In Italy, piccolo means small. In Milan, Piccolo means something else, which has nothing to do with sizes and measurements: in fact, ll Piccolo is the name of an acclaimed theatre, famous both for its history and its architecture.
The Palace it stands in treasures several years of Milanese history and thus is worth a visit even if you don’t have the opportunity to watch a play.
Via Dante is a long street in the center of Milan, connecting Piazza Cordusio to the Castello Sforzesco: it welcomes, every day, jugglers, cyclists and pedestrians and winds in narrow side streets.
One of these streets is via Rovello: it’s impossible not to notice the red flags that hang from its walls and that are the symbol of the Piccolo theatre.
It’s the story of the Piccolo palace to make it a unique place, which has been dwelled by many important families and has changed its looks over the centuries.
The first family to live among its walls was the Visconti, who used it as a second house. The Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, gave the palace as a gift to Carmagnola, a well-known leader of the time that was famous for his countless victories. His proud and fearless character led him towards a glorious, but unhappy, future: paying service both in Milan and in Venice, and accused of treason, he was beheaded in Venice, in front of his wife and daughter.
After his death, Ludovico il Moro claimed ownership of the building and organized a major refurbishment, which saw the completion of the building with colonnades and Bramante and Leonardo’s refinements.
At the beginning of 1500, the palace changed again its looks and purpose: it became, in fact, it became the Broletto Nuovissimo, i.e. the place where city meetings were held. Thus, the palace in via Rovello 2 played an important role for the city government administration until Italy’s unification, when all the city hall matters were moved to Palazzo Marino.
From home to the town hall: the history of Palazzo Carmagnola doesn’t end here.
In the twentieth century, in fact, Palazzo Carmagnola saw new restructuring works and its dungeons were used as the headquarters of anti-fascist movements.
Finally, in 1947, its rooms were used as theatre and here Paolo Grassi and Giorgio Strehler founded the Piccolo di Milano, the theatre that is “both ours and yours, the first municipal theatre of Italy.”
We suggest you to check the tickets availability and to book a show during your stay in Milan: entering the dimly lit and intimate hall of Il Piccolo, sinking into the red chairs and waiting for the curtains to open will make you realize how grandiose actually this “small” theatre is.
If you can’t, visit it anyway. From the old palace, the arcades with capitals carved in marble still stand up, while the six-arched courtyard comes from the work of refurbishment began in the sixteenth century.
When arriving in the yard, look down and you will see a sundial designed by Leonardo.
Stop for a while at the literary café: if the weather is nice, sit in the courtyard and order a cocktail or a glass of wine. You will be served a tray of crudités, of pizzas and of other culinary delights. Then, browse the art books standing on the shelves.
The atmosphere is magical and allows you to witness the “dignified survival of worldly habits”, as stated by the official website of the theatre: www.piccoloteatro.org