Discovering Brera: Art in the heart of Milan
“Brera vero borgh in la cittaa,
sit de la mia infanzia ormai lontana,
quand el Navilli el te bagnava i caa
e intorna gh’era on’aria paesana,
se sari i oeucc me par de ritrovaa
tutt quell che torna pu, che m’à lassaa […]”
(Brera, Cesare Crispi, 1976 winner of Milanese Poetry Award)
“Brera, the true village in town,
my childhood place long gone
when the Naviglio soaked the houses
and all around was a peasant atmosphere,
if I close my eyes I still find,
everything that won’t come back,
everything that has left me […]
The famous Brera District in Milan is relatively small compared to other well-known touristy areas of the city, but never fails to charm its visitors with its picturesque corners and bohemienne atmosphere. With its vibrant colors and its artistic heritage, this neighborhood will conquer every heart.
Due to its compact nature, Brera is conveniently connected to the rest of the city and it’s also easily walkable: the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele are only 10 to 15 minutes away, and at nearly the same distance is the amazing Sforza Castle. Moreover, three metro lines stop in the district: M1 at Cairoli, M2 at Lanza and M3 at Montenapoleone. Many bus and tram stops are also present in the area and are a great and sustainable alternative to move around.
The History: building a Bohemienne experience through religion
The name Brera comes from Via Brera, the main street around which the neighborhood develops. The etymology is not entirely certain: some argue that it derives from the Langobard word brayda, used in the Middle Ages to refer to a field of grass, others say it comes from the Latin word braida, which means “city estate”. Either way, Brera was probably the Milanese translation of one of these terms: as a matter of fact, around the X and XI centuries, the area was considered to be outside of the city center of Milan, and it consisted in untamed and wild land, which was bought in 1178 by a congregation of Monks called “gli Umiliati”, the humiliated.
Dedicated to the work of wool and precious fabrics, the Umiliati became one of the most important orders in Europe, though their greed and thirst for money and power led to the suppression of the congregation in 1571. Nevertheless, their presence in the area radically changed the landscape with the construction of the Monastery, known today as the Brera Palace, and the adjacent church of Saint Mary in Brera, demolished in the XIX century in order to make place for a little square.
In the following years, the Brera Palace was mostly employed as a school by the Jesuits before and by the Austrian State later on. Today, the Palace is home to the Pinacoteca di Brera, which we will discuss further, the Fine Arts Academy, the Lombard Institute of Letters and Science, the Brera Observatory and the Brera Botanic Garden. This strong artistic influence is what brought together many talented painters, sculptors, writers and art enthusiasts from all over the world: the Scapigliatura, an exuberant XIX century Italian literary movement made Brera its very heart, giving life to what is considered today the Bohemienne center of Italy.
Explore Brera: the RELSTAY-made tour
Ready to walk around and check out this intriguing district? Let’s do it together!
Starting from your RELSTAY apartment in Via Fiori Chiari 26, turn left and walk straight for approximately 100m and you’ll find yourself at an intersection with Via Brera, the neighborhood’s main street and Via Fiori Oscuri. This is where we start our tour!
- Antique Pharmacy
At the intersection, keep going straight to merge onto Via Fiori Scuri, where you’ll find this authentic historic landmark!
- Brera Palace
From there, you can walk backwards for a few meters and turn left onto Via Brera, the artery of the neighbourhood where you’ll find the famous Palace on your left. There you can visit:
– Just the courtyard (free)
– The Pinacoteca Museum of Fine Arts (https://pinacotecabrera.org/en/, Tue-Sun 8:30-19:15, €15 adults/€2 EU under 25/free under 18)
– The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense (https://bibliotecabraidense.org/en/, Mon-Fri 8:30-18:20 and Sat 8:30-13:50, free)
– The Brera Observatory (http://museoastronomico.brera.inaf.it/en/, guided tour mandatory, €3 adults/free under 12)
– The Botanic Garden (https://ortibotanici.unimi.it/en/brera-botanical-garden/, Mon-Fri 9:30-16:30, free)
– Via Brera
Although the Palace is usually considered the main attraction, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to walk around the narrow streets and explore the alleys of Brera. To do so, just keep going South on Via Brera, where you’ll see Palazzo Cusani and Palazzo Citterio, other historical buildings.
3. Chiesa del Carmine
If you turn right onto Via del Carmine and walk all the way to Piazza del Carmine, you’ll see a Romanic church with lots of frescoes and paintings in Baroque style. You can visit the church everyday 7:15-12 and 16-19. On Sunday, you can even join the Mass Service in English at 10:30 and 16:30.
4. Get lost!!
There’s nothing more authentic than getting lost into the web-like streets and “vicoli” of Brera. From the narrow Via Madonnina to the slightly more mainstream Via Mercato, you’ll absorb the atmosphere and you’ll feel thrown into another era with vintage stores at art studios at every intersection.
Give yourself a treat: where to eat in Brera
Of one thing you can be sure: while in Brera, you won’t starve! Everywhere you look there will be an “osteria”, a “gelateria” or a nice traditional bakery ready to welcome you with some delicious treats. But before we start off with our recommendations, there is one thing you need to bear in mind:
never trust the big and crowded restaurants with red and white square tablecloths and endless menus with exaggerated pictures, because these will most likely be tourist traps you want to avoid.
With this being said, let’s dive into Italian food culture!
– For breakfast you have plenty of options, but we suggest a classic Italian style “cappuccino” and pastries at Princi, on Via Mercato, or at Pattini, which is actually really good for a quick “panino” at lunch as well. If you opt for a more continental breakfast, Pandenus on Via Mercato is the perfect place to eat local and healthy food.
– If you’re not sure what to eat for lunch, you may want to go to God Save the Food, a casual place that offers everything from a quick club sandwich to a bowl of rice and veggies, with lots of gluten free and vegan options. If you don’t feel like walking much, the Roman “osteria” Da Fortunata is right in front of our RELSTAY apartments in Via dei Fiori Chiari! Lots of fresh pasta options are served there and some authentic recipes you need to try while in Italy.
– It’s six o’clock and you’re a little hungry: it’s time for aperitivo! Grab an Aperol Spritz with a snack at Radetzky Cafe, or eat some charcuterie at Prosciutteria, both ways you’ll feel like a true Italian!
– If you packed a nice outfit, we suggest you book a table at La Briciola, an elegant restaurant in the Moscova area, which is right north of Brera. Another refined place you most definitely don’t want to miss is the historical restaurant Il Solferino, which was founded more than a hundred years ago and still today continues to serve great Milanese traditional food. Finally, for an easier and simpler dinner, we recommend Drogheria Milanese, which has multiple locations around the city, one of which is on via San Marco, again in the Moscova area up north.
– Even when you think you’re full, you’ll always have a little room for some real Italian gelato! Make a stop on Via Mercato before going back to the apartment, where you’ll find gelateria Rivareno, you won’t be disappointed and you’ll end your night on a good note.
A night to remember
Brera does offer a few places to spend a nice night out, but we would recommend walking a couple of blocks north towards the Metro stop Moscova, where the locals usually go to have a drink with friends. In particular, we already mentioned Radetzky Cafe, which is also a very popular hangout spot at night. For a more sophisticated experience, try sipping a cocktail at Dry Milano on Via Solferino, it’ll be totally worth it!
Where to sleep? With us of course!
With RELSTAY, you can sleep in the very heart of Brera in our conveniently located accommodations. Right on Via dei Fiori Chiari, we offer 3 cozy one bedroom apartments with fast and unlimited free WiFi, a well equipped kitchen and a washing machine, which will give you hotel-like comforts in a home-like environment, while also being surrounded by the wonders of Brera.
The RELSTAY experience is unique and grants high quality standards: with contactless digital self check-in and check-out and 24/7 real time assistance, you won’t have to worry about anything.
What are you waiting for?
Come and discover the magical district of Brera and book a RELSTAY stay!