It goes without saying that I turned the book launch in Milan into a whole weekend of explorations off the beaten path!
Off the beaten path Milan: Pave Café
My day in Milan begun at the hipster Pave Café: sat on a yellow chair, I checked my day’s plan while sipping a creamy cappuccino; the plan included a brand new museum located in a res-industrial district, the monumental cemetery and some outer areas off the beaten path.
My travel blogger mood was on. After all, the reason why I came to Milan in the first place (the launch of a book on our generation chasing its dreams) was kind of empowering by itself; I left the Pave Café feeling excited for a whole day of discoveries in front of me and headed to one of my favorite areas of Milan, Tortona, a former industrial district that turned into a hip area of loft studios, trendy restaurants and design shops.
Off the beaten path Milan: Tortona neighbourhood
Off the beaten path Milan: MUDEC, the museum of cultures
On via Tortona, inside the former Ansaldo industrial plant, there is the brand new “MUDEC – Museum of Cultures“. The complex has been fully renewed by David Chipperfield: only the exteriors remind of the industrial past of the building, while the interiors are all waves, crystal and light.I visited the two opening exhibitions, which will run until summer so, if you are going to Milan to visit Expo2015, you shouldn’t miss the exhibition “Worlds in Milan – cultures and expos” showing all those mirabilia arrived in Milan for a series of spectacular expositions that took place from the unification of Italy (1861) to the mid-20th century –starting with industrial art fairs and continuing with trade fairs, the biennals and the triennals-, which introduced the Milanese public to objects, artefacts and artworks from faraway worlds and cultures.
The other current exhibition, “Africa – the land of the spirits”, has an extremely fascinating set-up: walking through one dark room after another, I followed a path of cases containing masks, sculptures, and objects, and listened to the different sounds of Africa evoked in each room, from the blowing of the wind to the singing of crickets or the sound of drums. Besides the stunning artworks, I also appreciated the many African sayings painted on the black walls, such as: “make sure you have left the river before mentioning crocodiles”, “before you shoot the arrow of truth, remember to dip it in honey”, “it’s by persevering that an egg ends up walking on two feet” and the travel-themed one “if you don’t know where you are going, make sure you know where you are coming from”.
Off the beaten path Milan: Isola neighbourhood
After wandering around the Tortona neighborhood, I went to another area of Milan I like a lot: the Isola neighborhood, which is just behind the train station Porta Garibaldi.
Off the beaten path Milan: Frida bistrot
Here I ate at Frida, a nice bistrot inside a beautiful courtyard, planning the rest of the day in front of a dish of pasta and a craft beer.
Off the beaten path Milan: the monumental cemetery
Next stop: Milan’s Monumental Cemetery, built by Carlo Maciachini between 1863 and 1866, is an open air museum made of tombs, shrines and sculptures realized by the best local artists from the late 1800s to the present day.
And while an old lady was trying to convince me that “young people” should stay away from places like cemeteries, I enjoyed the smell of resin and fresh cut grass and walked along the tree-lined boulevards in a very peaceful state of mind.
If you don’t feel to venture into a cemetery, you should at least visit the monumental entrance, with its characteristic bands of two-tone marble and the eclectic architecture blending the Pisan Romanesque and the Lombard Gothic styles. It serves as a civic pantheon, containing tombs, statues and plaques commemorating illustrious Milanese citizens, such as Alessandro Manzoni (Italian poet and novelist) and the artist Bruno Munari.
Off the beaten path Milan: Graffiti on Via Padova
Enough of the city centre: it was time to explore some outer area! And so I took the subway as far as the multi-ethnic area around via Padova, where I wanted to visit the cultural space AssabOne which, unfortunately, was closed.
As I still had a couple of hours before taking my train to Turin, I decided to go back to the city centre by foot. The walk turned out to be very interesting: I walked through the multi-ethnic hood, with its characteristic kebab kiosks and internet points following one another, then through Milan’s business district and its skyscrapers, and I kept walking as far as Milan’s shopping cluster, with its elegant buildings, the beautiful Milan’s trams and that hectic mood pervading the town when offices are closing.
Off the beaten path Milan: the ex-Trotter park
Moreover, walking past the ex-Trotter park, I spotted a series of abandoned buildings, which –later I discovered- constituted a boarding school built in 1928 to shelter 160 children from families who were poor or exposed to the risk of tuberculosis.
The kids attended the school with other children during the day and, after classes, came back to their dormitories inside this boarding wing that, after being seriously damaged by bombing during WW2, was abandoned in the early ‘80s. The ex-Trotter park itself is kind of a special place in Milan: the land was previously used as a racecourse (from 1800 to 1924) and the circular path is still visible in the park, dotted with some stone benches. When the Trotter sport company failed the area was purchased by the Municipality, which used it for the really innovative project of an “open-air school” (which is still operating, so if you want to visit the ex-Trotter park keep in mind that it is closed to the public during school time).
I sat on the grass and enjoyed this first day of spring (well, at least for me, as I’m usually buried inside the office). It felt so nice to be back on the road, to scribble my impressions on my travel journal and take tons of pictures, and I still had another town to explore before coming back to the “real life”, a town that meant so much to me and finally, after three years, I was ready to come back.
(but that’s another story…coming soon on Blocal blog!).
Want more? Why don’t you visit the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, Milan’s contemporary art exhibition center, with a stunning mural painted by Os Gemeos on the Façade ;)