Guest post by Jessica Spiegel of WhyGo Italy.
While Milan may not be on everyone’s list of must-see cities in Italy, it’s a common entry or exit point – finding cheap airfare to Milan is sometimes easier than finding cheap flights to Rome, for whatever reason – so many travelers find themselves with a day or two in Milan and no idea what to do there (other than see The Last Supper).
Milan is famous for many things – fashion, banking, and opera among them – but this busy city isn’t known for its green spaces. They do exist, however, and they can be a welcome break in between visits to museums and churches – especially since they’re free.
Parks & Gardens in Central Milan
The green spaces listed here are all either within Milan’s city center or easily reachable from the center via public transportation. The larger parks are often used for carnival-like festivals during the summer months, when residents spend as much time as possible in the parks instead of their stuffy apartments, so be on the lookout and join in the fun.
The map shows the approximate location of each park on the list with its accompanying number; the red star indicates the Duomo and the blue star indicates the main train station.
- Parco Sempione – The Parco Sempione is the most popular with visitors, primarily because it’s adjacent to one of Milan’s attractions – the Castello Sforzesco. The park covers more than 385,000 square meters and (in addition to the trees, ponds, meadows, and walkways) includes a playground, a civic arena (rugby games and track events are held here) and the city’s tiny aquarium. As a bonus, the whole park is covered by free WiFi!
- Giardini Pubblici – The next-largest park in the city center is the Giardini Pubblici, or Public Gardens. If you’re shopping along Corso Buenos Aires or staying in Milan hotels near Centrale station, the Giardini Pubblici isn’t far away. It’s more than 170,000 square meters of parkland, and was Milan’s first communal park. Near the gardens there’s a Museum of Natural History (Museo Civico di Storia Naturale) and a Planetarium, so it’s not just about the greenery.
- Parco delle Basiliche – In the southern part of the city center in the Navigli neighborhood, there’s a small park that has two churches in it, hence the name “Park of the Basilicas.” Poke your nose into both the Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio and the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, located at opposite ends of the park, and connect the two visits with a stroll through the green space.
- Giardino della Guastalla – Milan’s oldest park is Giardino della Guastalla, created as a private garden in 1555. It opened as a public park in 1939, and covers about 12,000 square meters. The highlight of this small garden is its Baroque fish pond, but there are also walking paths set up through the garden so you can see the variety of plants and trees grown there.
- Parco Solari – Southwest of the Duomo, just outside the imaginary inner ring encircling Milan’s city center, lies Parco Solari. At only 60,000 square meters it’s a far cry from the city’s major parks, but it’s still relatively popular because of its covered swimming pool. This is another park with free WiFi throughout the grounds.
- Parco Baravalle – In the southern part of the city, just inside the ring road surrounding Milan, is the 42,000 square meter Parco Baravalle. The park is close to the Bocconi university.
- Parco Ravizza – Just a short walk from the Parco Baravalle is the 35,000 square meter Parco Ravizza. These two parks are too small to truly escape the noises and smells of the city (especially as they’re so close to a major road running around Milan), but they’re a nice bit of green space – especially for residents in the area.
- Parco Formentano – Another park just inside the ring road is Parco Formentano, in the eastern part of Milan. It covers a bit more than 72,000 square meters and includes a large fountain, playgrounds, places to play basketball and volleyball, enclosed dog runs, and covered bocce courts.
- Parco Guido Vergani & Giardino Valentino Bompiani – Between the Parco Sempione and the old Fiera grounds in the northwest corner of Milan’c city center lies a narrow stretch of green space that is actually two small parks that are more or less connected. Taken together, they cover nearly 88,000 square meters, and include walking/jogging pathways, a fountain, a playground, an area for dogs to run, and even a “mobile kiosk” selling snacks and drinks.
Parks & Gardens a Bit Further from Central Milan
If you’re up for a bit of a longer excursion from Milan’s city center, there are several other parks (including some quite sizable ones) not far away. These include:
- Parco Forlanini
- Parco Lambro
- Parco Nord
- Monte Stella
- Parco La Spezia
- Parco Agricolo
Although it’s in Italian, you’ll find information about every single park in Milan on the city’s “Parchi e Giardini” page – use Google translate to get a rough approximation of what’s being said.
About the Author: Jessica Spiegel is Portland-based travel writer with BootsnAll Travel Network, for whom she writes the WhyGo Italy travel guide. She didn’t expect to fall in love with Milan when she first visited, but fall in love she did. Milan is a compact, walkable city with a fantastic public transportation network and a grand sense of style. It’s not for everyone, but if you have to be there for even a short time here are some things you need to know about Milan before you arrive.