Turning your back on the Duomo, keep walking on the right hand side and head straight to Via dei Mercanti, it is a pedestrian area and it is worth a visit! You will immediately spot the square, it is surrounded by three beautiful buildings: Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason), Casa dei Panigarola (Panigarola’s House), Palazzo della Scuole Palatine (Palace of the Palatine School) and Loggia degli Osii (Osii’s Loggia)… Go back to 1200, more than 800 years ago when people feel they need a meeting place to talk about politics, economics and justice.
This is the right place: Broletto area is the most ancient in Milan and rumour has it the Gaul King Belloveso, after crossing the Alps found the magical animal he saw in his dreams, a half-furred (in medio lanae in Latin) sow, which is nothing but a wild boar… The name of the city derives from this legend: Medio-lanae…Mediolanum….Milan… Is it true? Who knows! This is only one of the many interpretations of the origin of the city name, but never doubt! Between the second and the third arch of Palazzo della Ragione there is a statue of a strange animal, can you see it? That’s the boar!
Just climb another 5 steps and you will find yourselves under a beautiful colonnade, which is part of Palazzo della Regione and that was the Court of law: here is where justice was dispensed. Furthermore, from Palazzo degli Osii balcony, the so-called parléra, sentences, punishments, trials and laws were announced… Do you see the eagle? That is the symbol of justice!
Pay attention not to entrust somebody with a secret here because someone on the other side may hear you, even though you are whispering! There are some holed columns and if you talk or whisper close to them, the person standing on the opposite side of the arcade – next to a holed column too – will perfectly hear what you are saying! It is said this was a device used by merchants and the people to communicate without being seen!
On the contrary, nowadays everyone shouts on his/her phone in the middle of the street!
Panigarola’s house was the archive of the city, indeed they wrote down everything that happened in the city, sentences, trials and much more. They knew everything and since there were neither computers nor recorders, they had to pay attention, have a good memory and good handwriting and many notebooks to write on! Finally, Palatine schools… Well, you don’t need us to explain what a school is, do you?
If you want to have a short break, be careful because you are in one of the most expensive areas of the city… You are in Milan city centre, the most tourist and expensive zone… So take our advice to avoid any unpleasant surprises, both in terms of spending and quality!
If it is lunch time or time for a snack, and you don’t want to waste time, you should stop and have a panzerotto at Luini, in Via Santa Redegonda. You can stop in Via san Paolo, 15 where you will find the Antica Focacceria San Francesco: high-quality Sicilian delicacies, perfect for a quick and tasty lunch.
Then go to Via Cappellari, 3. Whilst having a stroll take a look at Humana Vintage, a shop selling second-hand clothes of the 60s, 70s, 80s. The earnings will be allocated to poor countries in the southern part of the world!
Piazza dei Mercanti
piazza dei Mercanti, Milan
how to get there:
tram line 1, 2, 12, 14, 16, 27
tube line M1 Cordusio/ Duomo or M3 Duomo