Milan and the Lakes - Enrico Massetti - ebook

This is a guide to Milan, for a visit lasting two, three or more days. It also covers the two lakes near Milan: Lake Como and Lake Maggiore.This guide covers the Lake Como, and the towns of Como, Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna, in addition to the one-day trips you can make from one of these towns to Piona, Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello.This guide covers the Lake Maggiore, and the town of Stresa in addition to the one-day trips you can make from one of these towns to the Borromean Islands, the Angera castle, Locarno, Mottarone, Villa Taranto and the Centovalli railway.There are extensive descriptions and photos of the attractions: museums, churches, nightlife and other attractions.There are descriptions on how to get to Milan, on driving and parking in the city, useful info to stay there.There are reviews of several restaurants.There is a section on cuisine and recipes from Milan and Lombardy, with many active links to recipes pages,The guide is divided in sections covering single days or half days, so you can combine several sections depending on the length of your stay and your preference of what o see.

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Milan and the Lakes

Enrico Massetti


Milan and the Lakes

Enrico Massetti

Copyright Enrico Massetti 2014

Published by Enrico Massetti

All Rights Reserved

ISBN: 978-1-329-52675-4


second edition


Milan on foot

Via Dante

Taking a stroll around Milan is an excellent way of getting to know some fascinating corners. It also the only way to get acquainted with its flavor and life style. It is true what is told about the Milanese who are always in a hurry. However, even if nobody could deny Milan is a very active city, its citizens have learned when to stop and how to enjoy a walk in the city center pedestrian areas while having an aperitif and a good chat with some good friends.

The city center pedestrian areas.

Castello Sforzesco

Corso Vittorio Emanuele is a pedestrian precinct with the main cinemas, bookshops, fashion shops and bars with open-air tables.

Piazza San Babila – Start of the pedestrian precinct, a square surrounded by post-war architecture with many fashionable shops.

Via Della Spiga – pedestrian street where the great stylists have their showrooms

Brera is one of the most attractive streets with fine private houses, art galleries, original shops most popular for its bars, clubs, restaurants and night-life.

Loggia dei Mercanti – via Mercanti

Via Mercanti – pedestrian precinct with its attractive “piazzetta”, the administrative and political center of Medieval Milan

Via Dante created in the late 19th century to provide an evocative link between the Duomo (cathedral) and the Castle (Castello Sforzesco)

A recommended itinerary

Start from Piazza San Babila, easily reachable with the “metropolitana” underground line 1, station San Babila. You walk in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a fashionable street with lots of high end shops, mainly clothing. Before the end of the Corso, turn right in via Cesare Beccaria to see the “Piazzetta del Liberty”, with a Liberty style palace and the Ferrari Store, then return to the Corso.

The roof of the Duomo

At the end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele you arrive to the back of the Duomo.

A visit to the roof of the Duomo is a must. Take the elevator in the back of the Duomo, if you don’t want to gasp on an interminable stair! From the rooftop you are in a magic world of marble and statues, several thousand statues, indeed. Go to the front of the roof and look down at the Duomo square. Look also up to “the Madonnina” the golden statue on top of the highest guglia, it’s the most loved symbol of Milan. During World War II it was covered so that it would not shine in the night attracting the attention of the allied bombers.

The Duomo from La Rinascente Cafe

After getting down from he roof, do not miss a visit to the cafeteria of the “La Rinascente” store under the porticos on your right. You find it by going up to the last floor of the store, the cafeteria has a glass wall facing the top of the Duomo. The sight is unique and the Cappuccino is worth a visit too, even if eating there is quite expensive.

Continuing North, you reach the main square Piazza Duomo, in front of “Il Duomo”. You should visit the cathedral.

Il Duomo

Duomo di Milano

The Duomo, which traditionally symbolizes the city of Milan, is the most extraordinary example of Italian late Gothic art. It ranks third in terms of dimension after the Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome and Seville’s Cathedral. Located in the very heart of the city, the Duomo di Milano represents both the core of the city and the unavoidable destination of countless visitors from Italy and abroad.

Mark Twain a great fan of the Duomo di Milano, can take over the description (from Innocents Abroad) from here:

What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!…

Stained Glass Windows

The Duomo has five great doors, the central one of them is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures– and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex, that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest…everywhere that a niche or a perch can be found about the enormous building, from summit to base, there is a marble statue, and every statue is a study in itself…

Away above, on the lofty roof, rank on rank of carved and fretted spires spring high in the air, and through their rich tracery one sees the sky beyond. …(Up on) the roof…springing from its broad marble flagstones, were the long files of spires, looking very tall close at hand, but diminishing in the distance…We could see, now, that the statue on the top of each was the size of a large man, though they all looked like dolls from the street…

They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands.

Duomo – Interior

The construction of the Duomo di Milano began in 1386 promoted by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, lord of Milan, and continued for centuries.

The Duomo di Milano is entirely covered from its base with pinkish-white marble. In the façade five large portals are inserted carrying high-reliefs illustrating sacred and historical scenes such as “The life of Sant’Ambrogio”. Wide slabs of marble make up the roof of the Duomo which can be reached by a steep external staircase, consisting of 919 steps, carved between the left side and the transept.

From the Duomo roof

The effort of “climbing” the Duomo is highly rewarded by the magnificent view of the surrounding plain up to the Alps; should the weather be ungenerous it will still be possible to enjoy the vision of the “Madonnina” , the golden statue of the Virgin Mary, the 135 lace-like spires and the many statues which decorate the roof.

On entering the majestic interior of the cross-shaped cathedral of the Duomo di Milano, the sight is captured by the polychrome stained glass windows depicting scenes from the life of the saints. The eight naves of the Duomo Cathedral are divided by 52 gigantic pillars topped by a series of niches with statues.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

On the right you then enter the “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II”, the first mall realized in the 19th century, and still a masterwork of artistic shopping.

On the side of the central octagonal don’t miss the bull, there is a tradition in Milan: squeezing your feet on the bull’s balls is supposed to bring you good luck!

The entrance of the museum Gallerie d'Italia and the cafe.

At the end of the Galleria there is Piazza Scala, with the “La Scala” famous opera theater.

In the right corner of the Piazza, at the end of the long grey building, there is the entrance of the museum of '800 and '900 art “Gallerie d'Italia”. Entrance is free - except for the Expo2015 - but he museum is closed on Mondays. The café of the museum is always open and is a very nice and inexpensive place where you can rest.

Returning back to piazza Duomo, visit the Piazzetta Reale, on the opposite side of the square: the “Palazzo Reale” it's the place where most exhibitions of art are held in Milan.

Università Statale and Ospedale Maggiore Cà Granda

Festa del Perdono – Ca' Granda University and Hospital

From the Piazzetta Reale it's worth take a detour to see the “Ca' Granda” (Big House), where the University and the Ospedale Maggiore are housed.

To get there go through all the building of Palazzo Reale, turn left when exiting on the other side, take via Santa Tecla, crossing via Larga and then taking via Bergamini to via Festa del Perdono, where the “Ca' Granda” is located.

“Ca' Granda” internal court.

Enter one of the buildings to see the internal courts.

Return to Piazza Duomo following the same way in reverse.

Loggia dei Mercanti

Returned to Piazza Duomo, continue then towards the right corner of the square, opposite the Duomo, and enter “via Mercanti”, stopping to look at the Mercanti square on the left: it is a surprising corner of medieval Milan preserved intact to the current days.

Castello Sforzesco di Milano

At the end of via Mercanti you continue through piazza Cordusio towards via Dante, a pedestrian area that will take you to the Castello Sforzesco, definitely worth an extended visit.

Castello Sforzesco

Castello Sforzesco

Built for purely defensive reasons by Galeazzo II Visconti around 1368, the Castello lost its initial destination as a fortress to assume that of a kingly dwelling but only to resume its original role of efficient fortress in 1450 under Francesco Sforza, the new Lord of Milan. His successor, Ludovico il Moro, turned the Castello into one of the most sumptuous courts of Renaissance Italy and a point of attraction of the most talented artists of the time.

With the sixteenth century began the slow and fatal decline of this massive building. In the eighteenth century the Castello was taken over by the Austrians who, with the exception of the French rule by Napoleon between 1796- 1814, kept it until the liberation of Lombardy by Vittorio Emanuele II.

Castello Sforzesco

Its reconstruction was carried out by the famous architect Luca Beltrami who, starting in 1893, brought the Castello back to its former model.

Among the many interesting centers of attractions of the castle, it is worthwhile mentioning the impressive Tower of Filarete, the huge Piazza d’Armi Courtyard, the Rocchetta Courtyard and the small Courtyard of the Fountain.

There are several museums in the Castle:

The Museum of Musical Instruments exhibits over 700 musical instruments from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries with particular attention to Lombard instruments. The collection contains plucked instruments, Lombard and Cremonese violins, hunting horns, numerous wood instruments (e.g. flutes, oboes, clarinets, English horns), bassoons, pianos and some ancient organs. In particular the Cremonese lutherie (from Cremona in low Lombardy) is appreciated all over the world for the high quality of its musical instruments.

Museum of Ancient Art, On the ground floor of the Ducal Courtyard,

Michelangelo's Pieta Rondanini statue .exhibition

Pinacoteca - on display 230 works of art, which include masterpieces by famous Italian painters such as Mantegna, Antonello da Messina, Foppa, Cesare da Sesto, Procaccini, Cerano, and many others.1st floor of the Ducal Courtyard, from room XX to room XXVIOpening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9 AM - 5:30 PMPay admission (Ticket office closes an hour earlier)For more information, contact: + 39 02.88463700

Egyptian Section of the Archaeological Museum and Sala VisconteaThe underground level of the Ducal Courtyard

Prehistoric Section of the Archaeological Museum and Sala VisconteaThe underground level of the Ducal Courtyard

Iconography of the City and Castle of MilanCastello Sforzesco, "Achille Bertarelli" Print Collection Reading RoomOpening hours: Monday through Friday, from 2 to 5.30 p.m.Free admittance

New layout for exhibit of 15th - 21st century furnishings and Wooden Sculpture1st floor of the Ducal Courtyard, Museum of Applied ArtsOpening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9 AM - 5:30 PMPay admissionFor more information, contact CRAAI: + 39 02.88463654

Tour of the most significant basilicas


The tour starts with one of the oldest churches in Italy, the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, located within the Basilicas Park city park. It can be reached with several tram lines, at the stop of Porta Ticinese.

The Basilica was for many years an important stop for pilgrims on their journey to Rome or to the Holy Land, because it was the site of the tomb of the Three Magi or Three Kings.

Probably founded in the 4th century, its name refers to Eustorgius I, the bishop of Milan to whom is attributed the translation of the supposed relics of the Magi to the city from Constantinople in 344.

The main altar and the dome

The main altar

The high altar is an imposing marble polyptych of the early 15th century, while a similar work is in the right transept, next to the Early Christian sarcophagus of the Magi.

Relics of the Three Wise Men

In the 12th century, when Milan was sacked by Frederick Barbarossa, the relics of the Magi were appropriated and subsequently taken to Cologne. It was only in 1903/4 that fragments of the bones and garments were sent back to Sant’Eustorgio’s.

Nowadays they are in the Three Kings altar nearby the empty Three Kings sarcophagus, on the right side of the main altar.

Still today, in memory of the Three Kings, the bell tower is surmounted by a star instead of the traditional cross.

The Cappella Portinari

The Cappella Portinari – detail

Behind the apse is the most striking feature of the church, the Portinari Chapel (1462–1468), one of the most celebrated examples of Renaissance art in Lombardy. It has frescoes by Vincenzo Foppa and a marble sepulcher by Giovanni di Balduccio, a 14th-century pupil of Giovanni Pisano.

The Chapel also houses an important Dominican monument, the Ark (tomb) of Saint Peter of Verona, which is replete with marble bass-relief images by the sculptor, Giovanni di Balduccio.

The back of the church

From the back of Sant’Eustorgio, on the right of the facade, we walk in the Basilicas Park, that extends several hundred meters to the Basilica of San Lorenzo

Park of the basilicas

The Park is a free Wi-Fi zone, and is frequented by local children with their parents.

San Lorenzo from the Park

The basilica of San Lorenzo was built between the late fourth and early fifth centuries. The exact date is uncertain, as are the name of who commissioned it and the circumstances of its foundation. Some sources attribute the building to the years (355–372), others give the date of the foundation of the Church to a later period, between 390 and 402.

Roman columns at San Lorenzo

The square facing the basilica features the so-called “Colonne di San Lorenzo” (Columns of St. Lawrence), one of the few remains of the Roman “Mediolanum”, dating from the 3rd century AD and probably belonging to the large baths built by the emperor Maximian. They were carried in the current place when the basilica construction was finished.

From the columns we walk right (facing the facade of San Lorenzo) and we pas under an Arc, to arrive in via Molino delle Armi,also called “la cerchia dei Navigli” because it once was a waterway surrounding the center of Milan. We take the bus number 94, the one that goes right, in the single lane reserved to buses and taxis, and we stay on the bus for a couple of stops, until we reach Piazza Sant'Ambrogio. Ask the driver if you want to be sure not to miss it.



A fine example of the Romanesque-Lombard churches, the Church of Sant'Ambrogio was founded between 379 and 386 by Sant’Ambrogio, patron Saint of Milan, as a basilica dedicated to Christian martyrs. Sant’Ambrogio himself was buried there in 397.

The exterior of the church consists of an atrium, called Ansperto’s Atrium, with porticos on three sides, while the fourth is partly integrated in the façade. Underneath the portico are preserved architectonic fragments from the original construction.

It is worthwhile mentioning the two bell-towers flanking the façade, Campanile dei Monaci and Campanile dei Canonici.

Altare d’Oro

In the interior of the Basilica, one of the most interesting works is represented by the famous Altare d’Oro, a masterpiece of Carolingian gold craftsmanship dating back to 836.

Outside the atrium, in the Piazza taking its name after the city’s patron Saint, it is possible to admire the Tempio della Vittoria, an imposing octagonal marble building conceived in honor of the soldiers killed during the First World War.

Santa Maria delle Grazie – Leonardo's The Last Supper

Leonardo's Last Supper

Advance reservation is indispensable to see “The Last Supper”. You can reserve online at up to three months in advance. The visit lasts 15 minutes, and you must be at the ticket counter 20 minutes in advance to pickup your ticket, so in little more than half an hour you are done withe he most famous piece of art in Milan.

Santa Maria delle Grazie Cloister

While waiting your turn, or after your visit is over, you should visit the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie, adjacent to the Cenacolo, with its delicious Cloister.

You can complete your half day by walking left in Corso Magenta for 8 minutes to San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore.

San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore

The back, where where were the nuns

The Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore was originally attached to the most important female convent of the Benedictines in the city, Monastero Maggiore, which is now in use as an archaeological museum.

The church today is used every Sunday from October to June to celebrate in the Byzantine Rite, in Greek according to the Italo-Albanian tradition. It is also used as concert hall.

The “tramezzo” - separating the nuns from the public.

The interior has a vaulted nave separated by the divisor wall (the nuns followed the mass from a grating) and flanked by groin-vaulted chapels, which are surmounted by a serliana loggia.

It is decorated inside with a large cycle of frescoes by Bernardino Luini of the Leonardo school and is referred to as the "Sistine Chapel" of Milan and Lombardy for the richness of its decorations.

Quadrilatero della Moda

Milan is internationally known as a city of fashion and shopping, definitely is the center of commerce and fashion the most important in Italy. The fashion district is located in one of Milan and is a concentration of jewelers, boutiques and designer showrooms and furniture. The sides of the fashion district are composed of the most elegant streets of Milan: Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni and Corso Venezia.

Moreover, even the inner streets abound with high-class shops: via Borgospesso, via Santo Spirito, Via del Gesù, Via Sant'Andrea and Via Bagutta. Among the major prestigious brands of Milan's fashion district are Armani, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Fendi, Chanel, Gucci, Bulgari, Cartier, Valentino and Gianfranco Ferre. The most important artery of the fashion is Via Montenapoleone and is considered one of the 15 most expensive streets in the world.

La Scala Theater

La Scala Theater

The “Teatro alla Scala” without a doubt one of the most famous opera houses in the world, was founded by the support of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria to replace its predecessor, the Regio Teatro Ducale, built in 1589, which was destroyed by flames in 1776 but up until that time the home of opera in Milan. Designed and built by the great neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini between 1776 and 1778, it was opened in August of the same year with an opera by Antonio Salieri.

The period between the two wars witnessed a succession of appearances at the Scala by the great artists of the time and in 1943 La Scala was severely damaged by bombardments.

It was reopened again on 11 May 1946, with a historic concert conducted by Toscanini and the theatre rapidly returned to its previous level of fine production and art.

Piazza Scala

The opera house takes its name from the antique church of Santa Maria della Scala whose original site was found here. This theater is deemed to be one of the most perfect theaters in the world.

It holds a total of 2,200 people including 678 orchestra seats, 409 seats in the first and second galleries, and 155 boxes dispersed on four levels.

Circled by greenery in Piazza Scala, a monument to Leonardo da Vinci provides the perfect backdrop for La Scala’s neoclassical architecture. Its history, acoustic and the outstanding level of its performances have made La Scala Theatre one of the best known temples of lyric and classical music in the world. The theatre was founded under the auspices of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria to replace the Royal Ducal Theatre, destroyed by fire in 1776.

La Scala – Interior

The 7 December premiere is one of the most awaited cultural and social events in the year and gathers the most prominent personalities from the fields of culture, politics, industry worldwide as well as the most popular TV and cinema stars. La Scala Theatre is home to the best opera singers and conductors and offers a broad repertoire which attracts thousand of visitors and opera buffs.

Pinacoteca di Brera

Brera internal court