Parco Sempione is the green heart of Milano and it extends over 40 hectares, from the walls of the imposing Castello Sforzesco to the elegant pink marble Arco della Pace. As a place that brings history and nature together, it’s great for making the most of the summer heat or for taking respite from it under the shade of the immense trees.
Excellent for group and individual sports, or simply just to explore the history of Milano and some of its beautiful outdoor monuments.
Check out our itinerary that follows four adjectives to guide us in exploring the most beautiful corners of the park.
EXOTIC: the whole world in one aquarium
Perhaps not everyone knows that Parco Sempione hosted the International Exposition in 1906, the predecessor of the Milan Expo that we all welcomed in 2015.
Many fascinating pavilions were built for that occasion but the edifice that now houses the original Civic Aquarium is the only surviving one: the façade of this Liberty gem in printed concrete and painted tiles is adorned with an aquatic-themed décor that surrounds the statue of the god Neptune. Shells, fish of all kinds, a hippopotamus water feature that trickles water into the tanks surrounding the building: all these decorations set the perfect scene for a treasure hunt to find the strangest animal of all!
Upon entering the aquarium visitors immediately encounter the tanks housing underwater life in their natural environments with freshwater and saltwater species from around the world. From the fish and aquatic vegetation typical of the Italian seacoasts, lakes and rivers to more exotic species; the journey starts from the mountain sources in the Alps to end much further afield at the Red Sea coral reef.
There are all sorts of species like jellyfish and leopard sharks, you name it, you can find the entire world in one tank!
SKYWARD: admire Milano from above
Any chance of taking an elevator up to the sky? Well at least high enough to see the whole city at your feet? Yes! You can get the lift at the Torre Branca in Parco Sempione, next to the Triennale which, at 108.6 meters high, is the tenth tallest structure in the city and one of the best places from which to admire Milano from above.
Its characteristic hexagonal design structure, built in 1933, is constructed from special Dalmine steel pipes and was designed by Gio Ponti and Cesare Chiodi.
Its renovation was commissioned by the “Distilleria Fratelli Branca”, whose name it now bears.
The modern internal elevator zooms its occupants upwards in less than a minute to the panoramic belvedere that gives a magnificent view of the city. On clear days, from the top viewing platform, not only the entire skyline of Milano can be admired but also a good part of the Lombard plain, the Alps and the Apennines.
You don't get to touch the moon but ... the sky? Yes!
EPIC: an arena steeped in history
Before the San Siro stadium was built, the iconic Arena Civica was the sporting hub in Milano. It was inaugurated on August 18th 1807, in the presence of Napoleon, with the staging of a massive naumachia (naval battle) for mass entertainment: the central basin was flooded with water from the canals and naval battles and mythological scenes were simulated.
The Arena was also used for football (it was also Inter's official ground before they moved to San Siro) and rugby matches and, in the winter months, the flooded basin was transformed into a huge skating rink. In the past, races of all sorts were staged on the track such as Roman chariot races, circus shows, hot-air balloon rides and knightly tournaments.
An epic place reminiscent of the ancient Roman arenas, today the Arena hosts international athletics competitions along with musical and non-musical events.
Also, not to be missed is a visit to the Loggia Reale (Royal Loggia) fronted by an elegant five-arched portico opening onto the Arena: a neoclassical jewel now curated by FAI - Italian National Trust.
SUPERB: the Bridge of lovers
We suggest you take a stroll around to explore the whole Parco Sempione seeking out some fascinating places: one of them, the Ponte delle Sirenette, is the corner dedicated to lovers.
In the heart of the park, tucked between the trees, nestles a small cast-iron bridge connecting the two sides of a small lake, it was transported here when the Milano Navigli were interred in 1930. This bridge was originally located on the stretch of the cerchia dei Navigli near the San Damiano road, (today via Visconti di Modrone) where it enabled easier access to the towpath.
At its inauguration in 1842 the bridge caused a public uproar, because it was the first metal bridge to be built in ‘ghisa’ cast iron in Italy by Rubini, Scalini, Falk e C. from Dongo, but also because the sculptor Tettamanzi had placed figures of four daring damsels with mermaid tails at the two sides of the bridge parapet.
The Milanese immediately nicknamed the damsels the ‘Ghisini sisters’, after the material they were made from.
It’s a superb backdrop for lovers who exchange kisses under the eyes of the mermaids!