Explore off the beaten path with Milan's best hidden gems

From hidden crypts to tranquil gardens, explore Milan's lesser-known gems with these 10 tips. You'll go beyond the Duomo to uncover Roman ruins.

Forget the Duomo for the day and discover what lies beneath Milan's surface. From real-life crypts to macabre ossuaries, Milan rewards those who veer off the beaten path. Discover this secret side by exploring lesser-known neighborhoods to that transport you to Milan's ancient past. You'll uncover Roman ruins and other landmarks that span centuries.

Even some of Milan's museums and attractions, like the iconic Last Supper, have some hidden gems behind them. See how Leonardo da Vinci relaxed when working on this mural with a visit to his namesake vineyard. From historic cemeteries to ancient churches, check out these secret places for the best hidden gems in Milan.

1. Delve into ancient history at the Crypt of San Sepolcro

First built in 1030, the Crypt of San Sepolcro offers an impeccable time capsule beneath the streets of Milan. Gaze at centuries-old murals and tapestries under torchlight and learn fun facts about this historical marvel.

Highlights:

You'll hear tales dating back to the Crusades and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Discover hidden secrets like Milan's ancient Roman forum.

Address and opening hours:

Piazza Pio XI, 2, 20123 Milano MI, Italy. Open Thursday-Tuesday, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM.

Visit the Crypt of San Sepolcro

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2. Stroll through the Monumental Cemetery of Milan

More than just a typical cemetery, this often-overlooked landmark houses eye-catching Greek temples and ornate obelisks. Discover its hidden secrets and hall of fame memorials. Particularly poignant is a monument to the Jewish Milanese killed in Nazi concentration camps.

Highlights:

Discover fascinating hidden gems like the Campari family's tomb built in the style of Da Vinci's Last Supper.

Address and opening hours:

Porta Volta, 20154 Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 8:00 AM-5:30 PM.

Visit the Monumental Cemetery of Milan

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3. Visit the remnants of Milan's Roman ruins

While Milan was once a major city of the Roman Empire, little of this heritage remains in the modern city. Head off the beaten path and cycle your way around remnants of palaces, amphitheaters, and more.

Highlights:

Discover the hidden remnants of Roman activity between Piazza S. Sepolcro and Corso Magenta.

Address and opening hours:

Ticinese, 20122 Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy.

Discover Milan's Roman Ruins

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4. Explore the hidden Palazzo Dal Verme

Forget famous palazzos in Milan like the Royal Palace; Palazzo Dal Verme attracts a fraction of the crowds. Hidden away between modern Milanese buildings, this 15th-century complex was bombed during the war. Only its courtyard remains now as a magical oasis between condominiums.

Highlights:

You can enter the courtyard via the entrance hall, which contains original decorations and doors.

Address and opening hours:

Via Giacomo Puccini, 3, 20121 Milano MI, Italy. Open daily, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM.

5. Tour the Palazzina Appiani

This treasured mansion was designed for Napoleon Bonaparte and is tucked away in the sprawling Parco Sempione. Visit the Palazzina Appiani to learn all about its secrets, from its mosaiced Hall of Honor to its royal lobby.

Highlights:

Enjoy a lesser-seen Neoclassical masterpiece with ornate porches and mosaic floors.

Address and opening hours:

Viale Giorgio Byron, 2, 20154 Milano MI, Italy. Open Friday and Sunday, from 11:30 AM.

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6. View Milan's first private pool at Villa Necchi Campiglio

Villa Necchi Campiglio is a delightful private home built in the 1930s by one of Milan's most esteemed architects. While it's packed with impressive art, did you know that it also contains Milan's oldest private swimming pool?

Highlights:

Visit the house and serene gardens. While you can't take a dip in the pool, you can enjoy a coffee in its presence.

Address and opening hours:

Via Mozart, 14, 20122 Milano MI, Italy. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM.

Visit Villa Necchi Campiglio

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7. Learn about the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore

Travel back in time with the oldest church in Milan. The Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore was built way back in Roman times and houses many special treasures that have remained in remarkably fine condition.

Highlights:

The church houses many hidden gems that will fascinate fans of history, from a 4th-century mosaic of Christ to breathtaking frescoes above the altar.

Address and opening hours:

Piazza di San Lorenzo, 9, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-5:30 PM.

8. See the macabre Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa

This 13th-century church holds a macabre secret; an ossuary lined with human skeletons and remains. Discover this grisly history and tales that span Milan's Great Plague.

Highlights:

The skeleton-strewn ossuary and Rococo frescoes really leave an impression.

Address and opening hours:

Piazza Santo Stefano, 20122 Milano MI, Italy. Open Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM-6:00 PM. Open Saturday, 9:30 AM-6:00 PM, and Sunday, 9:30 AM-12:00 PM.

Visit the Church of San Bernardino alle Ossa

photo: Christine Wagner

9. Get a taste for ancient wine at Leonardo da Vinci’s Vineyard

Visit the Leonardo's Vineyard Museum to explore his renovated mansion with access to the centuries-old vines themselves and learn about Da Vinci's secret vineyard, an ornate little garden gifted to the artist in 1498.

Highlights:

You can sample wine made from these vines at the in-house café. This garden was Da Vinci's sanctuary while he was working on The Last Supper.

Address and opening hours:

Corso Magenta, 65, 20123 Milano MI, Italy. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-6:00 PM.

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10. Enjoy breathtaking views atop the Branca Tower

Visit Milan's spindly iron tower built in 1933 in the heart of Sempione Park. Don't let the architecture fool you; a modern elevator will whisk you up to the 108m-high viewing platform in just 1 minute.

Highlights:

Gio Ponti's tower was once the tallest in the city, narrowly beating out the Duomo. Enjoy some of the city's finest unobstructed views from its panoramic viewing deck.

Address and opening hours:

Viale Luigi Camoens, 2, 20121 Milano MI, Italy. Open Wednesday-Friday, 10:30 AM-12:30 PM, and 3:00 PM-6:30 PM. Open Saturday, 10:30 AM-1:00 PM, 3:00 PM-6:30 PM, and 8:30 PM-12:00 AM. Open Sunday, 10:30 AM-2:00 PM, and 2:30 PM-7:00 PM.

Visit the Branca Tower

FAQs

What are some lesser-known attractions in Milan that are worth visiting?

Milan isn't well renowned for its Roman heritage, but you'll find remnants of this period throughout. These lesser-known attractions include the city's oldest church, the Basilica of St Lawrence, and Teatro Romano beneath Milan's Chamber of Commerce.

Are there any hidden or secret gardens in Milan that I can explore?

The Brera Botanical Garden and Leonardo da Vinci's Vineyard are both tranquil hidden gems in the heart of Milan. Milan’s Statale and Cattolica Universities also offer delightful Renaissance gardens that are favorites with local students.

Can you recommend any hidden or secret viewpoints in Milan with great views of the city?

The Branca Tower offers one of the greatest views across the city from the heart of Parco Sempione. For a slice of contemporary Milan, head to the 39th floor of the Palazzo Lombardia.

What are some lesser-known neighborhoods in Milan that are worth exploring?

While Milan's central belt may pack in the landmarks, scenic areas like Navigli are a treat to discover. You can cruise along the canal or dine at some of the city's trendiest restaurants. Tortona, once a factory district, is also worth visiting for its hip shops and museums, including the iconic Mudec.

Can you recommend any hidden architectural gems in Milan that are not as crowded as the famous landmarks?

Milan has plenty of Renaissance secrets tucked away, like the unassuming entrance to Palazzo Dal Verme. Be respectful and mindful, as these are quiet residential areas. Other gems include the Crypts of San Sepolcro hidden behind the Ambrosian Library.