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Squares and Gates

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Tourists who visit Milan for the first time will initially find it difficult to find their bearings, especially if they are used to living in a town with a Roman plan. Given the Medieval structure of Milan, it is easy to understand that initially there were few squares and that the present ones are all due to the designs made during the Neoclassical period and the XIX century, which literally razed to the ground whole blocks in order to carve out the necessary space. The story has it that simply clearing the Piazza del Duomo was a titanic task because people continued to pass through the church building site with their carts and animals just as they had always done.

Another curious fact concerns the fountains: for reasons of space, Milan has always had very few. For instance, the fountains you can admire in Piazza San Babila have all been installed recently. The prettiest are the little fountains in the public gardens, which the Milanese call, slightly ironically, "vedovelle" or "little widows", as they never stop gushing water. The central plan of Milan might make it difficult for you to organise your movements; but there are a few tricks that will enable you to find your way around with aplomb in every situation. It helps to imagine a pie cut into slices on a platter. Each wedge represents a particular city quarter, which gets wider towards the outskirts. Near the centre of each slice imagine a circular cut, the so-called 'circonvallazione interna' (or inner ring road), which surrounds the historic centre proper. Bus 94 covers this circular route, which coincides with the ancient Roman city walls. The many bus stops along the route make it easy to walk to the main sights, such as the Duomo, Teatro alla Scala, Piazza San Babila, Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio and Piazzale Cadorna.

The edge of the platter, instead, is the outer ring road, which coincides with the XVII century Spanish city walls. Compared to the Roman walls, of which few traces remain, many stretches of the Spanish walls are still visible, and in some cases they still contain the gates into the city. Each gate gives access to one of the wedges of the pie, and therefore into a quarter that is named after the gate itself: so Porta Venezia, Porta Romana, Porta Vittoria, Porta Genova and Porta Nuova are synonymous with famous places. Trams 29 and 30 cover many parts of this larger, or "outer", ring road. Nowadays you no longer pass through the gates, although people arriving in Milan from the Autostrada will notice that the bypass leads to the access closest to their destination quarter. When you exit the Autostrada del Sole, for instance, you will find yourself in Corso Lodi and then at Porta Romana, while if you arrive from the A4 you will be close to the area of Porta Venezia. To sum up, the golden rule to remember is that all the roads lead to the Duomo. The other trick to remember is this: if you find yourself in a road or avenue that you don't know, follow the house numbers in descending order. As the lowest numbers are those closest to the historic city centre, however far away you are, sooner or later you will come to sights and streets that you recognise.

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Squares and Gates Tourism Office, via Dogana, 2
20123 Milan, Italy

Tel
+ 39 0288464454

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