Hidden Gems In Milan: Discover Milan Like A Local

Milan is famed for being the fashion and design capital of the world, with Milan Fashion Week held there annually. It’s also the second-largest city in Italy, located in the northern Lombardy region. But these aren’t the only reasons to love or visit this city. From art and culture to historically significant attractions and incredible food, there’s an abundance of secret sights to explore. Milan is also easily accessible by train from other cities in Italy!

If you want to experience a different side of this magical city, check out our local guide on the hidden gems in Milan.

Palazzo Dal Verme

Palazzo Dal Verme

Hidden between modern buildings, the Palazzo Dal Verme is a Renaissance gem. It used to be a noble residence of the 15th century, built by Luigi Dal Verme. The inner courtyard remains for anyone to explore its unique architectural harmony, including frescoes covering the cross vaults. Although the facade of the building was hit during the 1943 bombings of World War II, the courtyard survived as a historical wonder with Renaissance decoration.

Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa – Church of Bones

San Bernardino alle Ossa is a church in Milan, northern Italy, best known for its ossuary, a small side chapel decorated with numerous human skulls and bones

Although there are plenty of significant churches to explore when visiting Europe, the Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa, or Church of Bones, is a unique experience. It’s well known for the impressive ossuary with bones and skulls covering the walls in various designs and decorating the doors and pillars. The contrast against the vault with frescos from Sebastiano Ricci adds to the 

These 13th-century bones are mostly from people who died in prison, local graveyards, and the patients of the ancient local hospital, Ospedale del Brolo.

La Vigna de Leonardo – An Ancient Vineyard 

Step into an ancient vineyard where Leonardo da Vinci used to relax. The Duke of Milan, Ludovico Maria Sforza (Ludovico il Moro), gifted the area known as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vineyard to the artist in thanks for the admirable works he completed for the duke. In fact, the duke had commissioned Leonardo to paint the frescoes, including the Last Supper, for the Santa Maria Delle Grazie church nearby. 

The small plot land that makes up the vineyard is located in the gardens of the Casa degli Atellani, a place Da Vinci used to stay. The house itself is worth seeing when in Milan as an architectural masterpiece by architect and engineer, Piero Portaluppi.

Duomo di Milano Rooftop Terrace

Duomo di Milano, or Milan’s Cathedral, is one of the world’s largest cathedrals and a beautiful example of Renaissance architecture. While many people may know about the cathedral as a popular attraction, the hidden gem lies in the Duomo’s rooftop terrace. Enjoy stunning views over Milan while standing amongst the intricately carved gargoyles, spires, and statues. For an even more special experience, plan your visit to the terrace just before sunset when the lighting is the best for beautiful photo opps. 

Cascina Nascosta Sustainability Park 

Cascina Nascosta is a “sustainability park” or farm nestled among the Parco Sempione greenery. It’s rare to find a space like this in the middle of large cities, making it a fascinating hidden gem to explore. The cascina is dedicated to projects on environmental education, local agriculture, culinary experiences, and sustainability. There are laboratories, a multipurpose room, an educational garden, and a restaurant called La Latteria di Cascina Nascosta. 

You can enjoy seasonal meals from breakfast to dinner at the restaurant that links the city and the nearby countryside. La Latteria di Cascina Nascosta is also uniquely a renovated old farmhouse.

Flamingos at the Palazzo Invernizzi

Walking down Via Cappuccini in Milan’s Quadrilatero del Silenzio neighborhood, you’ll reach the private residence, Palazzo Invernizzi. Although not a public museum, you can look through the majestic gates to see the unexpected sight of flamingos living in Milan. Spot them lounging in the mansion’s gardens or balanced delicately on one leg. The story behind the flamingoes is that animal-lover and dairy mogul, Cavalier Invernizzi, brought them to Milan during the 1970s. Their descendants have been living in the mansion ever since, properly cared for and with little reason to leave. It’s a fascinating sight to see while traveling in Italy‘s fashion capital. 

Cimitero Monumentale – A Cemetery like No Other

While you might wonder why you would visit a cemetery, the Monumental Cemetery, or Cimitero Monumentale, is a stunning free spot that’s filled with beautiful artworks and historical meaning. Spend hours at this peaceful place, shaded by tall trees, that’s more like an open-air museum than a cemetery. 

The cemetery opened in 1866 and was designed by Carlo Maciachini. Take a stroll back in time to see the abundance of sculptures, artistic tombs, and elaborate mausoleums. You can also visit the architectural wonder of the Hall of Fame, featuring tombs of honored citizens, large gothic rose windows, and decorative geometric and floral motifs. 

Orto Botanico di Brera – A Green Oasis 

Escape the city crowds and relax in the secluded oasis of the Orto Botanico di Brera. This botanical garden is 5,000 square meters of greenery, flower beds, and big trees, ideal for meditation and contemplation. The garden is part of the Brera Palace and is operated by the University of Milan’s Istituto di Fisica Generale Applicata. It’s also located in the trendy district of Brera, where most of the locals hang out. 

Bosco Verticale – in the Heart of Porta Nuova 

While traveling to new places, unique sights like the Bosco Verticale is a hidden gem worth visiting. Also referred to as the Vertical Forest, it’s a sustainable residential building and project by Boeri Studio, featuring two towers covered in plants and trees. The building is meant to absorb dust particles and carbon dioxide while producing oxygen. The building is located in the heart of the Porta Nuova district, has a height of 111 and 76 meters, and contains over 900 trees. 

You can admire this architectural wonder from the nearby park. A picnic as you take in the view is recommended!

Casa Maiocchi’s Optical Illusion Mural 

A 5-story apartment building built in 1920, Casa Maiocchi gives you a glimpse of Barcelona in the middle of Milan. Gaudi’s lines inspired street artist Cosimo “Cheone” Caiffa, who created a mural on the side of the building. It’s a fascinating optical illusion that appears to be in constant movement, making the building appear alive. Cheone is well-known for his hyper-realistic, 3D interactive pieces sprayed on walls and entire buildings throughout Milan. 

You can get to Casa Maiocchi by taking a stroll along one of Milan’s most beautiful walks from Crocetta down Corso di Porta Romana. Just a 5-minute walk away is also the Santa Maria della Visitazione – a Cathedral church and historical landmark in Milan.

L.O.V.E Statue – Sending A Loud Message 

Sometimes your next adventure can be found in a fabulous photo opportunity with an art installation that shares a loud message. The L.O.V.E statue located in front of the Milan Stock Exchange is a unique piece featuring a giant middle finger saluting Italian bankers. The statue’s name stands for Libertà, Odio, Vendetta, and Eternità, translated as Freedom, Hate, Revenge, and Eternity. It was erected not long after Italy fell into a financial recession and is strategically located as a gesture to the financial sector that contributed to the devastation. People also believe the statue has anti-fascist roots. 

The Navigli – Canal Cruise and Flea Markets

Navigli is one of Milan’s most colorful neighborhoods, located around a 35-minute walk from the historical center. If you have the time, take a stroll there instead of public transportation as there are plenty of beautiful monuments along the way. Featuring Italian palazzos and the charms of the historic canals dating back to the Middle Ages, the neighborhood is filled with gourmet restaurants, quirky bards, and riverside boutiques. 

When visiting Navigli, you’ll want to explore the flea markets on Sunday for a hidden gem to purchase. You never know what you’ll find among the numerous unique and beautiful arts and crafts pieces. You can also book a cruise along the canals for a different experience of Milan. 

Enoteca Naturale – Wine Lovers Paradise 

Living and traveling abroad means you need to experience a taste of the local offerings. If you’re a wine-lover, you’ll love drinking natural wine in Italy at Enoteca Naturale. Taste original and unconventional wines in a rustic and inviting setting. If you’re unsure what to order from their huge wine selection, the waiters are very knowledgeable with their suggestions. This natural wine bar is located near the Navigli in the gorgeous setting of the Park of the Basilicas, or Parco delle Basiliche. Known as one of Milan’s most beautiful plazas, the area comes alive at night with dramatic lighting. 

Luini’s Historical Bakery for Panzerotti

Most remote workers living in Milan know you haven’t experienced the city’s cuisine without trying a panzerotti at Luini’s. A panzerotti is an Italian delicacy similar to calzones but features a crispy outer dough and is filled with a combination of Italian flavors, including mozzarella, tomato, and ricotta. Luini’s is a historical bakery where the founder came from southern Italy to bring this delicacy to Milan over 50 years ago. This small kiosk-like store is located behind the Duomo and nearby other food options, including Cioccolati Italiani gelato.

Tour Milan’s Street Art and Galleries 

Finding a unique experience in Italy, sometimes involves a guided experience to tour the various artistic sights. Milan is home to a vast treasure trove of art, including boundary-pushing venues with contemporary and innovative pieces. Take a tour of the private art collections, art galleries, and street art that is reshaping the city. Some of the fascinating street art murals you don’t want to miss, include:

  • The Centro Sociale Zam chameleons that are an emblem of the area 
  • The Fabbrica del Vapore mural celebrating “20 Years of Freedom and Democracy” dedicated to Nelson Mandela
  • The Istituto Tecnico Pasolini mural dedicated to Italian women who contributed to women’s rights 

Il Patuscino Nightclub 

Even after the sun goes down, Milan offers plenty of fun in the electric nightlight, from underground clubs to rooftop lounges. One of the best places for an elegant night out is at Il Patuscino. This 1980s-looking nightclub features live music and a laid-back atmosphere. However, once the clock hits midnight, expect a dance party with people dancing on tables and enjoying the mix of 80s, 90s and pop music. 

Armani Silos – a Fashion Speciality Museum 

As Italy’s fashion capital, Milan doesn’t offer only Fashion Week to enjoy the genius of Italian fashion designers. The Armani Silos specialty museum celebrates over 40 years of timeless style and elegance with the permanent exhibit of Giorgio Armani’s creative works. You can explore an overview of the designer’s career through his most notable creations from 1980 to the present day. There are 3 floors of collections, separated into the categories: Androgynous, Ethnicities, and Stars.

Madonna of the Apron – A Surviving Fresco

Last but not least on this list of Milan’s hidden gems is the painting of the Madonna del Grembiule, translated to Madonna of the Apron. This fresco gets its name from the story of a group of men rebuilding the church of Santa Maria alla Porta where it is housed. A wall gave way to reveal the dust-covered painting of the Madonna and one of the men used their apron to wipe away the dust and reveal the stunning fresco.   

Madonna of the Apron is situated by the remains of the alter and is located outside the chapel that was destroyed in the 1943 bombings. The chapel’s marble floors have been covered for preservation as it waits for funds for a complete restoration.