Glorious gardens behind plain-looking building facades. Cloisters and courtyards nestled behind grey walls. A journey across the many small green gems in the heart of Milan
22 Dec 2020
Often just by peeking through the main front doors of a Milanese building, incredible wonders can appear before our eyes. All you need is a little time to wander around and to stop and take a look: you will find wonderful patios, lush gardens, and courtyards that won’t fail to surprise you. Here is our personal selection of the most charming spots.
The flamingo villa: Villa Invernizzi, no. 9, Via dei Cappuccini.
One of the most evocative areas of Milan is certainly the Quadrilatero del Silenzio (the Silent District) in the Porta Venezia area: a marvellously quiet area away from the bustling streets of the city. Just by walking under the archway opposite the Palestro metro station on the red line you will find yourself in one of Milan’s most elegant, sophisticated and charming areas. Here is where the flamingos come into the picture: a small flamboyance of these pink birds and a few peacocks calmly grace the garden of Palazzo Invernizzi, offering a glorious display of nature’s beauty. The villa is private property and is not accessible to the public, so there is no entry ticket nor visiting times. All you need to do is simply go there and catch a glimpse of the birds.
The botanic garden nestled behind no.1, Via della Spiga: a triumph of camellias, maple trees, ivy leaves and pittosporum shrubs.
The Brera Botanic Garden is a historical institution that was founded back in 1775. Annexed to the University of Milan in 1935 it has survived across the centuries preserving its original structure. There are three main areas, divided by two elliptical ponds. The first two areas feature flowerbeds and low growing plants, while the third is an arboretum with glorious centuries-old trees. In 2005 Regione Lombardia named the Brera Botanic Garden a museum institution.
The Santa Maria Maddalena Cloister behind that grey wall.
The hidden Santa Maria Maddalena Cloister is in no.7, Via Cappuccio, just behind the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio. Officially included in Italy’s national heritage in 1923, this 15th-16th century cloister – all that is left of a great monastery – is composed of a great arcade area adorned with majestic columns. One of the most charming spots of Milan, this space is now an integral part of the Casa Ucelli di Nemi building.
The courtyards of Milan’s Statale and Cattolica Universities.
Very accessible are the courtyards of two of Milan’s Universities, Statale and Cattolica. The Università Statale courtyards include a set of four smaller and truly unique 15th century cloisters, while the Bramantesque cloisters of Università Cattolica are literally capable of taking you to a whole other dimension. Last but not least, in Largo Gemelli there is another secret garden that is only accessible to female students known as “The Virgins’ Garden”, yet another green and leafy hidden corner of Milan.
Corso San Gottardo and its entryways.
Another unmissable area of Milan is Corso San Gottardo, with its entryways leading into new worlds with their countless passageways, porticoes, and case di ringhiera (19th century working-class apartment blocks). Behind the door of no.18, Corso San Gottardo, we find a hamlet-like landscape, with a secret passage, as it were, leading to houses with a view on the Ascanio Sforza Navigli canal. Further on, at no.37 there awaits a beautiful courtyard framed by well-kept green and flowery balconies.
Where to stay in Milan.
For your tour around the charming secret gardens of Milan, we suggest you select your accommodation in in the centre of the city, from where you’ll be able to take lovely walks to all of Milan’s finest corners. Gruppo UNA has various solutions to offer: Maison Milano | UNA Esperienze, only a few steps from the Duomo, located in a finely restored historical building emanating Italian architectural charm; UNAHOTELS Century Milano, close to Milan’s Centrale e Porta Nuova train stations; UNAHOTELS Cusani Milano, strategically situated between the Duomo and Castello Sforzesco, perfect for an enjoyable exploration of the historical centre and the unique Brera district.