A crossroads between urban and rural Milan
Milan urban railway tour: Collezione Branca Museum
Not just a brand but a great Italian story and a wonderful place to visit in Milan
by Roxana Iacoban
Having said goodbye to Mr Roberto and the beautiful Certosa Church in Garegnano, we headed back to the suburban railway station at the Certosa stop and took the train towards Lancetti stop. Another option would have been the BikiMI bike sharing service (yellow for normal bikes and red for electric ones), but due to the bad weather we went for the so called Passante Ferroviario. I was really excited about this visit because of my background in business and because of my love for Italy and the made in Italy. I knew about Branca-Fernet as it is an internationally well known liquor brand, but I had no idea that in Milan there is an entire Museum dedicated to the greatness of this company.
After getting off at the Lancetti stop, using our now familiar VisitMilano app, we walked about 200 metres and there we were in Via Resegone. We spotted the Branca Logo on the side of this old building that resembled a factory. “A factory downtown of Milano?”, I thought. It had a vintage look to it, so I wasn’t at all expecting to see a lot of activity in there. We met Gianfranco and his wife at the reception, and my attention was immediately caught by the commercial adds dating back to 100 years ago on the walls of the entrance hall. I thought I had seen those before somewhere. Marco Ponzano and Fabio Podestà welcomed us soon and were to guide us through the whole museum. I was very curious to learn more about what was so special about this company and how was it different to other multinational companies.
Discover the Collezione Branca Museum
We were welcomed inside the museum but what laid ahead of us didn’t seem at all like a museum to me. In my lattest traveling years I tended to avoid the typical museums, because anonymous and frivolous most of the times. I always preferred some local person telling me about the place I visit to a museum. Well, The Collezione Branca Museum feels like a home, cozy and warm, unlike any museum I have ever seen. Of course the guide helped giving it a familiar touch. Marco is an incredibly charismatic guide and very good at giving insights and also telling visitors curiosities about the company and its long lasting history. You could see a sense of pride in his eyes when talking about this company and I immediately understood that it is a sort of company where everyone feels part of something, contributing to the well being of it and at the same time feeling protected and by it and always proud to be a part of it.
As I learnt from Marco, the history of Branca-Fernet dated back to 1845, when Bernardino Branca together with a mysterious Swedish apothecary called Fernet, came up with the liquor that was to fight against malaria and cholera. So initially a medicine that saved thousands of lives, a liquor made of tons of spices and herbs, became thanks to the Branca brothers and the generations to come in years what we see today: a trendy high quality liquor consumed all over the world in different ways. While in Italy people drink it as a digestive, after dinner, in Argentina it is absolutely loved in a combination with Coca Cola, therefore a long drink, at happy hours.
Aware of the impact it already had worldwide and its success, they called in famous artists to work on the logos and the adds. In 1893, Leopoldo Metlicovitz came up with the most recognizable logo: the eagle that grabs the globe with its claws. The eagle was a sign of strength and the fact that it held the globe, it symbolized its international success and presence. What really surprised me was the fact that although a family owned company, Branca-Fernet didn’t start as a small company, but it had over 300 employees right away, after which it become bigger and bigger. We took a long stroll along the museum corridors and on both sides we could admire the original tools used in production, the reproduction of 1800’s offices, the original logos and illustrations of different periods to nowadays, the different spices, the uniforms of the various employees and the collection of the bottles (both original and fake). I thought that the fact that there are shelves where all the fakes are kept and exposed as genious, because only the best have the priviledge of being imitated.
Branca doesn’t only make the amaro, but also grappa, the Borghetti liquor, Branca Menta, Vermouth, Brandy, and others. What I found unique and quite rare nowadays compared to other companies, is the fact that despite its huge production and international distribution, Branca remained a family owned company that still respects the made in Italy brand and the original recipès and high quality ingredients. It is hard to remain uncontaminated when you reach those high numbers and demands, not only production wise but also value wise. It seemed like Branca was able to preserve the shared values of the company and spread them throughout its employees. I finally got a chance to have a taste of the Branca liquor when we reached the Bar. Marco guided us through the tasting process and we had it in 3 sips. But I won’t reveal too much, you should try it out yourselves!
We then went downstairs, to see the production process, the packaging, the bottling and labeling. Too bad words can’t transmit scents, but if I close my eyes I can still smell all those perfumes: from the spices and herbs of the Branca liquor, to the sweet honey like scent of the brandy, and the coffe like one of Borghetti. A feast for our senses! I could go on and on for a lot more, but I don’t want to spoil it for you guys! All I can say is that it is definitely worth visiting because of its uniqueness: an almost 200 year old liquor factory in the heart of Milan! We finally said goodbye to Marco and Fabio who gave us a book on the amazing history of the Branca company and warmly shook our hands goodbye. It was hard coming out to the real life after this fable like excursus.
But another place was waiting for us: The Santa Maria della Fontana Sanctuary. (to be continued…)
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