Milan is the Italian city often regarded as the capital city of business and fashion. It is very seldom referred to for its beauty. It is not a beautiful city in the traditional sense of the word. It is not as grand as Paris, sophisticated as London or cute as Amsterdam. Much of its beauty is rather hidden. It is a very private, secretive and understated city and being that reflects the character of his inhabitants. The beauty of Milan, once you leave behind the most popular sight-seeing spots like the Duomo the Accademia di Brera or Cenacolo Vinciano, is located behind the doors of noble palaces, in the most secluded streets, just outside the city centre. Or, right under your eyes, hidden in the shadow of the most famous monuments.
San Bernardino alle Ossa
Nestled in the shadows of the Duomo di Milano, the San Bernardino alle Ossa is the kind of chapel you definitely wouldn’t expect to find in a busy modern city. For, the interior walls are decorated with countless human skulls and bones, reportedly the victims of the plague.
The story goes that in the 13th-century, an adjacent cemetery ran out of space and so a chapel was constructed to hold bones. The church has morbidly stood in the centre of the city ever since. Today, the ossuary is free to visit, though there is a donation box for the upkeep of the chapel.
Via Lincoln is possibly the best-kept secret in Milan. It is a street which is dotted with colourful terraced houses, something which stands out as atypical in an industrial, business-oriented city like this. It was designed and completed around the end of the 19th century, as an affordable housing project. Needless to say, these houses are now very pricey. Strolling up and down the street is sure to delight any architecture lovers hitting town.
The Flamingos of Villa Invernizzi
Villa Invernizzi is a Liberty-styled palace that overlooks corso Venezia in central Milan. The district is called Quadrilatero del Silenzio, or the “silent district.”. The Villa is regarded to have one of the most delightful gardens in the city, with pink flamingos, peacocks and ducks roaming around freely. The garden is not open to the public but it is always mesmerising to peek through the hedges that hide the facade to see these elegant birds strutting around the pond. How these rare birds ended up here is a fascinating story. The villa belonged to the Invernizzi family that made its fortune thanks to the production of dairy products. Now it is the headquarter of the Invernizzi Foundation. Mr. Invernizzi and his wife were deeply passionate about exotic animals, and to adorn their city residence they chose the most majestic bird on Earth: the pink flamingo. At the end of the Seventies the Invernizzis ordered a small flock from Chile followed by some others from Africa. The garden current inhabitants are all born in captivity from their imported ancestors.
The Rabbi’s House
Some call it “the Dutchman” for the style of architecture reminiscent of Flemish Renaissance style. The house in Via Carlo Poerio 35 is one of sixteen “770 houses“, the name comes from the original one located at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn NY, built identical in various cities around the world by the Orthodox Jewish community of the Lubavitchers. .
Those houses are the offices of the Jewish orthodox movement Lubavitch – Chabad. The Lubavitcher are one of the largest communities of Orthodox Jews.
In memory of the devoted rabbi who lived in the first building, the Lubavitcher began to see his home as a holy site and began to build some clones in other parts on the planet. Milano’s is the only one in Europe.
Palazzo del Verme
Palazzo Dal Verme, which draws its name from the nearby Theatre, is a hidden gem of the Renaissance embedded between surrounding modern buildings. The inner courtyard is something anyone can enjoy, with an architectural harmony that is hard to find in the structures of today. This building survived the bombings which Milan was subjected to during the World War II in 1943. This makes it a rare piece of history between the city’s streets.
The Maggiolina’s Igloos
The igloo homes designed by the engineer Mario Cavallè represent one of the most curious urban experiments in Milano. They are located in via Lepanto, in the Maggiolina district (M5 Marche or Istria), and were built after the war as temporary housing units, to house families displaced after the bombings of the Second World War. Today, only two houses remained with the original layout, but they continue to attract onlookers and Instagrammers.
Housed in the elegant Fondazione Prada, Bar Luce is inspired by the Milanese coffee shops of the 1950s and ’60s. This bar’s kitsch design and pastel colour palette draws you in like one of Wes Anderson’s whimsical movies – which is perhaps unsurprising since the cult film director is the brains behind Bar Luce’s design. From the 50s formica tables to pinball machines, the experience is like being immersed in Anderson’s cinematic world.