One of the goals of this section of the blog is to help you discover off-the-beaten-track Italian locations.
I have specifically created this ‘Hidden Italy’ series to write about places that you might not know or that might not be on the usual not-to-miss list of Italian destinations.
I do this because I strongly believe that the real beauty of Italy lies away from the tourist locations that everybody visits. I am not saying that Rome or Venice are not incredibly beautiful, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I think that if you really want to know Italy, you have to move away from those locations.
the Famedio at the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan
I live in Liguria, so this section of the blog is mainly focused on my region but I also have another goal: I want to make you discover more of Milan. In my opinion, Milan is one of the most beautiful Italian cities but it is often overlooked by tourists, who either skip it or visit it very quickly, usually on a shopping tour.
Yet Milan is much more than Piazza del Duomo and the glamorous shops of the city center. It is a city rich in history, art, culture and it is full of interesting places to visit. A while ago, I wrote a post listing 10 reasons why you should visit Milan, and I have also written posts about amazing locations in the city like the 1930s Villa Necchi Campiglio and Leonardo’s vineyard.
the tomb of Alessandro Manzoni inside the Famedio
Today I want to take you to another interesting place: the Cimitero Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery), which is famous for its artistic tombs, its contemporary and classical Italian sculptures, and for hosting the tombs of many important Milanese people.
It is a perfect place for a relaxing walk outside the hustle and bustle of the city center but it is also a great way to discover more about the history of the city – many important Milanese families have their burial monuments here – and to just enjoy the remarkable works of art that are everywhere in the cemetery.
The Cimitero Monumentale opened in 1866: it was built as a way to replace the many unhealthy burial grounds that were scattered around the city and to create a suitable place to celebrate the dead. The architect who designed the cemetery is Carlo Maciachini, who had studied architecture at Brera Academy.
From its very opening, the cemetery became a burial place for common Milanese people but also for the important personalities of the city. As a matter of fact, the first building you encounter when you enter the place is the Famedio or Temple of Fame.
the tomb of the Campari family
Originally intended by Maciachini as a Catholic church, the Famedio soon became a place of burial, celebration, and memory of the Milanese of origin or adoption (including guests and honorary citizens) who through works and actions have made the city and Italy famous. In the very center of the Famedio, under the beautiful Gothic-style ceiling, is the tomb of Alessandro Manzoni, who was transferred there in 1883, the first important person to be buried in this part of the cemetery.
Many distinguished people are buried in the Famedio and many others are mentioned there, even if they rest elsewhere in the cemetery (like Arturo Toscanini) or in Italy (like Giuseppe Verdi). Reading the list of names that are in the Famedio is really a journey throughout Milanese and Italian history.
the tomb of Arturo Toscanini and his family
Visiting the Famedio is undoubtedly interesting – and moving as well, if you finally get to see the tomb of one of your favorite singers (Enzo Jannacci) like I did – but walking around the cemetery is even more pleasant: many tombs have been designed by famous architects and artists and are a real work of art.
Also, the cemetery is very close to one of the newest areas of Milan, so the old tombs against the skyscrapers create truly unique views. When we visited the Cimitero Monumentale, we didn’t get a guide and we just strolled around following the map. While aimlessly wandering around, we came across some very moving tombs: as much as I like the big imposing sculptures, it is always the lesser-famous ones that catch my eye.
If you decide to go there, I’d highly recommend visiting the place with a guide: I have been told that they are truly amazing and can tell you everything about the place. If you can’t book a tour with the guides of the cemetery, I’d suggest you google for private tours. Otherwise, you can just use the cemetery website and follow their suggested routes.
Now I want to know from you: Have you ever visited a cemetery in Italy? If so, which one?
If you are looking for interesting ways to practice your Italian daily, I’d suggest you check my program called Giorno dopo giorno, a daily Italian practice.
If you sign up to Giorno dopo giorno, you will receive an email every other day for 365 days. Each email will contain a prompt, a little exercise, something to watch, read, listen or something that will gently force you to practice your Italian every day, making it part of your daily routine.