For generations, Bicocca meant the Pirelli tire plant, but over the last three decades the area has become the home of the Bicocca University of Milan, which offers the whole range of public higher education, including medicine, sociology, statistics and economics. Set in the north-east of the city, between Niguarda and Viale Monza. Bicocca is also a stylishly modern neighborhood, complete with a movie mall, a big auditorium (Arcimboldi Theater) and a major center for contemporary art (Hangar Bicocca). The Lilac subway line (M5), completed for Expo 2015, provides fast access to the whole area, which is huge and can be observed from above from Collina dei Ciliegi, one of Milano's only two hills.
HOW TO GET THERE
Metro Lilac M4: Bicocca, Ponale, Bignami - Passante: Greco Pirelli
WHY GO THERE
La Bicocca was entirely rebuilt in the mid-1990s, on the areas abandoned by the gigantic factory of Viale Sarca. It is a residential area for the middle and upper classes built around the huge functionalist-style campus of the Bicocca University, founded in 1998, which today has almost 36,000 students enrolled. La Bicocca, whose international standing is constantly growing, went to pre-existing disciplinary gaps in the city’s public offer of academic programs (economics, sociology and psychology, for example). Apart from the student population and the area residents, the neighborhood remains insufficiently explored by the rest of the Milanese, not to mention the tourists. Yet it contains unique cultural institutions, as well as two huge shopping malls and a pedestrian bridge that allows easy access to the neighboring Parco Nord.
In a neighborhood not particularly planned for human congregation, Piazza Trivulziana is a pleasant exception, with its basin shape, the clock and the bank that make you feel in a Swiss city, surrounded as you are by refined shops and specialized bookstores, tobacconists, well-stocked minimarket and an array of options for a quick bite between classes.
Pirelli Hangar Bicocca (M4 Ponale), in business since 2004, is a leading contemporary art institution, especially with regard to large installations and video art. Exhibits are often free of charge and the large foyer in pure Milanese interior design offer affordable delights for foodies and cocktail lovers who chat about the art show just seen or are doing some networking.
The Teatro degli Arcimboldi, inaugurated in 2002 and located in Viale dell’Innovazione, is the theater where great musicals are staged in Milan. At its birth, it replaced the Scala for three years when the opera house was closed for the renovation. Its proscenium is in fact identical in size to the Scala theater.
Milan is a flat city with no hills. The exceptions are the Montagnetta di San Siro and, since 2007, the Collina dei Ciliegi della Bicocca, which rises between a model workers' village of the late 19th century and the buildings of the University. It is nice to walk to the top when darkness falls and observe the skyline of Milan in the 21st century.
From Bicocca, it's easy to foot or cycle to Parco Nord, the biggest green lung of the city, covering an area of 7,9 square kilometers. This is where the Northern Milanese like to do their running or picnicking, perhaps watching sunset at Sun Stracc, an open-air bar by a neat artificial lake, next to the terminus of tram #4 the goes thru Niguarda, a truly Milanese neighborhood with a strong civic life, worth a visit in its own right (walk down Via Ornato).