Located just 15km north of Milan, Monza is bursting with history and heritage, with plenty of things to do in the city and wider Lombardy region.
The neoclassical Royal Villa of Monza (Villa Reale in Italian) is absolutely stunning and covers a vast area. Composed of a series of buildings, it was originally built in 1777 for the then Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, as the Lombardy region was, at the time, part of the greater Austrian Empire. Modelled on the Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna, the villa is set on the banks of the Lambro River and is nestled within the lush and sprawling Monza Park. The villa’s last royal resident left in 1900 following the murder of King Humbert I. Within the villa is a civic art gallery where visitors can browse the art and textiles on display, including cloth from the 17th century and various works of art from the 19th century. Also within the villa is a theatre, orangery and grand hall. Don’t miss the English gardens, where the highlight is the Il Roseto ‘Niso Fumagalli’ rose garden, containing climbers, standards and heritage species of roses.
Parco di Monza
The Royal Villa sits within the largest walled park in Europe – the Parco di Monza, aka Monza Park. Established in 1806, the park is now part of the greater Lambro Valley Natural Reserve. The park itself covers some 800 hectares and is surrounded by an impressive 12km long wall.
Aside from the Villa Reale, the carefully maintained park also houses the horse racing circuit of Mirabello, two golf courses, swimming pool, polo field and the iconic Autodromo Nazionale Monza race track.
Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Yes, the famous Formula 1 racing circuit is nestled within the woodland area of the Parco di Monza at the north end of the vast park. It’s possible to walk from the Villa Reale to the Grand Prix track in about an hour. Opened in September 1922, Monza hosts not only the grand prix but also the World Touring Car Championship, the endurance 1000km and the Superbike World Championship in addition to local championship races. About 600,000 visitors visit the track each year and it now has its own tourist information point. Visit on a non-race day and you’ll get to explore the site. The Grand Prix also helped to make Monza the European Capital of Sport in 2009.
Undoubtedly the most stunning religious building within the city of Monza is the absolutely captivating Duomo which is of Romanesque Gothic architecture. Although not technically a cathedral, it’s known by several different names such as the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista and Saint John (after St John the Baptist). Originally constructed in 595, it was remodelled during the 13th and 14th centuries to include a black and white marble façade. Don’t miss the exquisite frescoes within the Chapel of Theodelinda, which also houses the Iron Crown of Lombardy which is reputedly said to contain one of the original nails actually used at the Crucifixion.
An ‘arengario’ was a town hall type of government building which contained balconies where councils could address the public. This historic building in Monza served as a one-time medieval palace for the meetings of the city council and noblemen. The ground floor is constructed in an arcaded style (open plan within pillars) which served as open court of law and marketplace. Built in the 13th century this arengario is located in Monza’s central Piazza Roma.
Archaeological searches determine that Monza was first settled at least as far back as the Bronze Age. There is also a noticeable Roman influence within the city, particularly within the ruins of the old Roman bridge of Ponte d'Arena (ponte meaning bridge in Italian).
Another fine example of a bridge over the River Lambro can be seen at the Ponte dei Leoni, aka Lions Bridge. Constructed in 1838 of stone, this arch bridge is flanked by four lions, hence the name.
Monza railway Station
The passenger building of Monza Train Station is a tourist hotspot in its own right. The magnificent stricture was built in 1840 and connects the city with Milan, Chiasso (in Switzerland) and Lecco (Lake Como). It’s also ideally located as short hop away from the Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit.
Image Credit; 1; Remulazz