Quartiere Isola, Porta Garibaldi and Porta Nuova
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Isola, Garibaldi and Porta Nuova

This urban area is a fusion of tradition and modernity, a melange of history and of innovation. On the one hand there is the Isola district - which conserves its own independent identity - and on the other the newly redeveloped Porta Nuova district that has changed the face of a large portion of Milan, fostering new connections between places that were previously completely separated. And then there is Porta Garibaldi with its buzzing nightlife and Cimitero Monumentale, Milan’s open-air museum.

The Isola district

The district takes its name both from some areas that bordered old farmhouses in the area - called "isole" - and from the actual isolation of its urban context, almost disconnected from the rest of the city. It developed at the end of the nineteenth century following the creation of the Turin to Venice railway line that interrupted the continuity of the ancient via Comasina between the current corso Como, south of the railway, and via Borsieri, around which the entire area grew. Since then this unique isolation has enabled the district to maintain its specific identity, fostered by an efficacious mix of residential buildings and workshops, which, together with the spread of cultural associations, clubs and meeting areas, make it one of the liveliest areas in Milan.

Within the district, consisting mainly of traditional courtyard houses with balconies, there are numerous Art Nouveau buildings and some interesting examples of Milanese rationalism like the Ghiringhelli, Toninello and Rustici-Comolli houses, built in the thirties by Pietro Lingeri and Giuseppe Terragni. In Piazzale Lagosta stands one of the most elegant tenement blocks in the city (1924-25): in the courtyard, on the site of the ancient Mojazza cemetery, lies a plaque commemorating the small grave, near a mass grave, in which the poet Giuseppe Parini was buried. The new urban renovation of the Garibaldi-Repubblica area, with a vast structure of green spaces and pedestrian areas, has finally linked Isola to the rest of the city.

Porta Garibaldi and the nightlife scene

The northern access point to the city, Porta Garibaldi is located in the centre of Piazza XXV Aprile and was built by the architect Giacomo Moraglia between 1826 and 1828. The current neoclassical arch, originally dedicated to Francis I of Austria to commemorate his visit to Milan in 1825, was later named after Giuseppe Garibaldi to mark his victory against the Austrians at San Fermo (1859). In recent years the axis that comprises corso Garibaldi, Piazza XXV Aprile and corso Como has undergone a lot of gentrification with the opening of numerous bars, shops and clubs and is now one of the main hubs of Milan's hectic nightlife.

The new Porta Nuova district: contemporary Milan

Initiated in 2009, the urban-renewal project comprises the area between Porta Garibaldi, the Isola district and the former Porta Nuova railway station, also known as "delleVaresine" because it was a terminus for trains from Varese, Novara, and Gallarate. The station was decommissioned in the early ‘60s and replaced by the current Porta Garibaldi Station. The new project - devised by a team of internationally-renowned architects - has redesigned the area creating a myriad of buildings with different functions: offices, commercial and residential spaces. A pedestrian system of gardens, piazzas, footbridges and bike paths unites all the zones. The complex of tower blocks that looms over piazza Gae Aulenti boasts some notable buildings including the Unicredit tower, the highest structure in Italy, the Torre Diamante between viale della Liberazione and via Galilei, and the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), two residential towers with planted terraces set in Via De Castillia and via Confalonieri in the Isola district.

Palazzo Lombardia

The large urban complex, headquarters of the Lombardy Regional offices, is one of the most iconic buildings of the Garibaldi-Repubblica redevelopment. The project, carried out between 2007 and 2010, has created a real "slice of a city”, a tower approx. 161 mt high and four lower curvilinear buildings. The lower structures, inspired by the peaks of Lombardy, provide a number of public spaces amongst which the impressive Piazza Città di Lombardia. The entire complex is home to the regional offices and commercial businesses, plus, exhibition spaces, meeting and conference rooms, libraries and archives, gardens, an auditorium and other rooms for public use.

Cimitero Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery) an open-air museum

To the west of the new Porta Nuova district, arriving from the direction of via Ceresio, stands the majestic Cimitero Monumentale, a real open-air museum in the city. Designed by Carlo Maciachini and built between 1863 and 1866, it merged the cult of the dead with the post-unitary need for celebration. Characterized by horizontal coloured bands of stone and marble, it is a unique example of eclectic architecture. The central complex consists of an enclosure with two outer lateral galleries that join in the centre in the monumental entrance, the Famedio memorial chapel or citizen’s pantheon. Within this area there are graves, statues and tombstones of famous Milanese persons, including the tomb of Alessandro Manzoni under the octagonal dome. Along the main path that runs through the cemetery lie the Ossuary and the Crematorium Temple. Tombs, funeral shrines and sculptures constitute an extraordinary repertoire of art history from the late nineteenth century to contemporary works. The cemetery also hosts educational events and guided tours are available.

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