In the heart of Milan, in the Porta Venezia Gardens, there is a place that people pass-by sometimes without even noticing. And it’s a shame: probably not as famous as the PAC, it is nevertheless an outstanding piece of Milan’s cultural life specifically devoted to the wonders of the universe.
It’s Ulrico Hoepli Planetarium, and it was built in 1930 by the editor Hoepli. He lived his childhood in a small farm-village in the canton of Thurgau, in Switzerland: for sure, he could see stars there. Then, in 1870, he moved to Milan to work in a small library and, later, to found his own publishing house: the fog used already to cover the sky, so much that the Swiss publisher decided to donate to the city an alternative, yet magical, way to look at the stars.
And the people of Milan still thank him and keep looking up when the fog is too thick.
Opened on May 20, 1930, the one of Milan was not the first planetarium to be built in Italy: the record, in fact, was set by Rome’s Planetarium, which, however, recently closed.
Ulrico Hoepli founded in Milan a publishing house specialized in technical and scientific publications which, for years, sold mainly texts of astronomical interest.
Hoepli decided to translate this passion of his into something yet more majestic than his publishing house, meant to stay in the people’s mind and hearth forever. And that something was the Planetarium. He decided it had to find its natural place near Porta Venezia, in a district he described as central, yet extremely peaceful.
The building, the largest in Italy, initially projected the image of the starry sky on the screen consisting of an inner lining fabric of the entire dome; the Planetarium was composed of a room that housed about 320 people, and still does today.
The dome of the Planetarium was ruinously damaged during World War II. However, although the terrible times, it was, literally, under a good star. Venturini, the then-carer, had hidden the planetary instrument Zeiss Model II in the Limbiate madhouse church, just outside Milan.
Heedless of the German troops which occupied the city, Venturini decided to serve the culture instead of the war and, for that, a few years later he was given an honorary Italian title, that of Knight of the Republic.
The second life of the Planetarium began after the war, when extensive renovation works were done in order for it to become more modern and more functional. In particular, the old cloth that served as a screen was replaced from today’s coating of metal panels reproducing the silhouettes of the most important buildings of the city seen on the horizon.
Not every single building, however: some of the palaces belonging to the Milanese skyline are too recent to find their own place.
The Planetarium is located in a beautiful part of Milan, in front of one of the entrances of Porta Venezia. It has an octagonal shape and, internally, there is the projection room made of 600 square meters with 320 seats. It opens its doors to curious and astronomy enthusiasts: the Planetarium is equipped with a highly sophisticated multimedia system with three video projectors and two lasers, both controlled by a computer that creates and transmits photographs, drawings and filmings.
On Saturdays and Sundays guided sky observations are held at 15.00 and at 16.30: after a visit with your nose up you’ll have learned curiosities, anecdotes and names of the world that lights up at night. On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 21.00, conferences are organized, mainly thanks to the contribution of experts that deepen some astronomical themes, in the past, present and future of the Earth and the universe.
The ticket price (€ 3 or € 1.50) is a further motivation to visit this unique and magic place of Milan.