This Traveling Writer’s Guide To Milan was created specifically with the needs of a writer in mind. A traveling writer needs to know the history of a city, where to find inspiration, a great place to write, and a great place to lay their head. That way all your energy can funnel into creating!
The city of Milan was founded around 400 BC by the Insubres, a Gaulish population. The Romans conquered the settlement in 196 BC and renamed it Mediolanum, which means ‘sanctury’. This was due to its strategic location between important commercial routes, as well as topography which allowed the Romans to defend themselves from the Germanic tribes.
Milan has been in the hands of Celts, Romans, Goths, Lombards, Spaniards and Austrians. In fact, one of the landmarks the Arch of Peace was originally ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte as a triumphal arch and entrance to the city. However before construction was finished, he abdicated the throne and Austrian forces took Milan in 1814. The Arch was finished by the Austrains who turned the horses atop the arch 180 degrees to face to turn their backs towards France as opposed to facing it.
Fast forward 100 years, and Mussolini founded the fascist party in Milan in 1919. His followers created numerous strikes, harassed sectors of the population, and assaulted the worker’s newspapers, repressing the worker’s committees.
In 1944, anti-fascist groups in the north of Italy organized a northern Liberation Committee and Milan was freed from German troops in 1945. After World War II, Milan became a prosperous industrial city with a large working class.
Presently, Milan is the second largest city in Italy and the wider Milan metropolitan area has a population of over 8 million people. It is Italy’s main industrial, financial and commercial centre and along with Paris, is Europe’s fashion and design capital.
This library was founded in 1607 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo. It was one of the first libraries to give access to anyone who could read or write. The library holds more than a million volumes including books dating back to the 16th century, as well as manuscripts, drawings by Leonardo, maps, and other artifacts.
To enter the library you will need to buy a ticket for the museum which will lead you to the library.
Alessandro Manzoni is one of Italy’s most famous writers. He was the author of The Betrothed which was the first novel written in modern Italian as opposed to dialects. Casa Manzoni is the birthplace of the author who was born in 1785. The building stands as a museum dedicated to his life and the Historical Lombard Society. In the house you will find his study filled with the books he read, his writing desk that overlooks the garden, and the room where he passed.
Construction of The Milan Cathedral began in 1386 and the final details were completed in 1965. It took a total of 579 years to build. The massive structure is a work of art, containing 3400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures. Earnest Hemingway was wounded in Milan during World War I and was treated at the American Red Cross hospital near the Duomo and his time there inspired Farewell to Arms. The Duomo was also described by Mark Twain as “a poem carved in marble”.
This magnificent structure was built in 1865 and is the oldest shopping mall in Italy that is still used today. It is housed within a four-story double arcade in the centre of town. Stroll through the decorated floors and walls, have a cup of coffee or glass of wine in one of the ornate restaurants.
Opened in 1953, the museum holds the largest exhibition dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci in the world. Among these include recreations from his drawings. Although he was not a writer, his genius is sure to inspire creativity.
Built in 1778 and renovated in 2002, this theater is one of the leading Opera houses in the world. The cost of the renovation was over 60 million euros. Many of the greatest singers in the world have not only performed but premiered there.
The Milan canals are known as the Navigli, a system of 5 canals connecting the different neighborhoods. The canals are barely used for transportation however you an take a boat tour or walk or dine along the canals to feel as if you’re in Venice.
Braidense National Library
This beautiful library is one of the largest in all of Italy. It can be difficult to enter the library and you will need to request a pass online. There are many reading rooms and beautiful architecture with high ceilings and walls lined with books.
One of the unique aspects of this bookstore is the cafe where you can enjoy coffee and treats as you write. The perfect place to gain inspiration while you write.
This bookstore is located in the Navigli area where the canals give a unique facet to the city. Like the other bookstore, there is a cafe where you can sit and write with coffee and pastries.
A casual second hand book store where you can not only write but enjoy coffee, wine and light fare.
This ornate cafe is located within the Galleria. Here you can feel comfortable sitting with your work while enjoying food and wine overlooking the beautiful architecture and people watching.
This massive park is a great place to find a shaded bench or patch of grass to bring your work.
Where To Stay
This hotel is not overpriced but very beautiful, with balcony rooms overlooking the city. A unique features of the hotel are the lounge bar and panoramic rooftop where you can bring your work and soak in the views of Milan.
Much of where you visit in Milan can be walked to, however you can very easily take an Uber as well. Milan also has a modern transit system of subway lines, trams and buses.
When To Go
The best times to visit Milan are April to May or September to October. The summer months are incredibly busy and in an Italian city it is nearly impossible to escape the high temperatures.
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