Milan is renown for many things, including being the second most populous city in Italy; a hub for fashion and art, and the capital of Lombardy. With historic structures like Sforza Castle, the Milan Cathedral (the duomo), the La Scala Opera House, Santa Maria delle Grazie church (the location of the Last Supper), visitors have a plethora of things to see and experience within the confines of the city. Out of the entire sprawling city of Milan, however, there is one location that provides a unique intersection of art, history, and death. That location is the Monumental Cemetery, which is located near the city’s core district (where the duomo and other sights are located).
The Monumental Cemetery remains an active graveyard; but it is unlike any other graveyard one has experienced anywhere in the world. Designed in the mid-nineteenth century for the city, it was originally intended to consolidate various cemeteries around Milan into a single location. However, after being opened in 1866, it became something different - a repository for sculptures and tombs better suited for museums than a cemetery. Starting at the entrance to the cemetery, one is greeted by an imposing, towering neo-medieval building with large wings known as the Famedio. Inside, under the center dome of the Famedio are some of not just Milan’s most famous parties, but Italy’s most famous parties, including Alessandro Manzoni. While a tomb is also present for Giuseppi Verdi under the dome of the Famedio, Verdi is actually no longer interred at that location. From the center of the Famedio, one can walk the wings of the building, passing many busts, and the first of many - historic sculptures and tombs.
While the Cemetery features work from many well-known Italian sculptors on the tombs such as Lucio Fontana, Antonio Canova, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Giò Ponti, Gae Aulenti and Mario Palanti, even the work of unknown - or lesser known artists is phantasmagorically intriguing. From the Famedio, one can also wander down into the rear of the Cemetery, where a plethora of tombs in many varied architectural styles stretch for an expansive distance. While the Cemetery as a whole contains many famous parties, including, Vladimir Horowitz, and a special area for Holocaust victims, the vast majority of the space is made up of native Milanese and their distinctive graves. Correspondingly, a visitor to the Monumental Cemetery could spend minutes at the location, or the better part of a day marveling at the architecture, art, and scenery of death and remembrance.
Directions/Fees. The Cemetery is located at Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale, 20154 Milano MI, which is on the North side of the city core. From the duomo, which is located either at, or very near to the city core, the Cemetery is a thirty minute walk on foot. Like any major city worldwide, driving - and parking in Milan is difficult for non-residents (tourists). My personal recommendation after having driven in Milan is that travelers with a car should find a location in the city to park for the day, and then either walk, or take public transportation to whichever destinations they wish to visit. One of the unique things about driving in Milan is that certain areas in the city core near the duomo are closed to traffic at certain times of the day in order to reduce congestion. For those visitors that don’t have access to a car or don’t feel like walking, the Monumentale Milan subway station is located right at the cemetery. The Cemetery is open year-round, and there is no fee to enter during the day.
Tips. For first time visitors to Milan, a great plan is to either get dropped off or park near the city core and walk to the cemetery. Along the way, one will pass the Sforza Castle, the Arco della Pace, and other destinations. Depending on how much time one spends at the Cemetery, these are all locations one can visit on the way back toward the city core, along with La Scala and the aforementioned duomo, and provides a great way to get to experience more of the city’s charm. Separately, the Cemetery while now a tourist location, is an active graveyard, as mentioned above. Visitors should have respect toward the parties long-interred therein, and any recent proceedings that may be ongoing.