The Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, also known as Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore alle Colonne (given its location in a square marked, at the opposite side, by the most ancient Roman vestiges in the old Mediolanum). It is deemed the oldest church in Milan, with foundations laid in the second half of the 4th century (around 370). Despite the repeated changes in the structure, the church has retained plenty of its original elements, mostly conceived in a Byzantine style. Later additions or reconstructions have lent Baroque touches to the structure (such as the dome, rebuilt after its collapse, in the 16th century), but the basilica maintains a striking resemblance to the Hagia Sofia, the paradigm of all Byzantine places of worship in the world.
One of the artistic highlights, haloed at the same time by its historical value, refers to the 4th century Chapel of Saint Aquilino (Capella di Sant’Aquilino). This octagonal chapel is worth all the attention for the early Christian mosaics which embellish it (focusing on the central figure of Jesus teaching or handing over the law, surrounded by the apostles). Frescos of more recent date can also be spotted outside the chapel, inspired from the discovery of the mortal remains of Saint Aquilinus of Cologne (or Saint Aquilinus of Milan). What is interesting is the dedication of this chapel to Sant’Aquilino was made centuries after its construction (originally, and in all likelihood, built to serve as mausoleum). The chapel furthermore contains the remains of Galla Placidia, the sister of the last Roman Emperor, Honorius (though alternate accounts maintain its remains are in Rome).
The church also benefits from a wholesome location, dear to both the locals of Milan and to its visitors: a place replete with fine restaurants, bars and cafes where people can sit, recharge their batteries or relax after a sightseeing tour of the surroundings. A park is also located behind the basilica (the area now filled by the park used to be an integral part of the church, the apse, more exactly).
Opening hours: Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays: 7:30am to 6:30pm; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: 7:30am to 12:30pm and 2:30pm to 6:30pm; Sundays: 9am to 7pm
The Modern Art Gallery of Milan opened in 1921. It is located in Villa Reale, once home to Napoleon. It contains works by 19th and 20th century artists.
The Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery was built between 1865 and 1877. It is now home to some of Milan’s historical cafes and renowned fashion boutiques.
The Brera Botanical Garden of Milan is located behind the Brera Art Gallery. It was founded in the 1770s, and it is managed by the University of Milan.