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).

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Eight of Italy’s most beautiful free public beaches

Stay cool this summer without spending a fortune at one of Italy’s many free public beaches.

Eight of Italy’s most beautiful free public beaches

With more and more of Italy’s nearly 8,000 kilometres of shoreline being taken over by private lidos, it can cost a pretty penny to spend a day at the shore.

But if you are one of the millions on a budget, the good news is that many of the country’s most idyllic beaches remain free to access.

Italy’s spiagge libere (free beaches) are those that don’t generally provide much in the way of services, although some may offer basic amenities such as bathroom facilities and snack bars.

If a public beach is located adjacent to stabilimenti balneari (private bathing clubs), these businesses are usually happy to rent loungers and umbrellas to non-members – though the fees are increasingly steep.

It goes without saying that Italians love il mare, so free areas often fill up quickly, especially at the weekends and in the month of August.

To secure your own little patch of sand, be sure to get there as early as possible.

Fiordo di Furore, Amalfi Coast

Located in the village of Furore between the towns of Amalfi and Positano, this scenic beach is one of the most beautiful on the Amalfi coast.

The gorge boasts an enormous overhanging rock (hence the name ‘fjord’) with buildings that hug the cliffs of the town creating a cosy cove.

Completely free to the public, there is the possibility to hire sun loungers and umbrellas at a lido. Get there early in the mornings if you are a sun worshipper, as the sands are cool and shady in the afternoons.

Fiordo di Furore beach on the Amalfi coast. Photo by Stijn de Vries on Unsplash

Marina Piccola, Capri

The island of Capri is famous for drawing the rich and famous to its shores, but not so much for its beaches.

An exception is this sparkling little pebbled gem, which sits below Mount Solaro on the southern coast of the island.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches in 2024?

Accessible by foot via a twisting path, the harbour is split down the middle by the Scoglio delle Sirene, or Sirens Rock (named for the legendary temptresses in Homer’s The Odyssey, whose seductive voices lured sailors to shipwreck against the jagged rocks).

Take a dip in the magical place with the iconic I Faraglioni rock stacks as a backdrop.

Torre Canne, Brindisi

A Blue Flag award-winner, Torre Canne is touted for its natural beauty as well as the stunning views of the Torre Canne lighthouse.

Located within the Dune Costiere Park, this part of the coastline is characterised by fine, soft sand and rolling dunes dotted with lush Mediterranean vegetation.

Sperlonga, Lazio

The long and narrow beaches of Sperlonga are divided between private bathing establishments and no-cost public sands.

Located between the Riviera di Levante and the Riviera di Ponente, it is just under three hours by train or around two by car from the centre of Rome.

Sperlonga beach, southern Lazio. Photo by Giacomo Alonzi on Unsplash

Buca delle Fate, Livorno

In a small bay near the Tuscan city of Livorno is where you will find Buca delle Fate. Meaning “hole of the fairies”, this gorgeous beach seems almost wrapped in green.

It can only be reached by a narrow dirt footpath – a trek worth the extra effort, for once your towel is spread, you will enjoy an untouched oasis overlooking the islands of the Tuscan archipelago.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The Italian beaches you might want to avoid this summer

Spiaggia di Levanto, Levanto

Found 80 kilometres east of Genoa, the beaches of Levanto extend from Punta Mesco to Valle Santa, on the border with Bonassola.

Mainly made of pebbles and small stones, in front of the large arches of the main promenade there is a strip of beach used to pull in fishing boats.

This is one of the largest free sandy beaches in Levanto. It features a very shallow sea bed that stretches pretty far out from the shore.

It is the perfect beach for building sandcastles and bouncing beach balls. In other words, it’s ideal for kids, young and old.

Torre Salsa (nature reserve), Agrigento

One of Sicily’s wildest beaches, boasting golden sands and turquoise waters, Torre Salsa is located between Siculiana Marina and Ericlea Minoa within the protected Nature Oriented Reserve.

There are several beaches and small coves here, as well as the main spiaggia libera, a nudist beach (Spiaggia Naturista) and Costone Bianco, a white gypsum ridge much like the Scala dei Turchi.

The trade-off for discovering this pristine paradise is there are no facilities or lifeguards.

Spiaggia di S’Orologiu, Sardinia

This crescent-shaped beach made up of fine yellow sand is backed by the island’s characteristic Mediterranean scrub.

Situated in the area in the central eastern coast of Sardinia known as Tortolì, the beach is almost a kilometre long with an average width of approximately 34 metres. It is more than capable of accommodating as many as 4,000 beachcombers quite comfortably.