Another note on Milan, the beautiful city that is the setting of our recently published gastronomic murder mystery, The Revenge of the Milanese Butcher! (Take a look, and if you’ve already bought a copy, please be sure to leave a review, thanks!) These notes are all related to the book in one way or another. We hope you enjoy them!
Here too, we’re looking at another favorite in-the-know Milanese short cut, specifically from via Orefici (Goldsmiths’ street) to via Mercanti (Merchants’ street). What you see when taking the short cut is a rather empty piazza, which is however very “busy” with incredible architecture, palazzi on all sides, and symbols and reliefs… all relating to matters political, economic, and judicial since the middle ages.
Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason, great name!) was built in 1233 by the podesta’ and chief magistrate Oldrado Tresseno (whose sculpted relief as he rides a horse can be seen in the side of the palazzo). Underneath was the market – a square space surrounded by porticos while upstairs was the Salone del Giudici – the courtroom. You can imagine how important this was in the late Middle Ages – laws and food.
On the other side of the rather small piazza is the Loggia degli Osii – built in 1316 by Matteo Visconti. On the façade are all the coat of arms of the districts of Milan… so now you’ve got the regional/political tie in too, besides judicial and gastronomic.
In the 1400s there is the Casa Panigarola (also known as the Palazzo dei Notai, the public notaries) where people would register public documents – clearly making this the go-to bureaucratic piazza of Milan.
In 1645 the Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine gets constructed and decorated with statues of St Augustine, hosting the most important school in Milan at the time… so highly regarded that its graduates often went on to become teachers in the Palatinate (Holy Roman Empire), hence the name.
In 1773 another story was added to the Palazzo della Ragione in order to store the increasingly voluminous legal archives… 540 years of paper work needed to go somewhere!
While closed in on all sides by the palazzi, there are six arches all around that create the access to the piazza. These lead to streets that carry the names of the major guilds. (Via degli Spadari, Armorari, Orefici, Cappellari, Mercanti… , respectively sword makers, armourers, goldsmiths, hat makers, merchants, etc.) These guilds made up the new classes which emerged during the middle ages as power shifted away from the previous feudal and religious aristocratic governors of the comune.
So much for “Just an empty square…”!
Remember… Piazza Mercanti and other unique places, history and secrets about Milan in our gastronomic murder mystery The Revenge of the Milanese Butcher, ItalianNotebook Press, available on Amazon.