Saint Ambrose is the parlour of Milan, the one where children in blue and white smocks line the pavement holding their nanny’s hand, where the elegant sciure (literally “ladies” in milanese dialect) sweep-by walking their puppies and a few boutiques with minimalist display windows brighten the tree-lined streets with the discreet sparkle of jewels and unlikely clothing.
An area overflowing with history and art, where – within a couple of square kilometres – one can admire secular masterworks like The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, a basilica with abundant mosaics and a splendid university that draws thousands of students each year.
Saint Ambrose is home to science and culture. Visitors are enchanted by the Cenacolo (the Last Supper) of Leonardo da Vinci, a small masterpiece hidden in the Dominican basilica of Santa Maria dell Grazie, between Corso Magenta and Corona station. Discover the rewards of knowledge by walking through the halls of the Museum of Science and Technology, which, with more than 400,000 visitors each year and an area of circa 500,000 square metres, can be considered one of the leading scientific museums in Europe and the rest of the world.
A little farther along, the great basilica of Saint Ambrose dominates the neighbourhood with its atmosphere of calm and prestige. Built between years 379 and 386 where the Christian martyrs were buried, then remodelled in Romanesque style in the thirteenth century. It is a festival of mosaics, with a mosaic image high in the apse of Christ Pantocrator blessing a gathering of the faithful.
If at the exit you are swept away by a river of girls with books, don’t be afraid: Around the corner is one of the most important Italian universities – The Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, a former Benedictine monastery – that took on the role of a university in 1932 but kept its two Bramantesque cloisters; today a symbol of the athenaeum, where a small garden offers a corner of peace to the ‘young lady students’.
Every day the university is visited by tourists and passers-by who, drawn in by an irresistible curiosity to know what lies behind the walls of the complex, move through the cloisters, immortalising the student’s moments of tranquillity and recalling memories of the olden days, of a youth already past.
When hunger gnaws at you, stop at the Bar Magenta for a Milan-style aperitif alongside the young hipsters that crowd the square even during cold winter evenings. For a more substantial dinner, a visit to the Osteria La Carbonaia (in Via Carducci) or a plate of fresh, hand-pulled pasta a few steps from the Columns of San Lorenzo (in the artisan boutique Buongusto) will make your stay in Milan among the most pleasurable.
These “Colonne” – as the Milanese call them – are one of the most interesting hangouts for local night life; a pedestrian area where you can spend the whole day scouring shops, restaurants, bars and a lovely park. The Park of the Basilicas, which takes its name from its function as a link between the San Lorenzo Basilica and that of Saint Eustorgio, is a suitable area for an evening spent with friends.
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