FAI’s “Spring Days” are back

Two days to discover beautiful secret places.

The Attrezzeria Rancati has created weapons, furniture, jewelry, props, used for theatrical and cinematographic performances since 1864. Carlo Casella

The last weekend of March can be the perfect occasion to discover unusual and fascinating palazzos in Milan that are often closed to visitors.

FAI’s “Spring Days,” the largest street festival dedicated to Italy’s cultural heritage and landscape, is back from 26–27 March.

In over 25 years, more than ten million people attended the event, enabling them to visit unique, often hidden locations, accompanied by expert tour guides, all volunteers from FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano (the Italian National Trust).

The event aims to bring attention to the beauties of art, culture, and Italian history.

For a weekend, historic villas and parks, royal residences and gardens, castles and monuments, archaeological sites, and unusual museums will open their doors with guided tours.

We rounded up a list of curiously fun spots that caught our attention.

Palazzo Edison

Foro Buonaparte, 31

Palazzo Edison is generally closed to visitors, so this is the perfect opportunity to admire it live. The palace was designed by the Italian architect Enrico Combi in 1891 and acquired by the Edison company in the early 1920s. Aside from its architectural beauty, the mesmerizing Art Nouveau windows, made of thousands of colored pieces of glass, illuminate the rooms with different colors. In the Fontana room, a real fountain had the function of absorbing the smoke of cigars and cigarettes during meetings.

Certosa di Garegnano 

Via Gargano, 28

The Certosa di Garegnano was founded by the Duke of Milan Giovanni Visconti in the fourth century. Over the centuries, due to wars and the selling of some parts of the property, the structure has changed. Only a few pieces are from the original building. The Certosa was redesigned between the 15th and the 18th century, as can be seen from the facade. Inside there are beautiful frescoes dated between the sixth and seventh centuries.

Panifici Militari

Via Vincenzo Monti, 59

If the Certosa di Garegnano can be visited throughout the year, the Military Bakeries are open exclusively for this occasion. The history of Milan is evident in this building that was designed in the late 19th century for the production of bread for all the barracks of Lombardy. In fact, with eight ovens and a state-of-the-art system for transporting flour to the upper floors, it was able to feed the entire city of Milan during the Second World War.

Cittadella degli Archivi

Via Gregorovius, 15

This building preserves the historical memory of Milan. It contains 80 km of documents, more or less the distance between Milan and Lake Como. Not only documents but also thousands of files that collect the administrative documentation of Milan from 1802.

In the consultation room, you can make a beautiful journey through documents, maps, photographs, and posters of the history of Milan. The external wall is an open-air gallery with the “Muri d’Artista” project. Every portion of the wall, made by more than 30 different contemporary artists, is inspired by archival practices.

Palazzo Edison was designed by the Italian architect Enrico Combi at the end of the 19th century and acquired by the Edison company in the early 1920s. Courtesy of FAI, Fondo Ambiente Italiano.

Torre dei Gorani

Via Brisa, 731

The Tower of Gorani is opening its doors for the very first time. It is what remains of the imperial palace of the Gorani family. The recent restoration allows visitors to climb to the top and enjoy a magnificent view of the skyline of Milan. You can explore the area filled with ruins of the imperial palace built by Emperor Maximian in the third century and new contemporary buildings surrounding the tower.

Villa Simonetta

Via Stilicone, 36

The mysterious Villa Simonetta was born as an aristocratic country residence, and through the years it turned into a tavern, a hospital, and a wax factory. After the bombings, it had fallen into decay, like a sort of haunted house with witches that the chronicles describe as a creepy place, full of mystery. It is the only remaining example of a Renaissance patrician villa in Lombardy. Today it houses the Civic School of Music Claudio Abbado which welcomes students from all over the world.

Attrezzeria Rancati

Via Ghisolfa, 87, Cornaredo

Since 1864, weapons, furniture, jewelry, props, used for theatrical and cinematographic performances are produced inside the Attrezzeria Rancati. There are various labs and you can follow the techniques of production and processing of various materials, from metal to wood. The company is also fully equipped with a collection of costumes, furnishings, decorations of all shapes and styles that made their appearance in some of the most important movies, theater, and television productions for over a century and a half. Among the many commissions, they worked on films such as The Gladiator, The Pirates of the Caribbean, Robin Hood, The Borgia, and The Tudors.

Jessica Capretti is a frequent contributor to Milano Art Guide since 2021. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and has worked on several projects including “L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, in Paris. She lives and works in Milan.