Milan – an architecture walk around the Centro Storico

One Saturday in late October 2020 I had a day off in Milan so I decided to spend it walking around the Centro Storico. I started with a light Italian breakfast of coffee and cakes at Pasticceria Marchesi, a famous old pastry shop in the centre.

You’ll find everywhere I mention on my map.

My intention had been to follow up with a more substantial panini at De Santis a couple of doors down at 9 Corso Magenta but as the city was experiencing a partial Covid lockdown, the tiny shop had been deemed too small for social distancing to be properly maintained and was closed temporarily. This unfortunately was true of many other places I wanted to go, so this walk is pretty much limited to stuff to see outdoors. It wasn’t a problem for me, as I do like looking at buildings.

Around the back of Marchesi, you can see the remains of the Palazzo Imperiale di Massimiano (the Imperial Palace of Maximian), one of the few remaining vesitiges of the Roman city.

The church of Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (famous for its frescoes) is also here but also sadly temporarily closed, as was the Archaelogical musuem next door.

Instead I headed up Via Santa Maria alla Porta taking in the lovely Art Déco Casa Tonolli on the corner of Via Orsole, which was built in 1921.

Around the corner is the imposing Palazzo Mezzanotte (Midnight Palace), also known as Palazzo delle Borse (Stock Exchange Palace), which was once the most important stock exchange in Italy. When the Neoclassical palace was constructed in 1929, it was the most technologically advanced building in the country with air-conditioning, multiple elevators and an electrical display board to show the share prices.

The sculptures on the facade (by Leone Lodi and Geminiano Cibau) represent the four natural elements (although I don’t quite see how), which were considered to be the sources of economic wealth.

The statue of a broken hand in front of the palace is called Il Dito. It has been interpreted as carrying an anti-capitalist message although this is denied by the sculptor Maurizio Cattelan.

Also in the square is this interesting doorway, but I can’t tell you anything about it.

Just up the road at 2 Via Meravigli is the Palazzo della Società Italia , also known as Casa Broggi (after the architect Luigi Broggi).

Built in Eclectic Style, it has lots of interesting architectural features including these rather coy telamons.

Down the road in Piazza Cordusio is another Electic Style building by the same architect. Built in 1899 the old Palazzo delle Poste, also known as Palazzo Broggi, is now the most beautiful Starbucks you will ever see.

Continuing in the general direction of Piazza del Duomo, you come to Piazza dei Mercanti, the Merchants’ Square. Once the Medieval city centre it is now often overlooked by tourists flocking to more famous sites nearby.

There are a few historical buildings in the square. This is the elegant Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine, once a prestigious school. The current palace, built in 1644, replaced an earlier one destroyed by fire.

Next door is the Loggia degli Osii, built in 1321 to house judicial activities.

The square has several other interesting features but my photos didn’t come out well sorry.

From here it’s just a stonesthrow to Piazza del Duomo, so you could either view the Duomo (my post here), or Galleria Emanuele (my post here), or have a panzerotto at Luini or a pizza at Da Gennaro (see my next post on food).

On a parallel street to the two eateries above, right next to the Galleria Emanuele, is the quirkly little Mannerist church, Chiesa di San Raffaele, built in 1525. The façade has two orders: the lower one with large male heads dates from the sixteenth century while the upper one was added in 1890.

I love the arched porticoes of this Rationalist (?) building on the corner of Corso Giacomo Matteotti and Via Monte Napoleone.

You are now in the Quadrilatero della Moda, Milan’s famous fashion quarter, about which there are much more knowledgable bloggers than I, so I’ll leave it there.

Personally I went to gape at the beautiful €700 jumpers at Missoni on Via Sant’Andrea, and then the fun homeware designs at Alessi at 14 Via Alessandro Manzoni.

So this was my little walk during Oct 2020 when many things were closed down due to the pandemic. Obviously there is much more to see so I hope to add to this post in the future.

More on places to eat in the Centro Historico next…

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