Vendor City Guide: Milan

Street secrets revealed by the people who know them best. This week we head to Milan with Scarp de'tenis vendor Aldo Scaiani

Our guide this week: Aldo Scaiani, 67, was born in Milan and sells stret paper Scarp de’tenisAfter losing his job and family he lived on the streets for two years, becoming what he calls an “invisible traveller”. Every night he would go to one of Milan’s airports for shelter, returning to the city early the next morning.

My favourite area
Vigentino

I’ve always been a nomad, but I like the Vigentino district, maybe because there is Opera Cardinal Ferrari, an institution that for almost 100 years has helped the homeless and families in need. But there is another area of Milan that I like, Porta Vittoria, especially the side that extends towards Corso XXII Marzo. It’s a lively area, there are lots of small shops and this means the possibility to speak to people and get to know each other.

Free places to visit
Civic Museums

There are very beautiful places in Milan to visit and where you can spend some time for free. The civic museums at Castle Sforza (Castello Sforzesco) and the Natural History Museum both offer free entry on two afternoons per month. And then, always beautiful to see are the green area that surrounds the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio or Rotonda della Besana. Don’t forget that in autumn there are lots of community festivals. These are occasions to eat typical dishes, keep old traditions alive and mainly to meet lots of people.

Not everyone knows about…
Portico dell’Elefante

At Castle Sforza there is a place a bit out of the way that most of the people that visit the castle don’t know about. It’s The Portico dell’Elefante in the Corte Ducale, named after the big fresco that decorates the wall. It’s a very comfortable place, there are some beautiful benches where you can stop to rest and reflect. It offers shelter in case of rain and it’s also airy and fresh.

Where I like to spend the day
Sormani Library

There are computers to use the internet, books and magazines to read. It’s a warm place where you can stay during winter. And then there are bathrooms, an important thing for those who live on the street. It’s an important place for me, one that has allowed me to ‘lose myself’ in the darkest moments. This library closes at 7pm, but there are some libraries in the area that stay open until 10.30pm.

A place to get away from the crowds
Parco Nord and Chiaravalle Abbey

There are two ideal places to escape the crowds of the city. Both can be easily reached by public transport. One of these is Parco Nord, a very big park just outside the city where you can go for long walks. It’s the ideal place to ‘get lost’. The other place is located exactly on the opposite side of the city. The Chiaravalle Abbey dates back to the 12th century and is located in an old village.

Thanks to Maria Assunta Casati
Translated by Veronica Rossani