlights in the collections include Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà (which he worked on in the last nine years of his life and did not complete due to suffering a stroke whilst working on it), Bellini’s Madonna and Child (painted 1468-70) and Poet Laureate (painted in 1475, although the attribution of this portrait has wavered between Bellini and Antonella da Messina), Mantegna’s Madonna in Glory (an altarpiece for a church in Verona painted in 1497 by Bellini’s brother-in-law), the Trivulzio Tapestries (The Tapestries of the Twelve Months, designed in 1503 by Bramantino and commissioned by Gian Giacomo Trivulzio), and Bronzino’s Lorenzo Lenzi (1527–28), and pieces from the tomb of Gaston de Foix. The castle’s Sala delle Asse (“Plank Hall”) was decorated in 1498 by Leonardo da Vinci with a trompe l’œil of detailed vines on the vaulted ceiling (although only a small part is certain to be original), whilst the Cappella Ducale (the Ducal Chapel) contains frescoes painted in 1472 by Stefano de Fedeli and Bonifacio Bembo for Galeazzo Maria Sforza; the frescoes include a Resurrection and an Annunciation.

Parco Sempione and Torre Branca

Just northwest of the Castello Sforzesco is Parco Sempione (Simplon Park). This 95-acre (38.6Ha) park is Milan’s main park (and largest green space) and many of its structures are early Art Noveau. The park started off as 15th-Century ducal gardens, although the layout seen today dates from the late 19th century. The park, designed by architect Emilio Alemagna, was laid out with the intent of creating panoramic views encompassing both the Castello Sforzesco (see above) and the Arco della Pace (see below). As well as the 1933 Palazzo dell'Arte (Palace of Art), the park contains Arena Civica, the public aquarium, a public library and the Torre Branca (Branca Tower). The latter was considered on this visit an ideal place to get panoramic views of the city and beyond. Torre Branca is a 356-foot (108.6m) tall iron panoramic tower designed by architect Gio Ponti. Inaugurated in 1933 in the Fascist era as part of the fifth edition of the Triennale design exhibition, it had several names (and restorations) with restructuring in 2002 by the Branca liquor company, after which it is named today. A lift takes public-paying visitors up to a panoramic viewing point from where as well as the Milan cityscape, on a clear day it is possible to see the Alps, the Apennines, and part of the Po Valley. On arrival during a quiet time, the lift operator informed us that there would be a wait due to (not apparent) wind conditions, although this “technical issue” seemed to go away on arrival of another visitor, which seemed to suggest that there may perhaps have been an unwillingness to operate the lift with minimal visitor numbers. That said, it was worth a small wait as the views were stunning. Some photographs of and taken from the Torre Branca are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

Arco della Pace

The Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace)is adjacent to Parco Sempione (see above) and is a landmark triumphal arch. It is the focal point of Porta Sempione (Simplon Gate), one of Milan’s city gates; the name "Porta Sempione" is used both to refer to the gate itself and to the surrounding district. The Arco della Pace dates back to the 19th century, although a gate stood here as part of Milan’s Roman city walls.

The Arch of Peace was built by architect Luigi Cagnola in 1807 for the then ruler Napoleon to pass through when visiting Milan (The Simplon Gate formed the new route to Milan from Paris via the Simplon Pass crossing the Alps). When the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy fell and Milan was conquered by the Austrian Empire, the arch was unfinished, and its construction was halted. Construction was resumed in 1826 in 1826 by Cagnola for Emperor Francis II, who dedicated the monument to the 1815 Congress of Vienna. The project was taken over by Francesco Londonio and Francesco Peverelli, when Cagnola died in 1833, and they oversaw its completion in 1838.

The Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie

The “Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci” has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. The complex consists of a church, the cloister “dei Morti”, a refectory, another smaller cloister, and the old sacristy. It was constructed during the second half of the 15th-century to serve as the new Milan base of the Dominican friars. The refectory of the convent forms an integral part of this architectural complex. Construction of this, along with the church, commenced in 1463 to plans by Guiniforte Solari, who designed the front block in late-Gothic style. The complex was considerably modified at the end of the 15th century by Bramante. Bramante was one of the masters of the Renaissance. He enlarged the church and added large semi-circular apses, a drum-shaped dome surrounded by columns, and a spectacular cloister and refectory. The architecture of the complex thus shows the stylistic changeover from austere Gothic to Classical Renaissance that marked the end of the 15th-century. The chief attraction here is on the north wall of the convent refectory, on which is painted Leonardo da Vinci’s infamous fresco, The Last Supper (1495-97). The painting is one of the world’s masterpieces and represents the scene of the Last Supper of Jesus with his apostles, as it is told in the Gospel of John, 13:21. Here, Leonardo depicted the consternation that occurred among the Twelve Apostles when Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. Tickets to see The Last Supper are often booked out on the internet well in advance and unless on a tour which includes it, one possible option is to arrive early and see if there have been any cancellations. Despite not seeing Leonardo’s masterpiece, the complex and the church contain many other valuable works making the visit featured here worthwhile. Some photographs are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

The Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore

A contrast to its 16th-century façade, which appears fairly plain, the Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore is host to Milan’s finest cycle of Renaissance painting, in the form of decorative frescoes covering the interior walls. The church stands in the heart of one of the city’s oldest and most prestigious religious complexes, being originally attached to the most important female convent of the Benedictines in the city, Monastero Maggiore (now home of the Civico Museo Archeologico). Erected as an ancient Roman site, known to date as far back as the Carolingian era, the convent was reinserted within the city’s surrounding walls when Ansperto rebuilt them in the late 9th century. The church’s cornerstone was laid in 1503 and a subsequent reworking changed the placement of the complex with respect to the city. Milan, capital of the Duchy, had grown outwards beyond the convent and the adjacent artery led to the Porta Vercellina – the sanctuary was rotated a little to the west, in order to align the existing structure with the direction of the road.


The church itself is composed of three parts: 1. A crypt, which is now part of the tour of the Civico Museo Archeologico which is housed in a part of the ancient convent, 2. A large hall (the convent hall, or Hall of the Nuns), which belongs to the claustral area, and 3. A smaller sanctuary for the public (or Hall of the Believers). The rectangular plan structure of the church running through the convent hall (with its claustral presbytery, surmounted by a rood screen) and the public sanctuary (with its presbytery, or main altar) is divided into ten bays on each side (six and four bays respectively). The bays each contain a chapel. The crypt below corresponds to seven of the ten bays. The convent hall and public sanctuary have a vaulted nave, separated by a partition wall; the nuns followed the mass from a grating in the wall. Of the frescoes, perhaps the most striking adorns the partition and is by Bernadino Luini (1482-1532), who is said to have worked with Leonardo directly and learnt much from the great man. The church’s Antegnati Organ dates back to 1554 is in regular use today for concerts. If visiting and if possible (as well as making a donation), be sure to pick up the free fold-out guide which is available in English and contains useful information about the patronage, architecture, first, second and third decorative cycles, the organ, and Bernadino Luini. The guide also includes a handy plan of the church with a key. Some more photographs of the Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

The Civico Museo Archeologico di Milano

The Civico Museo Archeologico di Milano (Archaeological Museum of Milan) is located in the ex-convent of the Monastero Maggiore, alongside the ancient church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (described above).

Above: The entrance to the Archaeological Museum of Milan on the busy Corso Magenta, next door and to the right of the Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore

The first part of the museum (entrance on Corso Magenta), is dedicated to the history of Mediolanum (ancient Milan) founded in the 4th century BC and conquered by the ancient Romans in 222 BC. The inner cloister contains the remains of a Roman dwelling (1st to 3rd-century AD). Whilst remains of Roman buildings may be found in various locations around the city centre, the museum has some excellent displays of glass phials, kitchen utensils and jewellery from Roman Milan. Also, in the inner cloister are some frescoes from the 13th to 14th-centuries and two medieval towers are visible. From here, a walkway leads to a new building sited in via Nirone. This building contains four floors and has sections on the Early Middle Ages, Etruscan era, Ancient Greek era and a temporary exhibition room. On the subject of Milan’s past, the city has had three different systems of defending walls throughout its history; the Roman walls (developed in two stages – Republican and Imperial eras), the 12th Century wall system of the Middle Ages, and a later wall system built by the Spanish rulers (16th Century). Whilst little remains of these walls, the latter two correspond to the city’s two roughly circular rings of streets seen today (Cerchia dei Navigli and Cerchia dei Bastioni, respectively.

Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio

One of Milan’s most ancient churches, the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio was built by St Ambrose in 379–386. It’s first name was Basilica Martyrum, referring to the area where it was built, which was the burial place of numerous martyrs of the Roman persecutions. The basilica served as a model for many of the city’s early medieval churches. It was enlarged in the 9th century and the building seen today dates largely from 1080, with several reconstructions since that time. St Ambrose (340-397) became Archbishop of Milan in 374 and was also responsible for building the city’s other three great basilicas (San Lorenzo, San Nazaro and San Simpliciano).


The basilica is constructed in an unadorned brick form and includes an enclosed atrium between the entrance and the church (built 1088-1099 using columns with 6th-century capitals) and the church with its two-storey gabled façade, fronted by five large round arches. The façade is flanked by two non-identical towers – the Canons’ Tower (1144) and the shorter 9th century Monks’ Tower on the left and the right respectively. Despite its relatively plain appearance from the outside, the interior contains some technical breakthroughs. The nave arch mouldings follow down the supporting columns, providing a visual link between the two and the nave ceiling is structured with shallow transverse and diagonal rib-vaults. The building’s structure, consisting of bays into which the nave is divided is suggestive of later Romanesque and Gothic originations in design. The Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio quickly became Milan’s most beloved place of worship when the popular and future patron saint, Ambrose, was interred here in 397. Sant'Ambrogio was erected next to a Paleochristian cemetery and chapel and eventually enlarged to include the chapel. Some more photographs of Milan Central Station, showing the interior, as well as the exterior, are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):

Whilst some of the smaller objects from the church treasury and small museum are now displayed in the Museo Diocesano, which is about a ¾-mile (1.2km) walk away and lies to the southeast. That said, there are many fine points of note within the church and these include the Golden Altar (dating from 835 and detailing the Life of Christ and the Life of St Ambrose in gold leaf and gilded silver on the front and back respectively), the Ciborium (comprising four ancient Roman columns supporting a canopy of four Lombard stucco reliefs dating from the 10th century), the Sarcophagus of Stilicho (a late Roman-era sarcophagus which had the pulpit later built around it), Bergognone’s Redeemer (a late 15th-century Renaissance scene of the Risen Christ), the Serpent Column, medieval carvings Renaissance frescoes and Paleochristian mosaics.

San Lorenzo Maggiore

The two photos below show San Lorenzo Maggiore, which is located in the Ticinese district, southwest of the Duomo. It is one of the four churches founded by Sant’Ambrogio in Milan in the 4th-century. Considered by Leonardo da Vinci to be the most beautiful church in the city, it was constructed with materials salvaged from various Roman buildings. The church’s portico has a free-standing row of 16 Corinthian columns (not shown), and these were once part of a 2nd-century temple and placed here in the 4th-century. The building’s huge interior was constructed to a circular plan, with a ring-shaped ambulatory and a raised women’s gallery, often characteristic of similar early churches. Keeping its rotund design, it was rebuilt several times during the Middle Ages. To the right of the altar is the Cappella di San Aquilino, a structure thought to have been built as an imperial mausoleum. The chapel’s octagonal room contains 4th-century mosaics, a 3rd-century sarcophagus and a Roman portal. Beneath the relics of Sant’Aquilino, steps lead down to remains of the original Roman foundations.


Pirelli Tower

Visitors arriving in the city at Milan Central Station may well find the Pirelli Tower is the first monumental building that greets them. Rising from the site of the original Pirelli tyre factory, the 34-storey tower is 417 feet (127m) high and was completed in 1958. Designed principally by architect Gio Ponti (1891-1979), it is very different to the steel and glass towers pioneered in Chicago and New York. Here, a team of architects and engineers led by Ponti and assisted by Pier Luigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso, developed a sophisticated concrete skeleton that enabled the building to be built tall, whilst maintaining a slim profile with its distinctive and graceful tapering corners.


The Pirelli Tower’s form made it stand apart from the many rectangular slab-like box-affairs seen with many other office buildings around the world. Construction took place during a time when Italy was undergoing an economic boom and it soon became not only a symbol of Milan, but also of the post-war recovery of Italy. The building also marked the zenith of Ponti’s long career as an eclectic designer. Ponti was born, educated and died in Milan and his career saw him designing in different forms, from a stripped Neoclassical style earlier on to his more modern buildings in later years. The company sold the building to the Lombardy regional government in 1978 and today, it is also the seat of the Regional Council.
In April 2001, 68 year old Luigi Gino Fasulo flew his light aircraft into the 26th floor of the Pirelli Tower. The initial reaction was one of horror as it seemed a repeat of the atrocities of “9/11”. An isolated incident, nobody knows exactly what happened, pilot error being a likely cause (the plane was preparing an emergency landing prior to the crash), although the incident brought the building to world attention. The pilot and two people inside the tower were killed in the accident. The restoration work that followed the crash was completed two years later, and included a memorial to the victims erected on the site of the accident.

Torre Velasca

The Torre Velasca (Velasca Tower) is a 26-storey office building in the heart of Milan. Designed by the BBPR architectural partnership, it was completed in 1958 and stands 348 feet (106m) tall. Founded in Milan in 1932, the BBPR architectural partnership took its name from each member's family name, the partners being Gianluigi Banfi (1910–1945), Lodovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso (1909–2004), Enrico Peressutti (1908–1976) and Ernesto Nathan Rogers (1909–1969), the latter being the uncle of famous British-Italian architect Richard Rogers. Banfi died in 1945 in an Internment camp in Gusen and in Torre Velasca, the other three remaining partners showcased their post-war engineering talents in this unusual design.


Part of the first generation of Italian modern architecture and the beginnings of Postmodernism, this idiosyncratic building is in the form of a modern oversized medieval tower. The eight upper floors are cantilevered out from the main body of the building. Satisfying the functional needs of space, echoing the forms of the medieval Castello Sforzesco, its framework has the appearance of buttresses, putting one in mind of the city’s Duomo. Whilst challenging Modernism and taking the idea of architecture being rooted in specific places and reflective of local building traditions, this belief was to be an influence in architectural design over subsequent decades.

Porta Nuova

Due to a personal interest in modern architecture, the author of this webpage went to have a look around Porta Nuova, one of the main business districts of Milan, Italy. Situated to the north of the city centre and translating as “New Door”, it is named after the well-preserved Neoclassic Napoleonic gate built in 1810 on this site. This district is one of the country’s most high-tech places and several modern buildings have sprung up here, including the Unicredit Tower A (2012), at the time of writing, Italy’s tallest skyscraper, and Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest; 2014), distinguishable by each tower housing trees, shrubs and floral plants which helps mitigate smog and produce oxygen. Bosco Verticale represents the first model of vertical densification of nature within a city.

In the 1990’s, due to the decline of heavy industry here, Milan was left with about 1500 acres (≅ 600Ha) of industrial wasteland and disused railway lines. Following the examples set by London’s Docklands and other post-industrial cities, the municipal administration of Milan made the regeneration of this area a primary objective. After a series of failed development plans in the 1970’s, a collaboration with American real estate developer Gerald D. Hines and his partners resulted in a new project commencing in 1997. Thus, over the course of fourteen years, the Porta Nuova business district was eventually developed. Over subsequent years, the mixed use project was expanded with new world-class buildings funded by foreign investors. At the time of writing, construction work is still underway in what is Europe's richest district within any city.
The largest part of the development, the "Garibaldi" area, named after the nearby railway station, is centred on the Unicredit Tower complex, which comprises three office towers and retail space. The "Varesine" area, named after a former railway station, centres on the Torre Diamante, a diamond-shaped tower, and the "Isola" (Island) area is named so as it was once surrounded by railway lines and includes the aforementioned Bosco Verticale. Some photographs of Porta Nuova (the Unicredit Tower complex and Bosco Verticale , in particular) are shown in the thumbnail gallery below (click on an image to enlarge):


Of course, the above sights do not represent a comprehensive overview of the city and are, in part, reflective of the authors particular interests with the time available. Some other places of note include some of Italy’s finest art galleries, such as Pinacoteca di Brera, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (a cultural study centre and library, as well as a painting gallery) and the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, to name but a few. The city’s many museums also include the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi and Museo Poldi Pezzoli in the fashionable Quadrilatero d’Oro. The Palazzo Marino (Milan’s city hall) has two distinctive façades dating 1553 and 1886-92 in Mannerist and Neo-Classical styles respectively, whilst football fans may be interested to venture just out of the city centre to visit the famous 86,000-capacity San Siro Stadium, Italy’s largest stadium and host of the home games of AC Milan and Inter Milan; for those not watching a game, the stadium tour and museum offer an insight into the two clubs. Milan’s attractive canal district, Navigli, attracts people particularly for the atmosphere of its restaurants and bars in the evening. A more comprehensive list of Milan’s attractions would be beyond the scope of this webpage, and indeed, more time could have easily been spent here. Without even mentioning the numerous surrounding areas, such as the Italian Lakes, Milan is perhaps a place which visitors may feel the urge to return to again and again.
The final thumbnail gallery below finishes the webpage with a selection of photographs taken during the visit, including general street views and also some more from outside and inside Milan Central Station, a memorable departure point from this glorious city:

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