Colonne di San Lorenzo
Corso di Porta Ticinese, 39, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
|⏰ Opening Hours
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
|💸 Entrance Fee
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What are the Columns of San Lorenzo?
The Columns of San Lorenzo, known in Italian as Colonne di San Lorenzo, are one of Milan's most evocative landmarks. Consisting of 16 towering Corinthian columns, they form a significant architectural ensemble situated directly in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in central Milan. This ancient colonnade, which dates back to the Roman period, remarkably stands just as it has for centuries, creating a spellbinding juxtaposition against the more modern surroundings.
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I often tell fascinated visitors that these enduring marble structures were not originally constructed on this site. It's a little-known fact that they were moved to their current position in the 4th century. As you walk amidst these historic pillars, you might feel transported back to ancient Rome, when such columns were typical of majestic public buildings.
History of the Columns of San Lorenzo
The Columns of San Lorenzo have a rich history, intricately woven into the fabric of Milan's past. It is widely accepted that these columns came from a temple or a public bath complex dating from the 2nd or 3rd century, when Milan was under Roman rule. Their exact origin within the city is a subject of debate among historians, but the enduring nature of their construction has ensured their survival through the millennia.
Following the decline of the Roman Empire, the columns were repurposed and erected in their current location. They have witnessed countless events and are a silent testament to changes not just in Milan but in the broader scope of European history. In the middle ages, the area surrounding the Columns of San Lorenzo became a sort of public square, known for its markets and as a meeting place—a function it performs to a degree even today.
Why are the Columns of San Lorenzo Important?
The significance of the Columns of San Lorenzo in Milanese culture is profound. They represent continuity amidst change, standing unscathed by the tumultuous events that have ebbed and flowed around them. The columns embody a connection to the ancient past that very few structures in the city can offer. For locals, they are more than just an antiquated relic; they are a beloved symbol of the endurance and resilience of their city.
Moreover, they offer an important insight into the urban development and architectural heritage of Milan. It's not just their antiquity that captivates; it's the realization of how these structures were integrated into the city's Christian identity with the construction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, which rises solemnly behind them. This site is also significant for the nightly congregation of youth and countercultural groups, marking it as a nexus of past and present social currents.
Things to Do & See at the Columns of San Lorenzo
Visiting the Columns of San Lorenzo is not just about admiring their age-old beauty. There's a host of experiences awaiting visitors here. Nature lovers can appreciate the fact that the square acts as an urban oasis, with the columns framed by lush greenery, creating a serene ambiance amidst the bustling city life.
Cultural buffs will likely suggest spending time perusing the many historical and architectural layers found at the site. Browsing the adjacent Basilica of San Lorenzo offers additional context to the columns and showcases a stunning combination of Roman, Medieval, and Baroque influences. As dusk falls, the columns—often bathed in the soft glow of street lights—offer a dramatic backdrop for photographers and romantics alike.
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Social butterflies and gastronomes might be interested to learn that the Columns of San Lorenzo area is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with a variety of bars and cafes nearby. The open space in front of the columns serves as a gathering point where locals and tourists mingle, enjoy aperitivo, and partake in spirited conversations. Also, the place hosts flea markets and sometimes functions as a venue for open-air concerts and exhibitions, infusing the historical with the contemporary.