Those who believed in magic were brought to trial, tortured or most commonly burnt alive! You actually must know, that for over 400 years, everything that was not fully comprehended, that was unknown or did not have an apparent explanation was considered to be EVIL… And therefore condemned. So many innocent people were judged, tortured and burnt only because they were considered different in their appearance or way of thinking!… This shameful part of our history is called the Inquisition… But this is another story and you will be told about it at school… Let’s focus on Witches in Milan… Did they really exist? Women expert in magical rituals, poisons and love potions?
Even if you don’t believe any of this, try to use your fantasy and cross without fears the places where these witches were said to dance around, live and practice their magic… Who knows, maybe if you look up into the sky you might see one passing by! Start you itinerary in Via Laghetto next to Università Statale… It is a beautiful area of Milan now, however some time ago it was considered a place where bad people lurked around… It is said that in this area, once upon a time, there was only a big forest… Then, during the Duomo construction (Piazza del Duomo) a little water course was created to move the huge white marble blocks – so that the boats from the Naviglio, could get closer to the building site. Now we have solved the first mystery!
Anyways, right here – in Via Laghetto 2 – lived the most frightful witch. Her name was Arima!
It is said that at night, she organized parties and banquets, prepared potions, danced on the top of the roofs with her disciples and then flew to Piazza della Vetra!
This area had a bad reputation too, due both to its inhabitants and to its decay, filth and smell you could perceive just by passing by… People kept quite far away from these places saying a lot of bad and supernatural secrets were hidden here, whilst there actually was only filth and poverty. When the plague reached Milan, the city found itself to be in a bad situation… The Black Death was spreading very quickly but around Via Laghetto area, no one, neither man nor woman was infected. Not finding an explanation to this, people started thinking the witches were keeping the disease away with their magic. Actually, the truth is different… But wait, don’t be too impatient!
In the meantime, if it is lunchtime you can have a break and try to imagine how this area looked like 400 years ago… There was a little port, big boats docked to be unloaded, misery and poverty, but a flurry of activity too!
Decide, depending on the whether and how much time you want to spend, whether have a seat (PizzaPazza, Original Pizza OK, Pizzeria Griglieria Flash) or grab a bite to go (Antica Salumeria del Laghetto, Caffetteria Santo Stefano, Margy Burger) sitting down on a bench in Largo Richini, while admiring the old Milan hospital (Università Statale) where plague-stricken were sent!
Whatever you have chosen to do, it is time to go on to Piazza della Vetra to discover where witches were tortured until they confessed their sins and then burnt alive in front of the audience claiming justice! It would be nice if you could go there flying just like they did, but now, times have changed, so you will have to take public transportations. Bus 94 is perfect… This itinerary was once covered by boat… Tell the driver to dock, well, sorry, to stop in front of Parco delle Basiliche (Basilicas Park) and enter the park on the same side of Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence Church).
Here skinn tanners worked, the Vetreschi‘s, they were called like this because they immersed the skins in the waters of the Vetra, a flow of water coming from the Navigli and flowing in front of Via delle Pioppette. The smell was terrible enough that it kept far away passers-by, thus becoming an isolated and disreputable area perfect for executing people and burning witches as well! But what happened exactly during an execution? The unlucky, either witch or wizard, walked tied down to Via delle Pioppette, crossed a little wooden bridge upon Vetra canal and reached the scaffold.
Don’t you think it was terrible? The worst thing is that under the charge of witchcraft, most of the times, people confessed due to the tortures and many people were executed in front of a large audience! However, not all the inquirers got away with it! Now, we would like to take you close by, in Piazza Sant’Eustorgio, (the other basilica of the park) so that you can see that what goes around comes back around…
Exit the park on this side and take via San Pio IV towards Corso di Porta Ticinese and go straight on till Piazza Sant’Eustorgio that you will find on your right, exactly on the opposite side of the park.
Cross the beautiful church square of Basilica di San Lorenzo in front of the Roman colonnade… Walk beneath the archways of the old Porta Ticinese, pass the traffic light and head on looking around, this is a very particular area… The traffic is limited and it may apparently seem a bit shabby but actually full of tradition and charm.
From Via San Pio IV, to Sant’Eustorgio, you will see in a row workshops, bars and restaurants and if you want to have a stop either for a break, lunch or a snack, you will be spoilt for choice…
(Cantina Della Vetra, Impronte d’Autore, Ristorante Pizzeria Old Wild West, PortNoy Cafè, Rotisserie&Delicious, Rossopomodoro, Grom, Pizzeria del Ticinese, Ume ristorante giapponese, Mica-michetteriamilanese, Gelateria – Creperia Le Colonne, La Voglia, Vineria76Salumeria, California Bakery, Natural Bakery, Life Lost in Food Experience)
Remember that there is a beautiful park, so decide whether spending your time at the restaurant or in the park, surrounded by greenery whilst eating.
Can you see that statue on the column? That’s what we want to focus on! Do you notice something strange on the man head? He has a sword stuck into his brain! Who is he? He was Pietro da Verona, an inquirer monk who sent so many innocent people to be executed, that one day he was ambushed and he was wounded in revenge! Now, you can take a stroll far from the traffic, walk along the basilica and go back to the park where you can run at breakneck speed… Or, if you are curious enough, you may want to listen to the reason why the people living in Via Laghetto never got infected!
As we told you at the beginning, big ships carrying blocks of marble arrived there. This material was unloaded, cut and moved to the Duomo that at the time was being built. Marble dust settled everywhere especially on the skin of the people, making them immune to flea attacks that, at the time, brought the plague around…
Secret unveiled. It was very simple, wasn’t it? So, as they say do not judge a book from its cover… Don’t judge too quickly someone you do not know… Most of the time there is an explanation, you just need to look for it! Outside the gates you will find yourself once again at the bus 94 stop and you can decide to go back to your starting point. Maybe you will be more and more convinced that witches do not exist, but you will surely have crossed a big part of the history of your city, without a desk or some books, but with your fantasy only!
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