Eugenio Montale once compared Milan to a
huge conglomerate of hermits. At Rotonda della Besana, the desolation the great poet immortalized turns into an unexpected, delicate joy: sure, there are “hermits” – men and women quietly sitting on the benches, deep in the books they are reading – but there are also flocks of children playing. Quiet grown-ups and joyful kids make a great mix, which even Montale would have appreciated.
Rotonda della Besana’s portico surrounds the deconsacrated church of San Michele ai Sepolcri with its flowing lines. It was built between 1719 and 1731 to accommodate the bodies of the people who had died in the nearby Ospedale Maggiore, when it could not contain all of them. From 1792 on, it was destined to a wide variety of uses – even to store hay for some time.
In 1958, the Municipality bought it to use it for performances, cultural events, and art exhibitions.
In the 1980s, Rotonda della Besana was the location of the Milanopoesia Festival; since 2014, it welcomes the MUBA, Milan’s Children Museum.
A mix of quiet and joy seems to have been its destiny, after all.