The Porta Venezia district is one of the main areas where Liberty in Milan can be seen in all its splendour, so let's and set off for a ride to discover the first stage of our itinerary.

Ex cinema Dumont

Our route starts from Milan’s imposing Stazione Centrale, designed by Ulisse Stacchini, which represents an intriguing mélange of Liberty, Art Deco and classical features.

From piazza Duca d’Aosta, in front of the station, we cycle along via Vittor Pisani to Viale Tunisia. We then turn left and carry on to Corso Buenos Aires then straight along Viale Regina Giovanna, bearing right into via Lazzaro Spallanzani, then left into via Melzo. We get off our bikes as we turn left into via Frisi for the first stop on the itinerary: via Frisi 2, the ex-Dumont cinema built from 1908-1910 and still in use until 1932. The edifice was originally comprised of a waiting room, a cinema and a café, with the projection booth housed on the first floor. Only the Art Nouveau façade with French floral influences from the original building remains today, which is currently the seat of the local municipal library.

Casa Galimberti and Casa Guazzoni

Let’s continue our itinerary in via Malpighi where Casa Galimberti and Casa Guazzoni stand face eachother at n 3 and 12 respectively, both designed by architect Giovan Battista Bossi.

Casa Galimberti vaunts painted ceramic tiles depicting gigantic polychromatic figures, mostly female, and lush foliage motifs that almost entirely cover the façades.

Casa Guazzoni, on the other hand, excels for its fluid embellishments in wrought iron and concrete. The arches on the ground floor are interspersed with imaginative female heads (all individually crafted) while the middle section of the first floor features an elegantly-hued floral frieze.

Ex Kursal Diana

From via Malpighi, we turn left and then right onto Viale Piave to pause and admire the ex Kursal Diana at n. 42, today the Sheraton Diana Majestic. This historic hotel was designed by Achille Manfredini during la Belle Époque, and featured the Bagno di Diana, the first public swimming pool in Italy. Inaugurated on October 1st, 1908, the Kursaal was an entertainment and recreation venue for the elite. Its 125.000 m2 comprised a restaurant, a ballroom, a sphere court for pelota and an ample theatre for variety shows and operettas. Inside the building, near the outdoor area, the statue of the Goddess Diana, which once marked the entrance to the ancient swimming pool, still poses evocatively.

Palazzo Castiglioni

From Viale Piave we turn left into Piazza Oberdan and onto Corso Venezia.

Palazzo Castiglioni, at Corso Venezia 47/49 is a masterpiece created by the architect Sommaruga and the first building designed in the new bourgeoisie style in one of the most ‘noble’ areas of Milan, a reflection of wealth and grandeur created almost as an act of defiance towards more conservative citizens. A bold challenge that the city was probably not ready to accept given that, when the scaffolding was removed from the façade in 1903, public opinion sided strongly against it, to the point of forcing the removal of two provocative statues of female nudes, representing Peace and Industry, that framed the entrance portal; they were replaced with more suitable floral decorations. Hence, the Milanese ironically nicknamed the building ‘Ca de ciapp’ or the ‘House of the buttocks’. Considered as the manifesto of Italian Liberty, today the building is the seat of the Union of Commerce. Following the renovation carried out due to its change of use, the edifice retains a splendid three-storey staircase and, on the main floor, the sala dei Pavoni, the Peacock room, richly adorned with stuccos.  

The Silent Quadrilateral - Case Berri Meregalli

We continue along Corso Venezia towards San Babila and turn left into via Gabrio Serbelloni and then left again into via Cappuccini. The most famous Quadrilateral in Milan is the exclusive fashion quarter but there is another one, much less hectic and lively, a dreamy tangle of streets poetically defined as the Silent Quadrilateral which is definitely worth a stroll. Nestled between Corso Venezia and Corso Monforte, this central but calm oasis of nineteenth-century Milan is a short walk from San Babila, it could once count amongst its admirers Parini and Stendhal and, amongst its inhabitants, famous personalities such as the painter Carlo Carrà and the poet Filippo Marinetti. The Case Berri Meregalli, designed by Giulio Ulisse Arata, are located on the block formed by via Cappuccini, via Barozzi and via Mozart. The edifice at via Cappuccini 8 is a striking mélange of styles and it represents the latest example of Milanese Liberty architecture. If, on the one hand, it incorporates the ashlar masonry typical of medieval architecture and Roman art with squat and lowered dimensions, the building also has elements emblematic of Milan’s Art Nouveau showcased in the floral and plant motifs on the façade, together with the sculpted details. The uppermost section of the building is richly ornamented with large carved cherubs clinging to downspouts and many decorative animal themes (rams, fish, frogs, owls, dogs and lions) prevail over floral ones. However, it also demonstrates the love for Byzantine-type golden mosaics that seem to clash with the red bricks. In the fascinating entrance hall you can admire the mosaics and ceilings by Angiolo D'Andrea and Adamo Rimoldi along with the famous Victory sculpture by Adolfo Wildt from 1919.

Via Mozart 21 is the first of the Berri Meregalli houses to have been built and features imposing frescoed female figures on the façade. The main balcony is decorated with mighty balustrades and ram's heads, while the French window is adorned with a tympanum fragmented with a ram's head.

 

Silent Quadrilateral - Casa Sola Brusca

Also by Adolfo Wildt is a bronze sculpture in the shape of an ear, in Via Serbelloni 19, that served as the first-ever intercom system. Casa Sola Brusca was renamed by the Milanese as Ca’de l’Oreggia, or the house with the ear. The reason for the unique name can be found next to the entrance to this 1930s building where a bronze ear, created by the Italian sculptor, draftsman and medal-maker, Adolfo Wildt kept those outside the building connected with the Concierge.

Silent Quadrilateral - Casa Tensi

We continue along via Mozart and turn right into via Vivaio to Casa Tensi. n 4 which is a very elegant building that evokes the sinuous shapes of the Parisian Art Nouveau. It was designed by the architect Ernesto Pirovano, famous for his fluid floral decorations which made the balconies and façades of his projects unique.

 

Casa Campanini

We continue our journey along Via Maggiolini and turn right onto Viale Majno. We then carry on towards Viale Bianca Maria and turn right onto Via Mascagni, then left first on Via Donizetti and then Via Bellini.

Casa Campanini is at n. 11, one of the charming masterpieces of Milanese Liberty that the architect Alfredo Campanini built for himself and his family; he designed the sculptural figures of the portal, the stained-glass windows and the wrought iron twisted into plant motifs. He was evidently influenced by Sommaruga’s work because the building’s entrance is guarded by the presence of two solemn and absorbed maidens, a tribute to palazzo Castiglioni. It’s worth taking a look inside to admire the wrought iron gate and the embellishments on the glass. The decorative balconies were created by Alessandro Mazzucotelli, applied arts play with structural architecture to make the entire building unique in its genre.