Curiosities and revelations on the less trodden paths.
The author Manuela Alessandra Filippi described it as "Italy's most irreducible and secret city". Milan has a charm that many people would agree is far more understated and reserved than the striking, eye-catching allure of a city like Rome.
Milan's appeal is somehow private, something to discover on tip-toe: it's there in the courtyards of the many classical residential blocks whose apartments are accessed from the railed balconies that run right around the inside of the yard on every storey, behind apparently anonymous entrance doors that open onto surprising city-centre treasure chest gardens. To tell the truth, this is a characteristic that can easily be found in many other towns and cities in Italy, which share an abundance of excellence so great as to become - paradoxically - sometimes almost invisible.
That's the kind of excellence that we want to invite you to discover for yourself, following our special Route of Secrets, an itinerary that ventures out from the capital of Lombardy, down along the old Via Emilia, revealing a host of unexpected surprises.
In the labyrinth of streets that criss-cross behind Corso di Porta Romana, in one of Milan's quietest and most elegant neighbourhoods, explosive multi-coloured graffiti have been appearing in the last couple of years. They are the work of three Milanese artists who have made their names in the world - Pao, ivan and Orticanoodles - acting on behalf of the Istituto Gaetano Pini. The Wall Art project has covered about one thousand square metres of walls between Piazza Cardinal Ferrari, via Mercalli and via San Calimero with works of street art dedicated to the city and its famous inhabitants, including Franca Rame, Enzo Jannacci and Giorgio Gaber.
Piazza Cardinal Ferrari and surrounding streets
Lucio Fontana, Emilio Vedova, Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi: over the years, Antonio Boschi and his wife Marieda Di Stefano built up an incredible collection, a heritage that has been shared with the public since 1998, when the house where they lived in the Porta Venezia neighbourhood became a museum. If you were just passing by, you might never suspect that one of the many great doors to the elegant Art Nouveau buildings in the area opens onto a fine collection of twentieth-century art and period furnishings, one of the most important in the whole city.
Via Giorgio Jan, 15 - Milan
open from Tuesday to Sunday
10.00 am - 6.00 pm
Who would ever imagine that a visit to the Stadera neighbourhood, built on the southern fringes of Milan in the 1920s to provide housing for the poor families who were evicted from other neighbourhoods, would provide an opportunity to see the permanent work of one of the world's leading twentieth-century artists? Since 1996, the Chiesa Rossa (Red Church) has been home to one of the last works completed by Dan Flavin before he died. The work in question is an installation of neon tubes: blue in the central nave, gilded in the apse and red in the transepts.
Via Neera, 24
Founded in the fourteenth century as an austere fortress and remodelled in the following centuries as an elegant stately home, the Castle of Soragna, in the low-lying plains near Parma, is a historical monument with so many reasons for a visit. But make sure you don't linger too late of an evening in the beautiful salons finely decorated with frescos and stucco... Legend has it that the place has been haunted since the end of the sixteenth century by the ghost of the mysterious Donna Cenerina.
P.zza Bonifacio Meli Lupi, 5
open from April 1st to October 15th
9.00 am - 11.00 am, 3.00 pm - 6.00 pm
from October 16th to March 31st
9.00 am - 11.00 am, 2.30 pm - 5.30 pm
Established in 1770 and covering a total of 11 thousand square metres, Parma's Botanical Gardens' open-air areas and those housed in the glasshouses designed at the end of the eighteenth century hold some 2,000 different plant species, both native to Italy and exotic, ranging from the majestic Maidenhair tree (gingko biloba) that dominates the entrance to the perfectly ordered Italian garden to the delicate Parma violet, a flower that is symbolic of the city's long-established and celebrated tradition for perfumery.
Strada Farini, 90 - Parma
open from Monday to Thursday
9.00 am - 1.00 pm; 2.30 pm - 5.00 pm
Friday 9.00 am - 1.00 pm
Eighty-one intermittent lights go on and off at the same rate as you breathe, while eighty-one loudspeakers knit together voices that are barely whispered, in memory of the eighty-one people who lost their lives in one of Italy's great unsolved mysteries. The Museum of Memory for Ustica, in Bologna, houses the remains of the DC9 airliner shot down in the skies above the island near Sicily in 1980, accompanied by an evocative permanent installation by the French artist Christian Boltanski, who is also responsible for the entire exhibition space design.
Via di Saliceto, 3/22 - Bologna
open from Friday to Sunday
10.00 am - 6.00 pm
Continuing in his family's tradition of working as antiquarians, Paolo Badesco has created a boutique where everything commonplace is out of bounds, leaving room only for the extraordinary: the material on display in this space in Corso Magenta (and now also in a more recent showroom in via Palermo) comprises eccentric and original furnishings and accessories, but also everyday domestic objects that spent time languishing unexpectedly in disuse, but have now been restored to their functions and old splendour. The atmosphere where you can find all of this is welcoming, but unfussy, straightforward and direct. In a word: raw.
Corso Magenta, 96
open from Tuesday to Saturday
10.30 am - 2.30 pm; 3.30 pm - 7.30 pm
Monday 3.30 pm - 7.30 pm
When Prohibition held sway in an interwar America ravaged by the Great Depression, clandestine speakeasy bars did a roaring trade. Often hidden behind the façade of an apparently legitimate business, they were places that thrived on word-of-mouth recommendations. Milan now has its very own locale, 1930, the city's only speakeasy. True to form, it has no official address, no sign on the street front and no website: the décor and cocktails are all pure old style, while the menu changes every four months, introducing tasty novelties. Access is by invitation only: its creators are the owners of the Mag Café, in the area of Milan's Navigli, or canals.
Corso Indipendenza area
A spry, elegantly dressed gentleman sporting a tidy white beard does the rounds of Milan's Brera neighbourhood astride his bicycle. Who would ever guess that he is one of Italy's leading tattoo artists? A set designer for Milan's La Scala opera house and several other of Europe's most important theatres, Gian Maurizio Fercioni opened his tattoo parlour in 1970, where he uses a machine to create his tattoos, but also does some by hand, using an traditional Japanese technique. His parlour, which is also home to a little museum crammed with memorabilia, is frequented by all the Milanese international set...
Via Mercato 16, Milan
open from Tuesday to Saturday
3.00 am - 7.30 pm
Truffles, cheese, bacon and rosemary are just a few of the flavours you can choose from when you get your pop-corn from Bamama, Italy's first-ever shop devoted entirely to the classical cinema snack. And there's no doubt that it answered to a need: since first opening in Bologna in 2014, it has already launched a second outlet in the same city and recently also ventured out towards Turin.
Via Fossalta, 3/A - Bologna
open from Wednesday to Sunday
1.00 pm - 8.00 pm
Via Indipendenza, 33/A
open from Monday to Friday
11.00 am - 8.00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am - 8.00 pm
These two water towers were built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were eventually abandoned and ultimately recuperated for use as a new cultural locale in 2009. We are in Budrio, a score of kilometres from the centre of Bologna, and it is here that this unusual piece of industrial archaeology is enjoying a second lease of life as an exhibition venue, as well as hosting concerts and other live events. Together with Villa Bighi in nearby Copparo (Ferrara) and the Remo Brindisi house museum in Comacchio (Ferrara), the Water Towers constitute a micro-circuit devoted to design and creativity.
Via Benni, 1 - Budrio (Bologna)
Lower Dens - Escape From Evil, 2015
art pop: the refined side of singer-songwriter pop, with Beck sounds and in the Beach House style
Trembling Bells - The Sovereign Self, 2015
acid folk: the Velvet Underground of folk music will surprise you with this album crammed with evocative hints
Jones - Happy Blue, 2015
singer-songwriter: Miracle Mile's lead singer is back with a very convincing solo project
Majical Cloudz . Are You Alone?, 2015
Ambient: another singer-songwriter, this time in the style of Morrisey, accompanied by a synthesiser and lounge atmospheres
Tale of Tales
by Matteo Garrone (2015)
width Selma Hayek, John C. Reilly
Inspired by Lo Cunto de li cunti (which also means The Tale of Tales), a Neapolitan collection of fairy tales compiled in the seventeenth century, this film is a colourful allegory of Love. Set in imaginary kingdoms, it is populated by characters out of dreams, suspended midway between magic and mystery.
La produzione di meraviglia
A professional poker player, a loner and eccentric to the point of verging on monotony, falls for a bored femme fatale who is going through an identity crisis. Their resulting relationship is a nightmare, a sequence of tormented chases and continuous misunderstandings that is underpinned by the fragile balance of a special pack of cards.
The routes of flavour
Verona - Milano - Firenze
Perfumes and aromas of typical fine food and wine products.
The routes of knowledge
Varese - Milano - Mantova
Cultural, historical and artistic treasures to be found in each area.