The park of royals and Ferraris
Traveling by car between Milan and Monza, one doesn’t know where one city begins and the other ends. However, in the not-too-distant past, Monza was capital of Brianza, a historic area where the Milanese vacationed or took day trips. Tourists and residents alike are known to ride bicycles to the hills to collect daffodils.
Monza has since grown in size and become a province, separating itself from the politics of Milan. Brianza is no longer an oasis of green, even if it protects its natural resources and parks. Scattered on the hills are hundreds of villas and gardens that try to preserve their bucolic status. The vast tract of the Villa Reale thrives as an expanse of woods and fields enclosed within nine miles of walls, the largest enclosed area of its kind in Europe. The grand Neoclassical Villa Reale was built between 1777 and 1780 by the architect Giuseppe Piermarini as a country retreat for Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, son of Empress Maria Teresa. A nearby park was constructed at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Eugenio Beauharnais, viceroy to Napoleon. He enlarged the garden and widened the perimeter to include a farmhouse and two eighteenth-century villas. With the end of the royal rule, the park had to accept the compromise of progress. During the first decades of the twentieth century, first a racecourse was built, then polo grounds and a golf club.
On the other end, Monza has a different and much older history and preserves some unique treasures. According to archeological finds, the area is of Roman origin and reached its greatest splendor under the rule of the Lombard queen Theodolinda. In AD 595 she built a basilica dedicated to Saint John the Baptist in the place indicated to her by a white dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, as God was said to have announced to her in a dream. The Corona Ferrea (Iron Crown) is kept in the chapel of the Duomo of San Giovanni and dedicated to the queen.
The crown is of fine workmanship (possibly dating to the fifth century) and is set with twenty-four diamonds and twenty-two other precious gemstones. Legend has it that the band of iron inside the crown came from one of the nails used to crucify Christ. The crown was employed during the coronation ceremonies of the Lombard kings and the Holy Roman Emperors from Charlemagne (664) to Charles V (1539), followed by Napoleon in 1805 and Ferdinand I of Austria in 1838. The queen’s treasure is kept in the basilica’s museum and includes ampoules from the Holy Land, jewels, medieval relics, third-century ivories, and sixteenth-century tapestries.
The Automobile Club of Milan built a racetrack to celebrate the twenty-fifth year of its founding. It was constructed inside the Royal Park of Monza in only 110 days and was, at that time, one of the first in Europe. Even then, an undersecretary of education who was sensitive to environment issues suspended the work on the track because of the “artistic value of the monuments and the conservation of the landscape.” He only managed, however, to reduce the dimensions of the original project. Even today, environmentalists protest against the unnatural use of this green oasis. But the racetrack is now an institution that is part of the history of Monza and the sport of motor racing in Italy.
From “One hundred and one Beautiful small towns in Italy” – Paolo Lazzarin
Where to stay in Monza
There are hotels, apartments, B&Bs, and guesthouses available, check it out and make a reservation here.
Lombardia in Cucina: The Flavours of Lombardy
Milan-style risotto, pizzoccheri Valtellinesi, and pumpkin tortelli to start; casoeula, Milan-style cutlets, frogs stewed in tomato to follow, and to send, a slice of sbrisolona cake or panettone.
Lombardy surprises with the richness of its culinary traditions and natural ingredients, which modernity has barely affected.
"Milano in Cucina" captures this kaleidoscope of flavours, with contributions from some of the most celebrated chefs on the culinary scene, who pay homage to their territory, and whose skill is able to present a modern vision in keeping with the region's progressive spirit.
The Italian Academy of Cuisine
La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes—many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat—2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for easily achievable recipes, with such simple dishes as White Bean and Escarole Soup, Polenta with Tomato Sauce, and Chicken with Lemon and Capers. For ease of use there are four different indexes. La Cucina is an essential reference for every cook’s library.
Milano in Cucina: The Flavours of Milan
The famous Risotto Alla Milanese gets its golden hue from the precious spice saffron. Legend has it that the dish came about when a Milanese painter decided to gild the risotto served at his wedding banquet with a harmless gold-colored dye. In Milan, they traditionally serve Risotto Alla Milanese with ossobuco (braised veal shank).
Traditionally made with raisins and candied citron, or with a creamy cream filling, the light, fluffy brioche-like bread called panettone may be tall or short, covered with chocolate or flavored with various liquors, but it’s always a symbol of the Christmas season.
With its hallmark domed shape, panettone graced Christmas tables in Milan since at least the 15th-century. Common knowledge claims its invention is from Milan. It is the most famous Christmas Lombardia food.
The Pax side of the Moon featuring Cesareo
Lombardia (Dicon tutti che sei mia) Quarantine Version - feat. Cesareo (Quarantine Version)