On my very first day, my new friend Eddie took me to the Brera district which is just a short walk from Parco Sempione and the amazing Castello Sforzesco, a Medieval fortress that you should definitely visit. Walking the grounds is impressive and imposing at the same time. The museum inside is worth it as well since you can see Michelangelo’s last incomplete sculpture, La Pieta. Magnifico!
On Via Brera itself, is La Academia di Belle Arti, also known as Pinacoteca di Brera. It was one of the oldest art schools in the world but morphed into an art gallery in 1809. I was obsessed with shooting it over the years because of the shadows created by the endless arches. I couldn’t help but think about the students and teachers who walked those stunning corridors hundreds of years before. If you have any interest in art or history or architecture, this building is waiting for you.
The next block at Via Brera 16, is Pellegrini, an art supply store that feels as though it has the same history as La Pinocoteca. You may pick up on my love of art, but I promise to share all my other loves of Italian culture, past and present.
Parallel with Via Brera is Via Madonnina, which is my absolute favorite street in the entire city. The name is as precious as the buildings, stores and restaurants. It’s a short street that begins at the church of Santa Maria del Carmine and ends at another sweetly named street, Via Fiori Chiari (Bright Flowers).
This is probably a good time to tell you about the street naming convention that Italians use. You know how Park Avenue in New York City runs for miles and miles with the same name, right? Well let’s take Via Brera for example, it runs for miles as well but Via Brera turns into Via Solferino at one end, and Via Guiseppe Verdi at the other, with no warning. The names just change even though it is physically the same street. Basically every city in Italy has this same concept, so I’m sharing this tidbit with you to make your visit / life easier.
The Brera district is completely charming and worth the visit. Besides window shopping and gelato taste tests, there are several options to dine al fresco. I recommend Rosso Brera at Via Formentini 7, which is right off Via Madonnina. You can’t miss it as it’s outdoor back drop is the facade of an ancient church. Eating your risotto Milanese while looking at the architecture that surrounds you is just priceless. The waiters are normally a delight and the ambience cannot be beat.
Besides my love of art, you will notice that I will mention churches a lot, not because I am religious but because they are works of art themselves. They are open all day, every day to anyone and they offer the closest thing to air-conditioning you can find in the country. Kidding aside, most of them stop you in your tracks because of the amazing paintings, sculptures and intricate mosaic floors. If you are really lucky, you may walk into a wedding with grandmothers crying and the distinct aroma of cologne.