In the fifteenth century a utopian vision of Milan as the capital city of Lombardy was beginning to take shape, the streets and buildings forming much of what we now know of the city today. During this time the Duke of Milan busied himself building a spectacular castle that not only kept away intruders but would withstand the test of time. Castello Sforzesco was home to Milan’s rulers and Leonardo da Vinci lived here while working on the Last Supper and his Codexes. Today the area is beloved by locals and tourists as an ever-green Eden in the heart of the city.
The Castello is now home to museums and galleries and its landscaped garden is now the most spectacular public park dappled with monuments and fountains that tell of the city’s history. The park is also home to the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace) and the wide, leafy Corso Sempione, where there are numerous bars and restaurants. The sunset around the park is one of the best in Milan and you can escape the mosquitoes that inhabit the south of the city. Sempione strikes the perfect balance between the majestic Arco della Pace and the laid back park, and the bars reflect this duality perfectly with their elegance and glamour, made for winding down in the summer heat.
Things to do
If lying in the sunshine gets too much, take a peek inside Castello Sforza’s museum and gallery, which has rotating exhibitions open all year. There are also some excellent permanent exhibitions that include original works by Da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Arco della Pace
Spring day at Arco della Parce © Paolo Villa/Flickr
Exit the park on the north side through the soaring wrought-iron gates and you'll see in front of you the grandiose Arco della Pace, built when Milan was under Napoleonic rule in 1807 by Luigi Cagnola. Although built in the 19th century, the arch stands on the sight of one of 1st century Roman gates, making it one of the six 'gates of Milan'. This road which leads north from the arch, connects Milan to Paris through the Simplon Pass crossing the Alps, and is still in use today.
BARS AND RESTAURANTS
Despite its name this aperitivo bar sits right opposite the Arch and offers a surprisingly good aperitivo full of fresh local produce, cheeses and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Take a seat on the terrace outside and watch the sunset over the arch and park. www.duomodal1952.com
View from Pizza OK Arco della Pace © Paolo Margari/Flickr
One of the best pizza chains in Milan, Pizza OK serves a huge selection of incredible thin crust pizza, including a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan options. The real highlight is the view and the atmosphere; the outside patio is pure Italian perfection.
If you’re looking for a different style of happy hour this is the place. Furnished with original Indian artefacts: the front door is a traditional ‘haveli’ from 1800, with amazing ornaments and decorations. The aperitivo includes a wide mix of Indian delicacies including dhals, curries and rice dishes. Happy hour here runs until 2am. www.bhangrabar.it
Located in the centre of the park with a roof terrace that looks out over Sempione, Bar Bianco serves excellent cocktails and aperitivo until 9pm. After dark it can get pretty rowdy as DJs play into the night. www.bar-bianco.com
Via Paolo Sarpi
Via Paolo Sarpi, the focal point of Milan’s Chinatown, has a distinctly Italian feel, with its pedestrianised cobbled streets always bathed in the glow of the yellow-painted houses, lit with red lanterns that line it. The Chinese community have lived here for over 200 years, when immigrants from Wencheng County arrived to operate small textile and leather workshops.
One of the few international corners of Milan, the offerings here are astonishing. Authentic Chinese restaurants sit adjacent to trattorias and leather and silk shops and a heady mix of Italians, Chinese, travellers and ex-pats create vivacious atmosphere. Top spots for food are Ciripizza and Pizzeria da Giuliano. www.viapaolosarpi.com
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