Milan urban railway tour: Certosa di Garegnano
Slow itinerary by urban train, looking for some hidden places in town
by Roxana Iacoban
My arrival in Milan was a bit late, at 9 p.m. and to tell the truth little I knew about the Milan I was to discover. I had been to Milano several times before, but whether for a concert or to visit my friend Ezgi and hang out at the Navigli and participating at her house parties for Fashion Week. Sure I had seen the Dome, the La Scala Theatre and the shopping streets downtown. I had no idea what Milano had to offer besides all that.
I arrived at Milano Garibaldi Station and I was to reach the Hotel Cervo in Piazzale Principessa Clotilde near Porta Nuova. I had never been in that area before and it was pretty dark already, but as soon as I walked out of the train station, I came across this illuminated futuristic square with a changing color fountain at the centre, surrounded by “green” skyscrapers and very modern buildings. I found out right after that it is called Piazza Gae Aulenti. The square was very lively and I met some nice people that confirmed the direction of the VisitMilano app I was still a little skeptical of, leading towards the Hotel. I took a stroll along this new age part of the city and walked across a bridge where the plan of the project was exposed: Progetto Porta Nuova, a project of urban requalification of the area of the city expanding from the Garibaldi station to Piazza Repubblica, and from Porta Nuova to Palazzo Lombardia. Due to the bg surface of the project, it took about 10 years to be built.
It took me only 10 minutes on foot to reach my destination. I arrived at Porta Nuova and there I met Virginia, the video maker that was to join me during this journey. We went to get a bite nearby since there were many nice restaurants and cozy cafès to explore, and started to know each other better. I found out to my surprise that she came from Sicily, so we had a cheerful chat about her land and the beauty of her home town Catania. We didn’t stay up too late because Saturday was to be an intense day. We were to visit The Church of Certosa di Garegnano, The Collezione Branca Museum and The Sanctuary of Santa Maria alla Fontana. We had our city maps, our bike sharing passes, our two day pass for the Suburban Railways and we also downloaded the VisitMilano free app for the public transport means, the purchase of tickets and the list of attractions. So we were more than ready for the days to come!
Certosa di Garegnano
Early call: 7.30 am. Me and Virginia had a big breakfast during which we talked about that day’s itinerary. It was raining so Plan A of using the bike sharing service was off. Plan B was to get to the nearest “Passante Ferroviario” (suburban railways station) and go for it. So that’s what we did. In 5 minutes walk we got to the Garibaldi metro and passante ferroviario station and we checked which of the 13 lines got us to the Certosa di Garegnano Church, located in the North-West outskirts of Milano. We had to options: the S5 or S6 line. We used our 2 day pass, that cost only 8 euros 25 and that we could use for all the means of tranport from tram to bus, train and suburban railway. In less than 10 minutes time we got to the Certosa stop. Pretty quick that was!
Then using the amazing VisitMilano app we got on foot to the Certosa Church in front of which we met Roberto Gariboldi, the archivist of Certosa and one of the founders of the “Amici della Certosa” volunteer association, who together with other volunteers organizes guided tours, events, art exhibitions, concerts and looks for sponsors in order to preserve the Church as it is and to make it known to both Milanese people and turists. I knew nothing about the church, except for what I had peeked online. What caught my attention was the fact that it is called “The Sistine Chapel of Milan” due to the breathtaking affrescos. So I couldn’t wait to see that.
Mr Roberto was very kind to guide us throughout the entire place, made of several chapels (since the certosini friars loved to meditate in solitude), different internal passages, amazing oil paintings and affrescos. I found out that the church had been erected in 1349 by Giovanni Visconti, an important figure for Garegnano and for Milan, because the archibishop and Lord of Milan. It was build 4 km outside the city walls to allow the monks complete isolation and meditation space. It is said that few years after its foundation, it hosted the one and only Petrarca, attracted by sense of peace and serenity the church offered. Many paintors participated at the decoration of the church, the most important being: Bernardo Zenale, Daniele Crespi and Simone Peterzano, maestro of the famous Caravaggio between 1500 and 1600, the main years of prosperity of the church.
Once you enter the church you become somehow hypnotized by the peaceful atmosphere and by the beauty of the paintings. I could then understand the comparison with the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The ceilings were all decorated with vivid colors portraying different episodes from Christianity and the various saints. The altar was beautifully disposed still with the decorations from the Via Crucis, exposing the various silver statues of the saints to the visitors. The external part of the church when still occupied by the monks was way bigger, including 4 cloisters and yards, each of them having a different role.
Now the big cloister doesn’t exist anymore, but Mr Roberto took us through the different “secret” passages in order to show us the remaining cloisters and yards. The certosini monks lived in isolation and medidated most of the day, while the “working” monks were busy with the different jobs meant to provide for the whole place and the people living in it. I learnt that they had access to separate passages due to the internal hierarchy of the church. For one instant while walking through all those secret doors and paths I felt like I had gone back in time and a sense of mystery and solemnity pervaded my spirit. I felt priviledged to have had access to that secret internal and external labyrinth, and I couldn’t thank Mr. Roberto enough for his hospitality, his availability, his story telling and most of all for his passion and devotion to this beautiful place that started 40 years ago and still continues today. Grazie mille!
Next stop: Collezione Branca Museum (to be continued…)
► Visit the official web-site of Certosa di Garegnano
► BikeMI, bike sharing services in Milan
Visit Milan: helpful hints
Italian name: Milano
Milan has got three airports:
- Malpensa Airport is the largest international & intecontinental Airport in Northern Italy. 30 miles Northwest from the city centre. Connections:
→ Train Malpensa Express: trains leaves every 30 minutes in each direction, connecting the Airport to Milan Grand Central Station or Cadorna Railway Station. Terminals 1 and 2. It takes 45 min, price: 14 €
→ Shuttle Bus: Malpensa Shuttle and Malpensa Bus Express connect the airport to Milan Grand Central Railway Station and Milan’s Underground Network. Terminals 1 and 2. It takes 60/70 min, price: 8 €
- City Airport Linate is an international airport connecting Milan with main European cities, located just 4 miles from the city centre. Connections by shuttle: Atm Bus n. 73 from Milano Duomo M1 – M3 (Piazza Diaz, direction: San Babila), first ride at 5.35 am, last one at 00.35. Frequency: every 10 min, price 1,5 €
- Milan Bergamo Airport Orio al Serio is mainly low cost flights Airport, located 30 miles Northwest from Milan. Connections only by Shuttle: There are 4 different bus companies, pricing changes from 5 up to 8 €
ATM is Milan public transport service both for bus, tram and subway. Single ticket costs 1.50€ for 90-min ride. Consider daily/weekly subscriptions. You can buy tickets also texting to 48444. Milan Subway is the longest in Italy, covering 95 km: Donwload and check the map.
Moving in town can be nice also by bike: Milan has got a powerfull bike sharing service providing both regular and e-bikes. Here is the experience of our Ambassador Kim Harding with BikeMi service and a useful video of our Ambassador Roxana explaining how does it work. Car Sharing is also good with many different companies to choose.
Try also the local urban railway train, called Passante Ferroviario, check the experience of our Ambassador Roxana Iacoban travelling by local train in town.
What to do in Milan
Milan is the Italian financial center and one of the European capitals of Fashion. Known for its nightlife as well.
Some tips on Italia Slow Tour: watch our web serie about Leonardo da Vinci’s places, climb on top of the Duomo, visit Prada Foundation, Museums and Art Galleries, taste some fine gelato and try the local Aperitivo and – not joking – enjoy a sailing trip (!!) or some time deep in the nature close to some actual farms and fields.
Where to sleep
Accomodations are quite expensive in Milan, fares rise up and hotels get full according to the rich event calendar of the city (see: Fashion Week, Salone del mobile, Big concerts, Theatre and Sport events, etc.). If you are not specifically interested in any of those, try to travel during other periods to save some money.
Italia Slow Tour recommends:
- Hotel Cervo in Garibaldi District if you want to stay close to city centre and enjoy the nightlife
- Hotel Concorde located on the Green Way Milan-Lecco to Lake Como, if you want to move around adn travel by bike
Shopping in Milan
The famous Fashion District involves the following streets/areas: Via Montenapoleone, via Manzoni, via della Spiga and Corso Venezia. The so called “Quadrilateral of Fashion”. Here you can find all kind of brands and shops. Easy to reach by Subway (stop at Montenapoleone station).
Don’t miss the Street Markets! Almost every day you can find one: best are the ones in Viale Papiniano (on Tuesday) and Via Fauchè (on Saturday). More on the official website of weekly street markets. If you are into sustainable local products, Milan has got 8 actual farms in town and a green Earth Market.
If you are interested in Outlet Shopping, in the outskirt of Milan you can find 4 different Fashion Outlets, in a radius of 62 miles. Here you can find everyday a lot of famous high quality Italian brands on sale, with prices cut off up to 50%. All the outlets are connected to the center of Milan by Shuttle Bus:
- Serravalle Designer Outlet – Shuttle departure from Milan Central Station or Cairoli square
- Fidenza Village Outlet Shopping – Shuttle departure from Piazza della Repubblica 5, at the corner with Turati st.
- Vicolungo The Style Outlets – Shuttle departure from Cairoli square
- Rodengo-Saiano Franciacorta Outlet Village – Shuttle departure from Cairoli square