Sempione and Chinatown

Time needed: 1 afternoon

Arco della Pace, Milano

Sempione neighbourhood is an interesting example of the integration of new communities, probably the first and most successful case in which local policies helped to develop a multicultural neighbourhood and preserve and promote, at the same time, some Italian cultural highlights in the area.

Not far from here is the Ghisolfa bridge that the milanese writer Testori wrote about, the iconic Velodromo Vigorelli, the HQ of RAI (the National Television) where on January 3rd 1954 the first TV program ever transmitted ever, took place.

Go past the green area of Parco Sempione, the nightlife of Arco della Pace and the huge buildings of Corso Sempione and you will find the Chinatown of Milano.

The presence of the Chinese community in via Polo Sarpi started in the 20s of the 20th century. In the 90s the area started to be strongly characterized by its presence, also with negative effects on the quality of life due to the prevalence of stockists in the street. Nowadays, after the intervention of the municipality, that changed the urbanistic of the street, via Paolo Sarpi is an exemple of good practice: here the quality of Made in Italy is mixing with the industriousness of the second generation of the Chinese community, producing very interesting results. A good example of how the two communities are working together with good results is the amazing Ravioleria Sarpi, a small street food shop where the young Chinese owner decided to choose only the best local italian products to create his delicious chinese dumplings. The meat, for example, is provided by the historical and renowned Macelleria Sirtori located just on the side Ravioleria Sarpi.

Tang Gourmet, handmade dumplings everyday

Since 2011 Via Paolo Sarpi is a walking street where cars are not allowed. It’s a perfect place for a relaxing Sunday afternoon stroll or to eat something tasty in the evening! In the street, there is a mix of Italian and Chinese shops, Chinese supermarkets, authentic Chinese restaurants, bubble tea shops, fancy cafes (such as OttO) and historical shops such as Macelleria Sirtori, Cappelleria Melegari, Cafè do Brasil and Cantine Isola.

When you are tired of walking in via Sarpi, you can head to the quiet and authentically Italian neighbourhood of via Procaccini, via Piero della Francesca and via Canonica. Here you can find small shops, bookstores, shoemakers, sewers and historical shops. Our favourite is Hodeidah, a place open since the 40s where you can drink different varieties of coffee from different parts of the world, and buy them too. They have delicious special editions for Christmas and it is all roasted in-house!

Hodeidah, via Piero della Francesca – Milano

Not far from here, there is one of the most intriguing spots in town. A place that will show you the history and artistic ability of the people of Milano. It is the Cimitero Monumentale (= Monumental Graveyard). Cimitero Monumentale hosts the graves of the very rich families of Milano that paid the best artists in order to show off their wealth and taste through their monumental tombs. This makes the graveyard an open-air museum. In the huge complex, you can find the tumb of the most famous Italian writer after Dante Alighieri: we are talking about Alessandro Manzoni.

Travel Slow Score

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How to get here

Our suggestion is to get here with the streetcar (called “tram” in Milan) Number 1. The yellow streetcar is an authentic Italian experience since the streetcars are still the same that were used at the beginning of the 20th century, with the wooden interiors and all.

Come here if…

… you want to understand how Milan used to be, and what the future of the town might be.

To explore the other neighbourhoods of Milan, click here.