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Six 'secret' places in Milan you need to visit

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Six 'secret' places in Milan you need to visit
A view of Milan's Cimitero Monumentale, in the north of the city. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

From the Duomo to the Castello Sforzesco, Milan’s most popular sights are in no way safe from overcrowding, especially during the warm season. Here are six of the northern city’s best hidden attractions to escape the tourist crush.

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Though it may not have the artistic cachet of Rome or Florence, Milan has no shortage of world-famous attractions, with hundreds of thousands of people visiting the city every year. 

But, as in the case of nearly all major tourist destinations around the country, the northern capital’s most popular sights – from the iconic Duomo to the imposing Castello Sforzesco – tend to get extremely (and often hopelessly) crowded during the warm months. 

So, if you’re not exactly a fan of long queues and packed tours, is there a way you can escape the crowds while still making the most of the city?

Luckily, Milan has plenty of hidden gems which attract smaller numbers of visitors but are just as enjoyable as some of the more popular attractions. So, here are six of the city’s best ‘secret’ places.

Stroll through Leonardo’s Vineyard

While he was born and raised in Florence, Renaissance mastermind Leonardo da Vinci spent most of his adult life in Milan.

In 1498, Milan’s Duke Ludovico Sforza thanked Leonardo for his services by gifting him with a beautiful vineyard located just 10 minutes away from the Castello Sforzesco.

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Thanks to large-scale recovery works undertaken in 2015, the vineyard looks now just as it looked in the eyes of its former owner some 500 years ago, also producing its own wine, Milan’s Malvasia, since 2018. 

Tickets to the Vigna di Leonardo also give access to the adjacent Casa degli Atellani, a historic 15th-century mansion boasting prestigious fresco paintings. 

Get lost inside the Necchi-Campiglio Villa

Built between 1932 and 1935 for a family of well-heeled Lombard industrialists, the Necchi-Campiglio Villa is one of the best-preserved examples of 20th-century high-society urban residences. 

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Located at the heart of the elegant Quadrilatero del Silenzio district, the luxurious villa is known for its marble art deco features and its impressive modern art collection.

The property is also surrounded by a verdant, magnolia-dotted garden, which makes for an idyllic place to wind down on a sunny day.

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Marvel at the Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio and its ‘rainbow dome’

Located in the south of the city, close to the popular Navigli area, the Romanesque-style Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio is often overlooked by experienced locals as well as international visitors. 

The church, which boasts the tallest bell tower in Milan, holds one of the most celebrated examples of Renaissance art in Italy: the striking Portinari Chapel.

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Decorated with frescoes by art master Vincenzo Foppa, the chapel culminates in a majestic polychrome dome which is often referred to as ‘cupola arcobaleno’ (‘rainbow dome’).

Take a walk in the city's Monumental Cemetery

You may have a hard time thinking of a cemetery as a city attraction (and rightly so), but Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale is not an ordinary cemetery, by any stretch of the imagination. 

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Built in 1866, the site has an endless array of spectacular architectural works (chapels, mausoleums, temples, etc.) and sculptures, including a scaled-down version of Rome’s Trajan Column. 

The cemetery, which measures over 250,000 square metres, is also known for its commanding Neo-medieval marble entrance.

Turn back the hands of time at the Alfa Romeo Museum

Located in a former car factory in Arese, about 12 kilometres northwest of Milan, the Alfa Romeo Museum tells the story of the glorious Milan-born manufacturer. 

Classic Alfa Romeo cars

Classic Alfa Romeo cars on display at the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, just outside Milan. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

From the HP 24 – the first-ever Alfa Romeo vehicle – to the latest Tonale model, the museum chronicles a 112-year journey through speed, technology and unique aesthetics.

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Discover Milan’s ‘Sistine Chapel’

As ordinary as it might look from outside, the Chiesa di San Maurizio is anything but on the inside. 

Once part of the largest female Benedictine monastery in Milan, the Baroque-style church is one of the city’s best-hidden treasures.

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Suffice to say that the superb fresco paintings covering the building’s walls and parts of its ceiling have earned it the moniker of Milan’s ‘Sistine Chapel’.

Music buffs will also be happy to know that the church’s choir loft is home to a pipe organ dating back to 1554. 

Bonus item: Enter Casa Rossi and look up

At number 12 of Corso Magenta, less than 50 metres away from the Chiesa di San Maurizio, you’ll find Casa Rossi, an elegant neo-Renaissance building designed by architect Giuseppe Pestagalli in the 1860s.

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But, the real surprise lies just behind the building’s main entrance as an internal courtyard of Greek-reminiscent style carves a perfectly octagonal shape out of the Milan sky.

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