Many, many years ago in the period that is called After Christ, Milan (Mediolanum) was a Gaulish city ( do you know Asterix and Obelix?)… Until the Romans decided to definitively conquer northern Italy and chase these populations away… That was when Milan, sorry, Mediolanum became fully a Roman city and when, in 300 after Christ, the Diocletian emperor, decided to split the roman empire into two parts because it was too vast to be controlled: Mediolanum became home to Marco Aurelio Valerio Massimiano Erculio, also called Massimiano, that had his palace, basilicas, circuses and spas done… There is very few evidence, however it will be enough for you to learn something more about Milan!
Now walk along and follow the roads and paths we will advise you, discovering a side of Milan you did not know! Start your journey through time from Porta Romana(Roman Door), where everyone coming from Rome would pass through to enter Milan… But be careful, what we now call with this name in piazza Medaglie D’oro, was not the proper entrance to Mediolanum. What we call “door” (porta in Italian), was just an archway beneath where there was the main road to the real entrance to the city, at the corner with via Maddalena, near Piazza Velasca.
Have a nice stroll and imagine that during the Roman Empire, this road, taking you straight to piazza Missori had on both sides long colonnades and many many workshops and people toing and froing. To date, the area has kept this feature and you will find many shops down both sides. If you are too lazy you may want to go directly to Piazza Missori taking the MM3 line, because there, we want to show you the first traces of the Roman Milan.
Do you see those ruins? You have arrived at the Cripta di San Giovanni in Conca (Saint John crypt). It’s the crypt of an old Roman basilica but now there isn’t much left… Just imagine that the entire facade of the church was carried to cover another church in via Francesco Sforza! The remains of the mosaic floor are now stored in the Archaeological Museum that you will see later!
Now go to via Unione and in a few seconds you will find yourselves to be in via Torino… The round-shaped building will catch your eye: this is the ancient Tempio di Vesta (Vesta Temple) where the holy fire of the city was guarded! The holy fire always had to lit, and to assure that Vestali protected it! These lovely young ladies had to be very careful because if the fire would have put out, they would have been sentenced to death, however, since they were sacred, nobody could have killed them: they had to be buried alive! Terrible!
Today it is a deconsecrated church and if you want, you can go in and admire the paintings that represent the entrances to the city how they used to be. If it is lunch time and you might want to have something special to eat, here right by the side of the church you will find, Govinda!
Now, go to via Valpetrosa and you will find yourselves to be in front of another former Roman basilica, San Sepolcro and behind it Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (Art gallery) a few years ago some important remains were found in the vaults: the ruins of the Foro Romano – the throbbing heart of Mediolanum! You can go and see these remains freely on the first Saturday of every month or in groups of maximum 15 people, by calling and booking! You can only see a hint of the real size of the piazza, but we assure you that the remains are beautiful!
Then going on to via del Bollo and via Fulclorina, you will get to piazza Affari where, in the subterranean of the Chamber of Commerce and of Palazzo Mezzanotte you will have the chance to admire the remains of the ancient Teatro Romano… You go in from via San Vittore al Teatro 14, but careful about opening and closing times, they are quite strange!
Carry on to via San Vittore al Teatro and then in via Santa Maria alla Porta until you cross via Meravigli… If you are hungry and you haven’t eaten yet, here there is an excellent small restaurant, Ristorante la Colonna (more: bakery Dalla Pagnotta – Isola della Piadina).
Walking down the last part of via Santa Maria alla Porta, on your left, you will surely have noticed something strange… The ruins of the old Palazzo Imperiale built by Massimiano… But don’t stop there now, we will go back there later, after visiting the beautiful Archeological Museum, where every doubt will be removed!
Here you are at the crossroads with via San Giovanni sul Muro where, a long time ago, there was another entrance to Mediolanum, Porta Vercellina. Close by, if you want something sweet to eat, you can find one of the most famous and historical patisseries of Milan, Pasticceria Marchesi… It is beautiful just simply to look at… It is not very cheap, but if you parents want to go in and drink a coffee, have a look around! And don’t miss Zucca Stregata, where you will not find to eat, this is a very nice shop!
Continue to Corso Magenta 15, and enter the Archeological Museum! Surely after having visited it, you will better understand what you saw and what you have not seen yet! Coming out, you will know that close by there was a huge Circus, built by Massimiano… Now you know what “circus” referred to during the Roman Empire, obviously not the one with animals and clowns! It was similar to a modern hippodrome where knights on horseback and two-horse chariots rode…
Now that you are outside, instead of going down Corso Magenta again, turn left into Via Nirone, take another left into via Ansperto and you will find yourselves to be right in front of the Palazzo Imperiale… Massimiano, wanted to build it right close to the Circus so that he could easily see the shows that went on inside.
Continuing down via Brisa towards south, you will get to via Morigi 2 and if you look behind the gate, you will see a mosaic floor belonging to this era… Now continue towards via Torino and once you are there, go towards Corso di corso di Porta Ticinese… (In Via Morigi you will find an excellent tavern: Taverna Moriggi. Otherwise in you may want to stop at Ostello Bello in via medici, which is not far from here.)
Do you see those columns down there? That is the Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore… The columns have actually been brought here from somewhere, we actually do not know, but they surely belonged to some Roman buildings and put in front of this beautiful church. Furthermore, there is a bronze statue of Constantine, Roman Emperor.
Now we advise you to enter the cathedral, rest a bit and admire these ancient views. There are some comfortable benches and if you are a little hungry, this is the place to be. In front of you there is Ristorante Pizzeria Pizzeria Old Wild West, in Via san Pio IV the Cantina della Vetra, and in Via delle Pioppette Rotisserie&Delicious.
Going straight ahead to Corso di Porta Ticinese, you can taste an excellent pizza at I Fratelli la Bufala and if you want to walk just a bit more we suggest you Giordano il Bolognese, a tavern to try!
After visiting the cathedral of San Lorenzo Maggiore go to Via De Amicis 17 and don’t miss the Parco Archeologico dell’Anfiteatro, a garden where silence and tranquillity rule! After leaving the park, go to Corso di Porta Ticinese again… This is a very calm area, in Via Arena and Via Vetere you can hear a pin drop! Now, going straight to Corso di Porta Ticinese, you will reach Sant’Eustorgio Church where your journey through time ends… You will see the remains of an early Christian cemetery, marking the end of the pagan culture.
Now you are free to run, play, enjoy a snack or have lunch if you haven’t eaten yet! You are inside Parco delle Basiliche, have fun! If you want to go back to your starting point, reach the Cerchia dei Navigli (via Molino delle Armi) take the 94 bus and get off at the Santa Sofia/San Calimero stop… You now are in Corso di Porta Romana… Where all people coming from Rome entered the city…
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