Functions and uses may change, but the city still presents many examples of architecture linked to food production. They can be found in various areas of the city, and the best way to vist them is to start from the most central locations, then moving north-east and then north.
The first location is the Grain exchange at Palazzo Mezzanotte, in the financial heart of Milan, Piazza Affari. Then there are the drinking water tanks in Castello Sforzesco, followed by Risificio Ravasi (Ravasi rice factory) in Via Bramante, and Mulino Mosca (Mosca Mill) in Via Lomazzo, now used as offices by advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. Both these locations are in Milan's Chinese district.
It is worth moving on to Via Monte Grappa, near Corso Como, where there is a building that originally hosted the Cucine economiche (low-price canteen) from the late 19th century on. We also suggest visiting Palazzina Liberty on the north-eastern side of the city, in Largo Marinai d’Italia. This was once the office building for the old Fruit and Vegetable Market. The disused Ovomaltina factory, in Via Meucci, has been used as sales premises by the Cargo High Tech store since 2001. The last location in this tour is the Distilleria Fratelli Branca factory, a liqueur manufacturing plant, in Via Resegone, in the Bovisa district.
Borsa delle granaglie
Grain exchange, Palazzo Mezzanotte, Piazza Affari 6
The building was designed by architect Paolo Mezzanotte (hence its name) from 1928 to 1932, with the intention of combining all Milan's commodity and share trading activities at a single location. The majolica decorations designed by Gio Ponti, on the basement floor, location of the grain exchange, are particularly interesting, and likewise the remains of the Ancient Roman theatre.
Drinking water tanks, Castello Sforzesco
Inside two circular towers of Castello Sforzesco, there are two water tanks installed between 1896 and 1904, particularly important for the city's water main system in the early 20th century. The first, in the eastern tower, was made of metal, and it was used principally to calibrate mains pressure. The second was a daring and innovative structure at that time, because it was made in reinforced concrete.
Ravasi rice factory, Via Bramante 29
The organizations that currently use the building include ADI, the Italian industrial design association. The structure is an interesting example of early 20th century industrial architecture: the three volumes of which it is comprised are different in shape and height, and they are decorated in neo-Romanesque style. Inside the building, you can still see the opening through which rice was channelled into the silo for storage.
Mosca Mill, Via Lomazzo 19
The building was constructed in 1886, and at that time it was in the countryside. Today it is the Milan office for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, along with other companies, and some residential flats. This was the first mill in Milan to use steam power, and later electrical power. It provided a focus for economic development in the entire Porta Tenaglia district, and led to the progressive urbanization of the area. After a period of decline, work at the mill came to an end in 1970, and refurbishment began in 1996. Over 60% of the original 27,000 square metre floor space was converted.
Canteen, Via Montegrappa 6
This building with terra cotta decoration is located fairly close to Corso Como. It was constructed in 1883, commissioned by the “Comitato Cucine Economiche” (Canteen Committee) and designed by architect Luigi Broggi. From when the canteen opened, it became famous for its effective social function, providing food at low prices to the workers and the poor people of the neighbourhood. Ho Chi Min visited the structure while he was staying in Milan. The canteen was closed in the 1970s, and the building is now used by a series of cultural associ.
Largo Marinai d’Italia
This isolated building, dating to 1910, was used for the management offices of Milan's fruit and vegetable market, a large complex of halls, lean-to roofs, warehouses, kiosks and stalls, until the market was transferred to Via Lombroso.
It comprised a café and other structures used by trade associations. Today it is a location for cultural events.
Converted Ovomaltina factory
Via Meucci 29
From 2001, this has provided the premises for the Cargo High Tech business. The refurbishment operation, supervised by architect Mauro Bacchini, has conserved the original structure of the buildings, with the enormous warehouse, and a two-floor building that was originally used for the Ovomaltina head offices.
Distilleria Fratelli Branca
Via Resegone 2
Built between 1898 and 1912, the factory comprised basement premises used for ageing the liqueurs, ground floor halls for bottling, and upper floors for storage. In the early decades of the 19th century, other facilities were added, including homes for managers, offices, stables, a meat store, and a canteen. Today, there is state-of-the-art production and bottling plant, with advanced laboratory equipment for quality control and other functions, but tradition is still visible in the form of the historic oak barrels.