The perfect city is one that is easily accessible for people of all ages, with child-friendly open spaces including parks, gardens and public playgrounds for fun playtimes along with tranquil streets and quieter urban spaces for those who opt for a more relaxed vibe.
Although Milano is a very popular international city, and may at times seem hectic, you can still stumble across historic places of extraordinary beauty which suddenly take you by surprise. Some of the city’s major thoroughfares soundlessly preserve small but aesthetically-pleasing piazzas that are perfect gathering places and also inspire those most-liked Instagram pics!
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We all love familiar places like Piazza Duomo, Piazza Castello, Piazza Gae Aulenti, the delightful gem San Simpliciano and the hectic piazzas Cadorna, Repubblica and Loreto but the lesser-known Piazza Sant'Alessandro will still take your breath away.
With the eponymous church and its sweeping staircase, low-key bar and the headquarters of the Università degli Studi’s Faculty of Languages, it’s a popular student haunt perfectly located in the heart of the city. Quiet and welcoming, the piazza is like a passageway that connects the bustling Via Torino to Piazza Missori. A photo at the foot of the church door can evoke the history of the beautiful bell tower from the 1600s.
On the opposite side of via Torino, tucked in between the Cinque Vie district, lies Piazza Mentana, frequented by a very young crowd thanks to the popular kiosk, famous for its ginger mojito, a regular hangout for Milanese students.
The piazza is the heart of Roman Milano and is surrounded by historic artisan workshops crafting glass and exhibiting paintings or elegant period jewellery. The square is framed by horse chestnut trees and, at its centre, stands the war memorial statue to the Battle of Mentana, inaugurated in 1880 in the presence of Giuseppe Garibaldi (the most famous Italian patriot and leader).
A few steps from the city centre you can find Piazza Affari, whose profile was significantly raised by the arrival of Cattelan's famous and controversial “the Finger" sculpture. It’s the perfect backdrop for numerous photoshoots, especially during the many outdoor aperitifs that are organized here.
The Italian artist's sculpture is entitled L.O.V.E., an acronym for "Freedom, Hate, Revenge, Eternity" and is a symbol of protest against financial tycoons. Precisely for this reason, it was installed in front of the Palazzo Mezzanotte, the headquarters of the Milano Stock Exchange.
The supposedly temporary monument is now a permanent fixture in the piazza following a decision taken by the municipality of Milano.
Piazza San Fedele
The fact that a place can only be reached on foot is almost always a guarantee that it will be beautiful. Piazza San Fedele, a small quiet square tucked in behind the Duomo, is actually of great architectural importance.
In the shadow of Palazzo Marino, and with the famous statue of Alessandro Manzoni centrally placed in front, Piazza San Fedele is a cultural hub comprising the sixteenth-century Jesuit church, the crypt, the sacristy, the "ballerina’s chapel" and a museum of paintings and reliquaries containing works of art ranging from the fourteenth century to date. Not to mention an Auditorium which offers a season entirely dedicated to experimental music, a meeting point for true connoisseurs.
Piazza Santo Stefano
Not far from the Duomo you may come across Piazza Santo Stefano which houses a church with a small side chapel hosting one of the most fascinating and unusual places in Milano: the Ossuary of San Bernardino.
Apparently the concrete area in front of the imposing church was once Saint Stephen's Pond, a landing bay for the boats that transported marble for the construction of the Duomo. The perfectly square-shaped piazza is a welcoming oasis of peace away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Adjacent to Piazza Santo Stefano lies the historic area of Via Laghetto, where the street widens into a square but is not officially named as a piazza. Photographic shots conveying the intersection of these narrow streets depict a silent and secreted Milano of buildings with elegant facades, low-lying doorways and colourful windows.
A café-bookstore overlooks the square, a meeting place for young students at the nearby Università degli Studi, who treat themselves to an aperitif or a coffee after classes. When special outdoor events are held in the area all traffic is banned and the square gets packed with happy crowds giving off more of a small village festival vibe.
Continuing south, towards the Darsena dockland area, don’t forget to look out for the small green Piazza Sant'Eustorgio and pause for thought - or just to admire the surrounding beauty - on one of the shady benches under the trees at the foot of the homonymous church.
The piazza backs onto the Parco delle Basiliche with its two stunning basilicas, another of Milano’s historical gems, adjacent to the Navigli. The Sant’Eustorgio architectural complex comprises the Basilica, the Portinari Chapel, the Bell Tower, the Cloisters and the (former) S. Fede Hospital.
Piazza Enrico Berlinguer
In the via Savona design district, nestled between the modern buildings at the intersection with via Tolstoj, lies Piazza Enrico Berlinguer, inaugurated by the Municipality in 2012 to pay homage to the politician 90 years after his birth.
This cosy pedestrian-only piazza is a quiet place for a stop-off, a chance to settle on a shady bench and read a good book as you listen to the sound of children having fun and playing safely in a protected traffic-free environment.
Via Cesariano, located between via Moscova and Chinatown, is an afternoon meeting place for many families who gather in the public playground to let their kids enjoy themselves after school. More than a street, it is a small child-friendly piazza with lots of benches, perfect for taking a break in a green city space.
The local bars around the park are great for a quiet drink. Then they liven up at aperitif time with lots of different choices spanning from Chinese wine bars to literary cafés to suit more intellectual tastes; early evening is the perfect time to experience all the piazza has to offer.
Piazza Santa Francesca Romana
Piazza Santa Francesca Romana is tucked away in the Porta Venezia area. Between the major thoroughfares of Corso Buenos Aires and Viale Regina Giovanna, there is a quiet piazza with rows of light-wood benches, all lined up perpendicularly in front of the eponymous church, built between 1662 and 1720, and dedicated to Santa Rosalia.
Across the street, around the entrance to the metro and regional train station, local teens hang out to practice their latest hip hop or breakdance moves. Every Wednesday you can buy zero-miles fruit and vegetables at one of the stalls set up by the Agricultural Market of the Italian Farmers Confederation.