The Many Neighborhoods of Milan

By Anthony Viltro, ISA Milan Site Specialist

You’ll notice right away that Milan is not like other Italian cities.  Much of Milan’s architecture was destroyed by bombing during World War II, so today Milan has a much more urban and cosmopolitan feel than places like Florence and Rome.  Like New York City, Milan is a sprawling metropolis with many different neighborhoods, each with its own unique personality.

Here is a quick rundown of five Milan neighborhoods:


St. Ambrogio District

The Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore is located in the St. Ambrogio District.  Being home to Europe’s largest private university means that St. Ambrogio has a large student population.  Around campus, you’ll find many inexpensive restaurants, cafés, sandwich shops, and pizzerias populated by a student clientele.

Brera District

The Brera District is home to the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and the Brera Art Gallery.  Their presence in the area has helped shape Brera into a hip, artistic neighborhood full of bohemian pubs and restaurants.  The narrow, winding cobble-stone streets give Brera a more “classic” Italian impression.

Navigli District

The network of navigli (canals) played an important role in Milan’s commerce and development.  Today, the many restaurants and cafés along the banks of the canals come alive in the late afternoon, and the area remains a hot spot into the early hours of the morning.  The Navigli District is favorite spot for students to spend a weekend evening out with friends.

Porta Nuova (Garibaldi District)

This super sleek, brand new district is a prime example of Milan’s eagerness to embrace modernity.  It is the main business district of Milan and is home to the UniCredit building (Italy’s tallest skyscraper).  Porta Nuova also shows off the latest in environmental architectural innovation with the Bosco Verticale (vertical forest), a pair of residential towers that boast over 900 trees.


Located between Brera and Porta Garibaldi, Moscova blends the old and the new beautifully. The central piazza in Moscova is a busy intersection of five major streets.  This, along with large advertisements on the sides of buildings, gives the piazza a “Times Square” vibe (although on a much smaller scale).

Don’t let the size of a big city like Milan scare you away.  When you break it down into its individual neighborhoods, it no longer seems so difficult to navigate.  An extensive network of metro, bus, and tram lines gives students easy access to all corners of the city.  Students can get a monthly pass at a discounted price which is good for unlimited rides on all public transportation.

Learn more about Study Abroad programs in Milan.

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