Cultural Italy Blog: Art, Coffee & Love

Spring days of FAI: best monuments of Italy for free


What keeps me impressed the most about Italy, and more in particular about Milan, is the interest and the great attention that people pay here to art, architecture and design. These matters are not a part of a business chain (advertise-sell), but rather essential features that deeply rooted into the local culture, into the Italian DNA. Here one should not be a designer or an architect to attend special events and to be updated on a very specific topics. Surprisingly, anybody have enough curiosity to see, to learn, to discover.

Precisely for this reason, numerous associations and founds work hardly trying to bring culture and Italian heritage closer to people, to make it as accessible as possible. And, as a result of their very appreciable efforts, lots of unexpected cultural activities constantly take place in the country.

One of the latest of such cultural days took place all over Italy the last weekend on Saturday March, 21 and Sunday March, 22. It was a part of so-called “Giornate FAI di primavera” (or “spring days of FAI”) promoted by Fondo Ambiente Italiano (or simply FAI, Italian Environment Fund). In only two days about 650 thousand people visited the 780 open places spread all over “the boot”! And all these for free! Best museums, historical monuments, luxury villas, hidden gardens and examples of contemporary architecture that often stay closed for private visits opened their doors welcoming anybody inquisitive about treasures of art, nature and culture.

The most visited site of Italy was on this weekend l’ex Carcere di Buoncammino (the Former Prison Buoncammino) in Cagliari (Sardinia) with over 28 thousand sightseers!

Instead, what regards Milan, probably the best occasion for the local FAI followers was the first high-rise of the city that is basically never open to public. A long cue and 32 floors to climb totally worth the invested time and endeavor!
Pirelli is really famous in Milan. It is one of the icons of the city. Italian star-architects, engineers and designer were always involved into its design. First Gio Ponti, Pier Luigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso for the original design. And, later, Bob Norda and Vico Magistretti for refurbishment works.

Pirelli’s best known feature is its straightforward yet genius concepts. The whole structure was based on only four pylons in reinforced concrete that taper from 2 meters at the base to 50 cm on the top. Inaugurated on the 4th of April 1960 it became the first building to surpass the previously unbeaten height of the Duomo di Milano. That was such a scandal! No one was allowed at that time to outshine the supremacy of the Cathedral. The simple solution to solve the problem was to place a small copy of the golden Madonna, the crown symbol of Duomo, on the top of Pirelli. 

Inside one can find a very “made in Italy” taste too: starting from the iconic and original from 60-s “yellow marble” Pirelli linoleum and ending up with the white glass capsule hiding technical machines and engines of the last floor and designing a unique and visionary interior space of the belvedere.

Pirelli is still one of the tallest concrete buildings in the world. Today, however, it belongs to the government of the Lombardy region, for this reason it is never open for visitors.

Pirelli was only one among many interesting sites to discover this weekend, which was only one among many events organized by FAI and other cultural associations of Italy. So , when visiting this amazing country and its unique towns don’t forget to spy if there is any special opportunity to explore its extraordinary places and veiled treasures for you and your family! …and all perhaps for free.

Maria Novozhilova

twitter: @NovozhilovaM