Best Runs in Milan - Parco Sempione and Giardini Pubblici
Fashion, yes but Milan is hardly a city that one associates with running. This may be partly because there is not one large park in the centre of Milan - a Central Park or Hyde Park equivalent. But Milan does have runners – 10,000 runners compete in the Milan City Marathon, which takes place in early April. So where do the Milanese run? A business trip to Milan proved the perfect way to find out.
While I’ve always liked to run on business trips, I’m ashamed to say that after travelling to Milan on-and-off for the past 30 years I’ve never taken the time to research the best places for running, nor have I ever had a proper grasp of the city’s layout. Running always just fitted in to whichever hotel I ended up staying in – meaning that my runs were either a quick detour through streets and possibly around a small municipal park or a sweaty treadmill run in the hotel gym. This was never a good idea because Milanese pavements are simply too narrow for pleasant running.
La Scala Opera House
Park Running Routes
This time I was going to make sure that I ran in two of Milan’s most famous parks in the city centre – Parco Sempione and the Giardini Pubblici. The first thing this entailed was finding a hotel in between the two. There are actually a large number of affordable hotels in the Brera district, which is where you need to stay if you want to be close to both these parks. Porta Venezia is also another good area near the Giardini Pubblici.
Parco Sempione is fascinating and well worth a visit even if you don’t run there. It was a military training ground until 1870 and it also has a proper running track inside the Arena. There is also the Sforza Castle, the Aquarium and several museums. There is a rich variety of trees and shrubs.
The entrance to Parco Sempione
The Giardini Pubblici is a pretty little park, which makes you think of small children eating ice-cream and playing. There is a beautiful waterfall, children’s playground, a planetarium and several museums.
Run 1 – Parco Sempione – 3.5k lap and running track
The park’s perimeter – including the Sforza Castle – is about 3.5k (or 2.2 miles) so you can do as many laps as you like. But it won’t get boring because there are multiple gravel paths so you can keep changing your route.
There is also a 600 metre gravel path around the Civic Arena on the north eastern side of the park which houses a proper running track. So if you’re feeling energetic, head there. Access to the running track is open and there was no one around at 8am in the morning – other than some amused looking workmen – so round I went albeit at a leisurely jogging pace.
The rest of the park consists of gravel paths, all quite flat and there are numerous interesting sights en route including the magnificent arch of the civic arena, the Sforza Castle, the Aquarium and the Design Museum. In the morning you might see a handful of other runners, no one too serious – in complete contrast to running in Central Park mid-week.
The magnificent arch in Parco Sempione leading to the running track
The running track in Parco Sempione
Run 2 – Giardini Pubblici – 3.5k external perimeter
The Giardini Pubblici (also known as Giardini Pubbici Indro Monatanelli) is also a small park but once again makes for an interesting run because there are a number of internal paths, meaning you can change your route each time you run round it.
On your way you’ll pass a beautiful waterfall, the Natural History Museum, the 17th Century Palazzo Dugnani and the Planetarium. There is also a statue of the popular journalist and writer, Indro Montanelli, who was known to relax in the park every morning before going off to work at his newspaper, Il Giornale. Montanelli was shot in the leg by the terrorist group, Brigate Rosse in June 1977 and his statue is close to the spot where this tragedy occured.
Around 8am in the morning you’ll probably only pass a handful of other joggers, fewer than in Parco Sempione.
The park is also close to Milan’s most famous sights: the Duomo (Cathedral) and La Scala (Opera House), so it’s worth adding a visit to these at the end of your run. And you can reward yourself by sitting in the square by the cathedral with a coffee!
The entrance to Giardini Pubblici
The waterfall in the Giardini Pubblici
Run 3 – Parco Sempione + Giardini Pubblici
These parks are close enough to combine into one run, which is what I did. The secret is to find Via Moscova, which is a long road that conveniently takes you almost from one park to the other. It’s easy to do a 10k run if you do one complete lap of each park and run between them. You should budget 50 minutes to an hour (bearing in mind that you may need to stop to cross roads). Towards the end of a run I always begin to fantasize about having the perfect cappuccino on my return and especially being in Italy, this was no exception!
One of the best things about running in Milan is that I’ve finally been forced to study a map of the city and have some grasp of its layout. I can see that there are some interesting looking green zones further outside the city centre, such as Montestella, commonly known as the “little mountain of San Sirio” and the Idroscalo known as the “sea of Milan” which is out by Linate airport. I can’t wait for my next Milan trip so I can try some of these further afield runs!
The magnificent Duomo
Top Tips For Running In Milan
- Do be prepared to wait at traffic lights when you’re crossing a road.
- Watch out for the cyclists if you’re crossing a quiet street – you don’t expect them.
- Don’t go off running without taking a hotel map with you.
- Don’t expect to see lots of other runners, but apparently both parks are safe even at dark.
- If you’re in Milan on a Monday evening you could try joining the Milan Hash who do a 40-60 minute run in the city: https://www.facebook.com/Milan-Hash-161031017265932/
- Wear your trainers on the aeroplane – they are much more comfortable than shoes and you save space in your bag!
So there you have it - a couple of good routes in the city. Milan may be more known for its fashion than its running, but clad in Iffley Road I felt I was embracing both.