The place where the walks of St Francis and St Benedict meet
Milan urban railway tour: Santa Maria della Fontana
Discover this unbelievable quiet place full of art treasures
by Roxana Iacoban
After having been hypnotized by the “Collezione Branca” Museum and its wow effect, we headed on foot towards a well known sanctuary, at about 1 km distance from Via Resegone: Santa Maria alla Fontana. We were never let down by the great VisitMilano app, so we reached our destination in no time. I was immediately curious about the name of the Sanctuary and I kind of sensed that the word Fountain had a certain significance to it. All I had to do was ask our lovely host and guide, Maura Ciccardi who was more than prepared on the topic.
We started the visit from the outside, in this curious shaped yard. I immediately found out that the place we were standing on was a naturally carved hollow, and that it was paramount to the Sanctuary for many many years. It used to be filled with water that was coming from a natural spring. When the church was built, in 1500, the place it was built on was far from the city and surrounded by a rural landscape, with woods, fountains and no inhabitant. Starting from the 1520’s the rich Milanese families were known to have travelled to the Sanctuary’s water spring when ill, seeking for cure. Now in the hollow there is no water, due to the many fires and changes coming after the wars and conflicts, but there is a fountain with many taps inside the church where people still come and drink in search for a cure. I guess the magic lies within each person’s belief and no doubt if you truly believe in something, it can come true.
There are some legends about who designed the project of the sancturay, and the mystery revolves around 4 famous people: Bramantino, Cristoforo Solari, Amadeo or the one and only Leonardo Da Vinci. The proofs make us believe that the architect was one of the latter two. Maura gave us some curious insights about the different evidence. What captured my attention were the beautifully painted affrescos from the ceilings to the sides of the church, its round shape and it’s illuminated spaces due to the glass made doors that surround the church.
There is evidence of the antique origin of this sacred place even inside the sanctuary: the affrescos at every corner at the entrance space are original and date back to the 1500’s and portray different scenes from the Nativity. The ceiling is original and it is full of symbolism. Even its red color makes us think of a “hospital” because the predominant color of such a place in that time. Maura then took us into another space, that hosted the superior church and altar and that was absolutely amazing. The altar is original from the 1500’s and the paintings and ceiling affrescos were absolutely breath taking. The floor in front of the altar is original too, made of different types of marble and with colourful patterns. The church gave me a sense of calm and peace of mind that I just had to stop for a second and enjoy that moment of quiet. We said goodbye to Maura and thanked her for her great help and continued our journey.
“Isola” by night
The night was young and we were excited to know more about the “Isola” (The island neighborhood) which seems to be turning into a very hip place for the Milanese nightlife: an alternative to the Navigli. After having had some rest, we were ready to explore the Isola by night and we met with my friend Ezgi who lives in Milan and also recommeded the area. We headed towards Frida, a known hip place for aperitivos and nightlife. Despite the rain, there were many people out on the streets and inside various pubs and clubs.
A lot of live music coming from the different bars, people having good laughs, having quick bites or enjoying a cocktail. We opted for the cocktails first at Frida, but since it was Saturday the place was packed, so we decided to change place and have a quick bite and some wine. The night was still young, but we had a long day ahead of us the following day: Villa Necchi, Nocetum and Chiaravalle Abbey. So we headed towards the hotel and had a goodnight sleep, with the sound of music still playing in our years…
(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