For members


Five of the best ‘hidden’ sites to visit in Milan this weekend

Italy’s usually inaccessible cultural sites will open their doors to the public this weekend as part of a National Trust initiative. Here are five unmissable places to visit in Milan if you’re in town.

Piazza Duomo in Milan
A number of 'hidden' cultural sites in Milan will open their doors to the public on March 25th and 26th. Photo by Ouael Ben Salah on Unsplash

The popular Giornate FAI – nationwide open days held twice a year by Italy’s National Trust (Fondo Ambiente Italiano, FAI) – will be back on this weekend, with a wealth of usually inaccessible historical sites opening their doors to the public on March 25th and 26th.

From private villas and gardens to castles, abbeys and libraries, all of Italy’s major art cities – Venice, Verona, Rome, Florence, Bologna and so on – will give residents and international visitors a unique chance to see some of their lesser-known heritage sites free of charge or, in some cases, via small donations (generally around three euros).

And, while it might not share the artistic cachet of some of the above-mentioned cities, Milan will also have plenty to offer for the occasion as some of its ‘hidden’ artistic gems will be open to all for 48 hours. 

So, from monumental city buildings to private mansions, here are the best five places to visit in the northern capital this weekend.

Palazzo Marino

Lying just a short walk away from the Duomo and facing the iconic Piazza della Scala, Palazzo Marino is one of the best examples of Mannerist art and architecture in the country. 

READ ALSO: Metro, bus or tram: How to use Milan’s public transport

Built between 1557 and 1563 at the behest of wealthy local banker Tommaso Marino, the palace has been the seat of Milan’s town hall since 1861.

But, despite their current administrative functions, Palazzo Marino’s rooms are still home to invaluable sculptures and paintings from Italian art masters, including Giambattista Tiepolo. 

The palace also boasts one of the best courtyards in the city.

Palazzo Arcivescovile 

Sitting right behind the Duomo and facing Piazza Fontana, Palazzo Arcivescovile has been the seat of Milan’s archdiocese since the early 14th century. 

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Milan on a rainy day

All of the palace’s spaces will be open to the public over the weekend, from the majestic staircase that survived World War II bombings to the Curia’s courtyard and the first-floor chapel with its Renaissance-inspired fresco paintings.

Casa di Riposo per Musicisti

The Casa di Riposo per Musicisti (literally ‘Care Home for Retired Musicians’) was built in the late 19th century at the behest of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, who intended it as a shelter for “elderly singers who have not been favoured by fortune”.

Verdi crypt in Milan

A crypt (above) within Milan’s Casa di Riposo per Musicisti holds the remains of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

The building, which faces Piazza Buonarroti in western Milan, is one of the best Italian examples of neo-Gothic architecture and among the best works of architect Camillo Boito.

The Casa di Riposo also displays a number of personal items and manuscripts which belonged to Verdi himself.

Ippodromo di San Siro

The San Siro area is mostly known for the iconic Meazza Stadium, which is home to local football teams AC Milan and Inter Milan. 

READ ALSO: What are the best Milan neighbourhoods for international residents?

But the city’s hippodrome is also located in the neighbourhood.

Bronze statue at the entrance of Milan's Hippodrome

The entrance of Milan’s San Siro Hippodrome features a large-scale bronze horse by artist Nina Akamu. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

Built in the early 20th century, the venue is known for its exquisite Liberty architecture and for the verdant gardens surrounding the racing tracks.

Jockeys’ changing rooms and the saddling area will be accessible to the public over the weekend.

Istituto dei Ciechi

The Istituto dei Ciechi (literally ‘Institute of the Blind’) is an Eclectic-style building located in the Porta Monforte area, just north-east of the city centre. 

Built as a school for blind people in the late 19th century, the institute has undergone various changes over the decades but has retained most of its original artworks, which include fresco paintings from Ferdinando Brambilla and Celso Stocchetti.

The building has also been home to the Louis Braille Museum since 2009 and its Salone Barozzi, which boasts one of the first Italian-made pipe organs, is regularly chosen as the venue for prestigious international concerts.

For further info about the above sites and bookings, visit FAI’s (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) website.

Member comments

  1. La ‘Casa di Riposo per Musicisti’ was the paragon for a lovely movie made in 2012 by Dustin Hoffman, called “Quartet”. ‘Hoffman cited Il Bacio di Tosca’, as a direct inspiration for his 2012 film. “Il Bacio di Tosca is a 1984 film directed by Daniel Schmid, a documentary of life in the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti of Milan, the world’s first nursing home for retired opera singers, founded by composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1896. The New York Times review called it “Bravissimo!” (from Wiki).

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For members


EXPLAINED: How will Venice’s ‘tourist tax’ work?

Venice has confirmed it will trial a long-delayed ticketing system for visitors in spring 2024. But who will the fee apply to and how will it work?

EXPLAINED: How will Venice’s ‘tourist tax’ work?

Venice officials last week approved the trial of a long-delayed ‘tourist tax’ aimed at regulating crowds and lessening the impact of mass tourism on its city centre. 

But the announcement, which reportedly contributed to Venice dodging inclusion on the UNESCO list of endangered heritage sites for the second time, has left many confused as to who the entry fee will apply to, who will be exempt and how the system will be enforced.

Though future changes cannot be ruled out, especially given the project’s troubled history, this is what the city council has said so far about the incoming trial, which is presently scheduled to start next spring.

Who will the entry fee apply to?

The Venice city council has said that all day trippers over the age of 14 will have to pay the fee. But no small amount of confusion lingers over who exactly will qualify as a ‘day tripper’.

In particular, Venice officials describe turisti giornalieri as visitors who don’t “stay in one of the accommodation facilities located within the territory of the Venice municipality”.

READ ALSO: Five essential tips to escape the tourist crowds in Venice

Besides hotels, it remains unclear exactly which other types of accommodation (B&Bs, hostels, holiday rentals, guest houses, etc.) will fall under the ‘accommodation facilities’ umbrella.

Gondola, Venice

A traditional gondola crosses the Grand Canal in Venice. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

Who’s exempt?

Aside from guests staying at the city’s hotels, so far the city has said a number of other categories will be exempt from paying the fee. 

Exemptions will include: 

  • Venice residents
  • People working or studying in Venice
  • Veneto residents (though they may still be required to register their trip online)
  • Second-home owners and their households
  • Partners, parents or relatives up to the third degree of kinship of people residing in Venice 

There are currently no details on how people will be asked to prove they’re entitled to the exemption.

How much is the fee?

Day trippers will be charged a flat five-euro fee to access the city’s historical centre during the 2024 trial stage.

However, it’s likely that this set-up will change once the trial’s over and the ticketing system becomes fully operative. 

As laid out in some of the earliest project plans, the council should ultimately opt for a variable-fee format, with the fee’s amount changing based on the time of the year and the number of visitors expected in the city. 

This means that the fee will be higher in peak tourist season and lower in low season.

How can I pay the fee?

According to the Venice comune, tourists will be required to pay the fee via a new online platform (also available via mobile app) that is expected to become operational next year. 

Venice, St Mark, tourists

Tourists walk across St Mark’s Square, one of Venice’s most popular attractions. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP

The platform will provide visitors with a QR code, which they will then have to show to ticket officers upon entering the city. 

READ ALSO: Five ‘secret’ places in Venice you need to visit

It remains unclear where and how controls will take place, though the city council previously advanced the idea of setting up gates at the city’s main entry points.

Fines for those flouting the rules will range from 50 to 300 euros.

When will the trial start?

The Venice city council has said that the trial will be spread out over up to 30 days during 2024, but officials haven’t yet agreed on exactly which days the entry fee will kick in.

That said, it is likely that the system will be tested on particularly crowded days such as long weekends and public holidays, according to the Venice comune website.