Monza / Italy. I can’t say this is a place I’ve dreamed of visiting. Not that it’s a horrible place. In contrary. It’s actually pretty lovely. It just wasn’t on my list. I think I only have heard of it because of the Formula 1 race. For the rest I had no clue what to expect. I’ve you have neither: it is worth visiting. And to help you out: here are five things to do in Monza.
Parco di Monza
The park of Monza is the biggest park with a wall around it in Europe with it’s 688 acres. It’s the place where all Italians go to on a sunny Saturday or Sunday to chill, play football, volleyball, listen to the radio reports of football matches, to drink wine or smoke a joint. The park has some beautiful trees and flowers, but the main attractions are the big fields to lay down on.
The park was designed by Eugene de Beauharnais , stepson of Napoleon Bonaparte and viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, in 1805 (the year Napoleon became the king of Italy). De Beauharnais designed the park as a ‘garden’ for the royal villa – Villa Reale – that was build on that spot a few decades before by the Austrians. In those days Milan was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Monza was a nice place to relax and be away from all political hassle.
Monza isn’t very buzzing, but the park is still a perfect escape from the city. Quiet on weekdays, less quiet, but still a good escape in the weekends. If you go: bring a focaccia and a bottle of wine with you.
Monza is mostly know of the Formula 1 race that is held every year. The circuit is inside the Parco di Monza. The parc has been public (government) property for ages and already in 1922 there was a demand to use ‘all that space’ commercially. The automobile society SIAS (Society for Automobilismo and Sports Increase) was one of the first groups that got permission to hold events in the park and build the Autodromo di Monza. In 1950 the first Formula 1 Grand Prix was held on the 5,8 kilometer long circuit.
There are cars racing on the circuit almost every day. You can climb on the stands and have a look if you like. When you walk through the park there is a viaduct underneath the track; helping you to get from one side of the circuit to the other.
Duomo di Monza
It’s a must see in Monza, but I can’t see it’s a beautiful one. The Monza Cathedral – Duomo di Monza – is a bit a mixture of styles. The cathedral – dedicated to John the Baptist – was suppose to be finished in the year 603. As with a lot of cathedrals it became a long story, which explains all the different styles you can nowadays see when you look at it: white and green marble, Romanesque structures, Gothic decorations and a brick tower on the side that looks like it’s got nothing to do with the rest of the church.
Inside the cathedral is the Museo e Tesoro del Duomo di Monza. Showpiece of the museum is the Iron Crown of Lombardy. This crown, made in the Middle Ages, is said to be fitted around a central iron band, which according to the legend was beaten out of a nail of the True Cross. The crown was the symbol of the Kingdom of Italy.
You can’t visit an Italian city without eating ice cream. I have no clue what it is with Italians but they love it and they are good in making it. In the main shopping area in the center of town there is an ice cream shop on almost every corner. And if you don’t see one, just walk into a bakery and big chance they will sell ice cream as well. Gelateria Arengario is probably the most popular one. If you want ice cream on a Sunday you have to stand inline at this place to get some. But of course I tried it out for you and it’s worth waiting. (Or better returning on a Tuesday.)
La Pentola Vegana
Being vegetarian and eating in Italy isn’t the easiest combination. Especially in the north of Italy they love their meat. The rest of the country isn’t a lot better, but at least slightly. Luckily Monza has a great vegetarian restaurant that does lunch and dinner: La Pentola Vegana. It’s not very big and the presentation of the food isn’t very fancy, but don’t be fooled by that or by the photos on their website, because the food is good. Really good.
Make a reservation if you go over for lunch. The place get packed quickly. And try out the RAW zucchini salad with avocado. It’s heaven.