We advise you to get there by tube, on the new “lilla” (purple) line (connected to all the other lines) and get off at Isola stop… Now you are in the Isola neighbourhood. You will soon forget the hubbub in the city because this is a very quiet area!
But why do you call it Isola? There is no sea, neither a lake nor a river that could have maybe created an island… Actually its name refers to the fact that, more than 100 years ago, the area was isolated from the rest of the city due to the railway crossing it. This isolation, nearly tuned this area into a town by itself, where all the families of factory workers lived. Even though nowadays things have changed, Isola has unique stories to tell.
Anyway, are you still outside the tube in Via Volturno? What are you waiting for? Go to Via Confalonieri towards Via Borsieri and start enjoying your stroll, you will not want to leave anymore! At the crossroads turn right in Via Borsieri and go straight on… Now you should start feeling the atmosphere of this small town… Look around you: workshops, shops, bars… You are walking along Isola backbone, the old main route from Milan to Como… On Saturdays you will be swallowed by the local market, full of colours and perfumes.
Once in piazza Minniti look at how beautiful and colourful the houses on the right of Via Garigliano are… Right under the yellow one there is Pizzeria la Coccinella that offers you the possibility to eat outside, in this lovely Piazza. From piazza Minniti, you will notice that via Borsieri is more and more filled with trees, going away from Milan chaos and fenzy, which is around this peaceful “island”. After the traffic light, on your left, don’t forget to stop for a drink at the Nord Est Caffè, your friends may want to browse through newspapers and magazines whilst sipping a good coffee!
After Piazzale Segrino, go straight on, although the road changes name the direction is still the same… you are in via Thaon de Revel… If you are curious to see how your parents used to dress when they were younger you can go at n. 4 and have a look at a funny little shop with excellent prices, Live in Vintage, if you are passionate about motorbikes, in front of it, you will find one of the most famous clothes and accessories shops. Officine Mermaid Store with its own workshop – close to the shop – where you can have your bike fixed… You may see some beautiful Harleys, unique specimen parked outside! If you haven’t had lunch yet, we suggest Delicatissimo fine food where you’ll find first-quality food, straight after the Mermaid store.
Up ahead, on the left hand side, you can find a “bicycle-fixer” Igor Bike (in case you are riding your bicycle and its chain suddenly falls off!); straight after there is a biological food shop, MioBio and then, for a lovely meal you can stop at Osteria al 9… Have lunch here is a pleasant experience! Head-on don’t forget to have a look at that cute children shop, so interesting and colourful, Girotondo.
At the crossroads on your left, you cannot miss the beautiful Chiesa Alla Fontana, whose name refers to an old legend. Before taking a left in via Boltraffio and bypassing the church, we want to suggest you another place where you can stop for an excellent pizza and more besides. It’s always full up, both at lunch and dinner, but it is worth a try! We are talking about Pizzeria alla Fontana, via Thaon de Revel, 28. On the other side at n 21 we advise you to visit Fonderie Napoleoniche (Napoleon Foundries), where a long time ago bronze was melted to create statues you can see all around Milan, like horses and knights placed at the centre of the city squares!
In via Boltraffio, on the same side of the church, a red banner points out Teatro Sala Fontana where, during the weekends, there are shows for children – of any age – on… Book beforehand! Just across the street go to via Ceverchio, back to the skyscrapers at your starting point. In via Alserio n 9, you will find a beautiful risto-family, the ideal place for couples with children.. Its name is Pollicino!! Now pass via Alserio and you’ll find yourselves in via Pollaiuolo… At the following corner, at the crossroads with via Ugo Bassi, a beautiful brasserie will take you straight to Paris! You are in front of Omlette&Baguette…. And if you haven’t eaten yet, this is another great occasion! Leave behind Via Pollaiuolo and go on in Via Ugo Bassi till you reach piazza Fidia, make a U turn and you will find yourself in the most distinctive part of via Porro Lambertenghi, going back towards via Pollaiuolo.
At n.12 of via P. Lambertenghi you’ll see Miele, a very beautiful, clean and tidy place where you can leave your little brothers and sisters with mum or dad. If they are tired of walking they will have loads of fun and if they’ve brought their bathing suits they can have a jump in the pool!
If it’s time for a break or you are thirsty after the walk and you may want something special and fresh, here you can find shakes made of fresh fruit or various juices. On the contrary, if you would like to have something more filling, you have to try Antichi Sapori: a delicatessen with dishes and products straight from Campania.
Further on, on your right, at n 20, whilst mum is giving a look at the fresh pasta shop la Pastaia, you can’t miss Book. This is a very particular bookshop with illustrated books – new, old and most of them unobtainable – for all ages! At the back of the bookshop there is a door… On Saturdays some workshops for children are organized… Maybe you’re lucky enough to see one of them right from the beginning.
At the crossroads, keep going on – towards the skyscrapers – to via Pollaiuolo… On your right, straight after a beautiful building that looks like a castle, there is a ruined boundary wall… But don’t be misled by its appearance and go in to have a look… This is Frida, a bar where kids a bit older than you come later at night to have a drink, they really appreciate it… But don’t worry! You can go in along with your parents and – only on Sundays, not on Saturdays – have a brunch! Anyway, if you are not hungry, on the left of the courtyard there’s a very nice and peculiar small shop that sells vintage, artisan and biologic clothes. It is called, Particelle Complementari, a very curious shop your mum will certainly enjoy!
At the end of Via Pollaiuolo, you’ll find yourselves to be in piazzale Archinto, a pleasant, tree-shaded, little square… Weather permitting you’ll be able to sit outside the bar/tavern la Cantinetta and enjoy your deserved rest…
Now you can end your tour through Milan unique neighbourhood, getting closer and closer to the skyscrapers shining on their own. We advise you to go straight on in via Pollaiuolo and at the crossroads with via Pastrengo – if the front door is open – take a look at n.12! In this distinctive courtyard you can see three artisan workshops: bottega di Lorenzo Lippi – an artisan luthier who manufactures mandolins-, bottega di Elena del Cortivo, producing artisan parchment decorations and bottega di Simona Colombini, where old wood, metal, textile and stone objects are refurbished.
Now, until works will be over, you will have to walk up the pedestrian ramp starting in Via Castillia. If you have your walk at dusk and the weather is fine, you can’t surely help taking pictures of these glass and steel giants that are so close to the “town” you have just left behind… Many good and bad things have been said about them, but there is no need for you to know any of it… For now just enjoy the great contrast between an area where time seems to have stopped and this new one where these impressive new buildings -with no tenants at the time being – are located.
That very tall building – the tallest in Italy, looking like an unrolled piece of paper – is the Unicredit building, to be exact Unicredit Tower, a very important bank with its brand new offices… Unrolling down to the street it shapes a square named after Gae Aulenti (she was a very famous architect with huge glasses!) where many businesses are located – some still under construction and some already open…
We can tell you for sure that you will be able to taste a good ice cream at Grom, have a look around Muji if you love the essential Japanese style, do your shopping at Esselunga, have a look at the huge Nike Store or go to the brand new RED Feltrinelli that opened last September… Everything else, alas, is up to your imagination since the only thing you can see behind those huge barriers are cranes at work!
What we know for sure is that the old and the new district will be connected by beautiful gardens with beautiful trees, squares, paths and small bridges, so that it will be possible to walk around without ever crossing any road… But for now, it is impossible to exactly describe what you will be able to see… Some of the most attractive buildings have almost been completed, such as the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Garden) near Isola neighbourhood, Torre Solaria (Solaria Tower) – 143 meters high – and Torre Solea (Solea tower)which is a little shorter. Near Milan city centre you will find: palazzo della Regione (the Region Palace), Casa della Memoria (the House of Memories), torri della stazione Garibaldi (Garibaldi station towers), and Incubatore per l’Arte (Art Incubator) where all the artisans of the area will meet up…
It may be early in the afternoon or time for a dinner and you will probably be a bit tired… Your visit is over… We are sure you will come back and visit this area, a bit to enjoy Isola quiet atmosphere and a bit to see, out of curiosity, how the building of this district – to date, the biggest one in Europe- is going on… Therefore keep your photos, and the next time you will come you will see what has changed!
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