Milan between rural areas, social housing and sport landmarks
Time needed: 2/3 hours (Baggio) + 1/2 hours (Giambellino)
We must admit it, this isn’t an itinerary for everybody. This is an itinerary for those who want to learn a little bit more about the history of this town and how “normal” people live, beyond the shining signs of fancy cafes, the expensive shops and the antique remnants of a fascinating past. This is an itinerary about suburbs and also about that part of Milano which is always forgotten: its countryside.
What to see
Unlike the north of Milano, the southern part of the town ends with the high-rise residential buildings fading into the fields of Parco Agricolo Sud di Milano. It is unexpected and surprising, and it is the best area to go for a ride with your bike (or motorbike) during a spring weekend and wander among cute little churches, organic farms and canals. Just follow the Naviglio Pavese and lose your way.
Heading south the buildings start to disappear and nature takes their place. Here you can find, for example, Parco dele Cave or a riverside village like Gaggiano, a different Milano made of walkways and barnyards.
But you don’t need to go that far to see a different side of Milano. The neighbourhood called Giambellino is less rural but still very interesting for the urban explorers. It is the quintessential working-class neighbourhood: it rose in the 60s with the economic boom and nowadays it is an interesting laboratory for urbanistic practices and integration. This neighbourhood is also an excuse to introduce you one of the most important figures in the cultural panorama of Milano: Giorgio Gaber was a singer and comic, he wrote a song (La Ballata del Cerutti) inspired by the sketchy reputation of this neighbourhood and was also the creator of a new format in the Italian theatre scene called Teatro-canzone. Nowadays, the “Bar del Giambellino” singed by Gaber is still there with a new management that tries to recall the iconic song with its vintage design and a new name: Bella Gino – il bar del Giambellino. This area is also home to one of my favourite bookstores of Milano called Gogol & Company, that is also a very good cafè that has some cosy working stations and good wi-fi. Not far from this library, on the Naviglio Grande, there is a cute little gem worth visiting: San Cristoforo sul Naviglio Church. It is a poetic view, and it is amazing that it used to be immersed in nature just 60 years ago and now it can be considered part of the suburbs of Milan.
The area located around Biblioteca Lorenteggio is one of the most controversial for the urban planners and it will be of interest just for those travellers with a deep interest in the sociological aspects of towns (yes, we are that kind of nerds). It is a very multi-ethnic neighbourhood with lots of social housing buildings where people from all over the world – Philipines, Ecuador, North African countries and of course Italy – mix. Locals here feel the need to speak out about the problems of the area and also to do something to make the area better; for this reason during the summer season, you will find different activities (eg. open-air film clubs and children activities) that animate the area.
Going even further south you will find Baggio. It is so far that you might think that it is not part of the municipality, but it is, and it’s probably one of the most interesting areas of Milano for its village-like look, its old houses still preserved in the main road and some new shops opened just recently by very brave locals, that are definitely making Baggio a better place to live. Come here during a weekend, don’t miss the beautiful Sant’Apollinare Church and have lunch in one of the authentic taverns.
Last but not least, San Siro district. This neighbourhood is home to Stadio Meazza and Ippodromo di San Siro. If you are into the history of sport you can’t miss this area!
Where to eat
In Giambellino we strongly suggest you go to the covered municipal market and look for the horse butcher shop called Da Vito. They are from Sicily, a region where horse meat is a staple and they prepare horse and non-horse meat dishes of the best quality with an amazing price-quality ratio.
Among our favourites for a sweet treat, there are Pasticceria Castelnuovo and Gelateria Rossi in Giambellino.
In Baggio we love to eat at Osteria Alla Grande, a very goliardic tavern with super low prices and some very good dish (try any pasta with Elena’s Ragu). For a cafè or a piece of cake, our choice is the delicious Carta da Zucchero.
Between Gambara, Bande Nere and Primaticcio you can also find the golden triangle of Japanese food: Oasi Giapponese, Shokugi Tei e Fukurou are among our favourite Japanese restaurant for having ramen, udon, sushi, tonkatsu, sashimi, and bento boxes; why so many good Japanese restaurants right here in a suburb? Well, the Japanese school is located in the area and for the same reason, many Japanese citizens live and work around here.
Travel Slow Score
How to get here
It is a big area! To reach San Siro you will need to ride the red metro (direction Bisceglie). Also, the iliac line is a good option for some of the places we suggested.
Come here if…
…you want to feel like you are not in Milan anymore, if you are interested in the urban development of a town and if you are a football fan!