After you’ve had your fill of sightseeing and touring the city’s main monuments, time to take a break to explore the most unique neighborhoods in Milan.
Porta Nuova and Corso Como
Milan’s most modern, stylish and well-designed district is the recently completed Porta Nuova. Piazza Gae Aulenti, a large courtyard with shallow pools and fountains, was designed by the architect behind NYC’s World Financial Center and Kuala Lampur’s Petronas Twin Towers, César Pelli. He also designed the Torre Unicredit, the large skyscraper that is visible from different parts of the city.
To get there, get off the subway at the Porta Garibaldi stop (green/purple line) and walk towards Corso Como. Take a left towards the new skyscraper and walk through the courtyard. You’ll see the huge Torre Unicredit right away, along with several other new buildings. There’s still some construction in progress, for example a large park is set to open sometime in 2015. As you keep walking another building will come into view. Take another left and start walking down a slight slope and you’ll see the Bosco Verticale, an innovative idea designed by Milan architect Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra. You’ll notice a lot of greenery all over the building, which are actually trees! The two residential towers are a sort of vertical forest, with the aim of decreasing smog, producing oxygen, moderating temperatures in the building and lowering noise levels. Thinking of investing in a condo there? It will set you back €7,000 per square meter!
After you finish admiring your dream house, head back towards the subway, turn onto Corso Como and walk along the pedestrian-only street that’s packed with chic cafes and bars with outdoor seating and stylish boutiques. In the distance you’ll see Porta Garibaldi, the old gates of the city, a few of which still remain in various corners of town. Keep going, it’s worth your while to get to the end, where the newly-opened Eataly is located. Every kind of regional Italian food product you can imagine can be found in this immense foodie mecca, including a few restaurants.
Did you know that Milan used to be surrounded by canals? If you look at a map of the city, you’ll notice a ring road surrounding the city center (the cerchia dei Navigli), which is basically the route of the 94 bus. This road was once a waterway, but it was paved in 1929 with the increasing popularity of automobiles. There is still one area where Milan’s historical man-made rivers still remain: the Navigli area. This is the spot for a chillout kind of nightlife. You can stroll alongside the canals, cross the traditional bridges, people-watch, choose your favorite spot for drinks and aperitivo (you’ll have lots of choices!) and even find a restaurant if you want to enjoy a traditional meal with friends. You might stumble upon a live music performance or find a cheap pair of trendy sunglasses along the Naviglio Grande or Naviglio Pavese. It’s simply a great place to be on a cool evening, full of students and young professionals out on the town.
These days Brera is a much more chic and stylish compared to the Navigli’s hipster atmosphere. The tiny streets are usually packed with passersby, vendors of knockoff purses and a few tarot card readers here and there. You can window shop to check out the latest styles in footwear, formalwear and business attire, grab drinks or sit down to a nice dinner.
The neighborhood is also full of art. It’s home to both Accademia di Brera, the fine arts academy, and Pinacoteca di Brera, the city’s picture gallery.