Cloisters and hidden gardens: the beautiful soul of Milan

You won’t fall in love with Milan in one day. Patience and curiosity are essential to discover its most authentic beauties. For those who can understand it, the bustling city of fashion and business has in store pleasant surprises made of silence and harmony, hiding behind walls and gates. Cloisters, courtyards and gardens are treasures in which the play of light and shadows create striking contrasts. The cloisters of convents and old monasteries, the luxurious patrician houses courtyards, are an alternative route to discover “the other Milan”, an oasis of peace and wonder.

In the shadow of the Madonnina (little Madonna), we find natural and architectural sceneries that are simply spectacular, like the cloisters of San Simpliciano, St. Barnabas, St. Ambrose and that of the Catholic University, the courtyard of Palazzo delle Stelline and the one of the Museum of Science and Technology… Only less than twenty cloisters of ancient monasteries and convents remain today, out of the over seventy there were in the eighteenth century.

Fontana del chiostro di Santa Maria Delle Grazie

The tiniest one open to the public is that of Santa Maria delle Grazie, to which you access from Caradosso street. A small work of art, adjacent to the larger Bramante cloister with a central circular fountain and, all around, paths between boxwood hedges. Almost opposite, in Corso Magenta, two other historic courtyards adorn Palazzo delle ex Stelline, housed in a former monastery of the Benedictine Sisters of Santa Maria alla Stella in 1578 and transformed in “hospital for the poor, beggars, and shameful” by Saint Charles.

Continuing down Corso Magenta you meet one of the two cloisters of the San Maurizio monastery. What once was the convent of the Benedictine order perhaps the oldest of Milan, now has become the courtyard of the Civic Archaeological Museum. You recognize it by the pines and Japanese magnolias hedges. The two large cloisters today belonging to the Museum of Science and Technology are open to the public as well, with remains of Roman walls that since 1057 have been places of meditation for Olivetan monks of the monastery of San Vittore al Corpo.

Chiostro di San Simpliciano

The beauty of the hidden courtyards of San Simpliciano, 3 Cavalieri del Santo Sepolcro street next to the homonym Basilica, is little known even to the Milanese. Here was once a Benedictine monastery, that later became home to the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy. The Great Cloister (2 via dei Chiostri), home of the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy, is particularly worth a visit. They say that you won’t find roses more beautiful than the ones that are here.

Another “secret” marvel to visit in Milan are the Cloisters of St. Barnabas (48 via San Barnaba), now perhaps best known as home to the Humane Society. It’s a former Franciscan convent of the fifteenth century which covers an area of ​​almost 9 thousand square meters. A true pearl of the Renaissance architectural heritage, a few steps from Rotonda della Besana, Sormani library, and Piazza del Duomo. There are four Cloisters: the Statue one is the first you come across when you are coming from the long driveway of Via San Barnaba and is characterized by a wooden platform in the middle of the garden and two blooming magnolias, as well as the statue of the first of the century (hence the name) behind the small fountain. The Cloister of Pisces is the largest and is marked by a stone basin, already present at the time of the convent, where fish live, and a huge weeping willow. Then there are the Cloister of Memories, the smallest, and the Cloister of the Wisteria, the most peculiar: with its stone floor, it exudes pure poetry thanks to the wisteria climbing up the porch columns and surrounding the inner part of the cloister. Precisely because of their character and atmosphere, the Cloisters today home a coffee/restaurant and are used as an events venue.

Chiostro di San Barnaba

Among the things to see in Milan, do not miss the gardens of two lush villas: the most striking is Villa Invernizzi, near Palestro in via Cappuccini. In its large backyard, dozens of pink flamingos live freely, a spectacle of nature in the city center. In the same area, Villa Necchi is another splendid residence of the Thirties, today it belongs to FAI (Italian Environment Fund), complete with a vegetable garden and fruit trees, carpets of roses, lilies, and a centuries-old magnolia. A postcard of a bucolic Milan, almost beyond belief.


Sweet Dreams – Our selection of palaces, mansions and boutique hotels:

Suitime vista sul soggiornoSuitime Hotel – via Matteo Bandello, 20 Milano

Chiostro di Santa Maria delle Grazie (2)

Villa Necchi a Milano

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