Forget any preconceived notions you have about cemeteries. Throw the word “creepy” out the window, and instead imagine a burial ground that is beautiful, elaborate, dramatic, and awe-inspiring. Replace standard headstones with statues, and overgrown weeds with a gorgeously manicured landscape.
When you arrive at Milan’s Monumental Cemetery, you must first go through its magnificent facade, a mix of white marble and red stone that symbolizes the grandness of what lies behind it.
Designed between 1863 and 1866 by architect Carlo Maciachini, the cemetery feels more like an open-air gallery than a graveyard.
Its 250,000 square meters of monuments and chapels – commissioned by the city’s upper-class families in the 19th and 20th centuries – mean you can spend anywhere from a couple hours to an entire day admiring this city of the dead.
The graveyard, which represents a ‘Who’s Who of Milan,’ was once best explained by a taxi driver on his way past the elaborate grounds: “Only people with a lot of money get to sleep there,” he said. Indeed, such wealth is felt throughout the cemetery.
The cemetery’s most famous residents include conductor and cellist Arturo Toscanini, Nobel Prize winner Salvatore Quasimodo, novelist Allessandro Manzoni, and architect Luca Beltrami.
Art buffs will be pleased to know that some of the statues and monuments are signed by artists such as Castiglioni, Wildt, Medardo Rosso, Messina, Cascella, Manzù, Lucio Fontana, and Arnaldo Pomodoro. Pick up a guide at the entrance to find your way to those coveted beauties.
A range of styles can be seen throughout the cemetery, including Egyptian, neo-Roman, Byzantine, neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau, modernist, and post-modern.
You can wander around the cemetery alone or book a guided tour in advance. No matter how you choose to view the grounds, you’re likely to be amazed by its never-ending turns and path upon path of monuments and chapels.
Most of the cemetery is dedicated to the Catholic faith, though two small areas are reserved for non-Catholics.
Entry into the cemetery is free. The grounds are open Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The graveyard is closed on Monday.
Address: Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale
How to get there:
Trams: 2, 4, 12, 14, 33
Underground: M2 to Garibaldi station, M5 to Monumentale station
Suburban railway: Garibaldi station
Railway station: F.S. Garibaldi