When people think of Monza, they more than likely think of the famous Formula 1 Grand Prix that is held here on an annual basis – this delightful city has so much more to offer however and is a great tourist destination in its own right. Monza is actually located 9 miles to the North East of Milan and is the capital of the province of Monza and Brianza with a population of approximately 120,000.
Roman findings have dated settlements in Monza as far back as the 3rd Century BC, and since that time the city has served an important role in Italian history. Monza was actually used as a summer residence of the queens of Lombardy and was also used periodically as a military headquarters. Throughout the Middle Ages, the city was embroiled in various factional feuds, and in modern times, the city became a centre of economy and industry.
Whilst many may believe Milan eclipses this smaller city, Monza should definitely not be dismissed – it has some absolutely sublime historical architecture such as the Cathedral and the Leoni Bridge, but it also features the immense Parco di Monza and of course the famous Formula 1 Autodromo.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Monza:
1. Duomo di Monza
This immense cathedral is undoubtedly the most beautiful religious building in Monza and is a true gem of Italian Gothic architecture.
Constructed in 1300 but not completed until 1681, this cathedral has a similar front facade to the famous Florence Duomo and makes use of polychrome marble panels to add colour to the structure.
The front facade is outstanding and features a green and white striped pattern and several ornate circular windows – the most notable window is the Rose window that is surrounded by a series of small marble sculptures and rose reliefs.
Inside the cathedral you will find an even greater level of detail and the ceiling and columns are lavishly decorated with stucco artwork and Renaissance frescos.
Finally, the Theodelinda Chapel features some amazing artwork from Zavattari and is dedicated to the Lombard Queen.
2. Parco di Monza
As the largest walled park in Europe, the Parco di Monza covers a staggering 688 hectares and is a true treasure of the city.
This epic park was created by the stepson of Napoleon during the French occupation of Italy during the 19th century and originally served as an extension to the royal palace.
Within the grounds of the park you can find a variety of historic villas including Cascina Frutteto, Cascina San Fedele and the opulent Villa Mirabello.
Furthermore, the park features vast open expanses of lawns that are perfect for sunbathing and ball games.
Additionally, there is also large sections of woods that feature walking trails.
Don’t forget to walk long the River Lambro and cross the beautiful Ponte Delle Catene.
3. Autodromo Nazionale Monza
This is one of the main reasons people visit Monza – to see the historical Autodromo and racing tracks.
Created in 1922, it is one of the oldest purpose built racing circuits and has hosted the Italian Formula One Grand Prix since the tournaments inception.
This impressive complex features the main forumla one track with dedicated seating, but also an oval time-trial track that covers 4.25km of road complete with banked curves.
Even if you are not a fan of motorsport, a trip to Monza would not be complete without a visit to this historic track whilst exploring the grounds of the Parco di Monza.
4. Villa Reale
Located in the western part of the Parco di Monza, the Royal Villa of Monza was the original reason for the creation of the park and was used as a residence for the Viceroy of Italy, Eugene de Beauharnais.
Within this palatial complex is the Royal Chapel, the Teatrino di Cotre, the Orangery and the Royal Apartments.
The main building is impressive and features a central structure with two protruding arms – at the front of the palace is a large pond and fountain.
Furthermore, the gardens are well presented and feature many different varieties of flowers and plants.
Guided tours of the staterooms and grounds are possible and will provide a great insight into the history of this important residence.
The historic town centre of Monza has a plethora of interesting structures that have stood for hundreds of years – one such structure is the Palazzo dell Arengario which originally served as the town hall.
It is said that this building is inspired by the Palazzo della Ragione in Milan and it features a large bell tower and the ground floor has a series or ornate arches.
This portico is often covered with ivy and other plant life and looks absolutely stunning in the summer months.
On the southern side of the building there is a loggia where important speeches would have been conducted from.
Whilst walking through the historic centre, the Arengario is a fantastic building to admire.
6. Watch the F1 Italian Grand Prix
The Formula One Italian Grand Prix is one of the longest running events in the competition – a race has been held annually at Monza since 1921, and has subsequently been held every following year except in 1980. This fantastic and fast-paced race is held at the historical Monza Autodromo and spectators come from around the world to watch their heroes race around the track at unimaginable speeds.
Witnessing this competition is a truly wonderful experience and the atmosphere is simply buzzing.
If you are lucky, you can watch the technicians working on the cars, see the pit stop lanes, or simply watch the race from one of the well-equipped stands.
Wherever you watch the race from in the Autodromo, you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience.
7. Ponte dei Leoni
This bridge is one of the most well-known in Monza and was created in the early 19th century during the creation of a military pathway heading to Lecco.
Dedicated to the King of the Lombard-Veneto Kingdom, the bridge was made to be opulent and contains some fantastic design features.
The main part of the bridge is undoubtedly the four marble Lions that stand guard at either end of its entrance – these animals are finely sculptured and look sternly across the incoming roads.
Looking down the bridge you can see a stretch of the Lambro River and some of the beautiful houses that sit on its banks.
8. Expiatory Chapel of Monza
As stated previously, Monza has a plethora of historical sites and monuments, and the Expiatory Chapel of Monza is one such structure that pays tribute to King Humbert I who was actually murdered on that very spot in 1900. This monument/chapel was created by Giuseppe Sacconi and was finished in 1910. Set in beautiful grounds, the chapel features a large central column that is covered mainly by a large crucifix.
Various emblems and icons can be found on the chapel representing the royal coat of arms, and there is a bronze statue of the iconic Pieta.
9. Museo e Tesoro del Duomo di Monza
If you visit the Duomo di Monza, you must also take a trip to the Museum and treasure of the Duomo.
Located behind the epic cathedral you can find the museum and it can be accessed through the grounds of the church.
The collection of this church centres on religious artefacts and the history of the Duomo and some of the relics stored here are absolutely stunning.
Items include the opulent Agilulfo Cross that is made of solid gold and studded with precious gems, the Ferrea Crown that is also encrusted with jewels, and the crown of Theodolinda who was the Lombard Queen of this region.
Furthermore there is a host of tapestries, chalices, statues and manuscripts and for anyone who loves history this museum is a must see.
10. Take a walking tour of the historic centre
The historic city centre of Monza spans a wide area and is considered to be confined within the Via Alessandro Manzoni, and the Via Azzone Visconti.
Within this area you can find most of the important historical sites and a guided tour of the old town is a great way to learn about the cities history.
Starting at the Piazza Trento e Trieste, you can walk to the Duomo and maybe visit the Civic Museum, after this, consider walking over the Ponte de Leoni and then up towards the Piazza San Paolo.
From here you can make your way northwards up to the Villa Reale and then onto the vast expanse of the Parco di Monza.
11. Travel into Milan
Just 9 miles to the south of Monza is the thriving city of Milan.
This immense city is one of the most popular in Italy and has a plethora of attractions waiting to be explored.
Transport links between central Milan and Monza are excellent and there is a regular train service that runs approximately every 12 minutes.
Sites in Milan include the stunning cathedral with its Gothic facade, Sforza Castle, the upscale Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Royal Palace.
Furthermore, Milan is a fantastic place for those who love designer stores and high-streets brands and has streets full of high end fashion retailers.
12. Piazza Trento e Trieste
Monza has some beautiful open squares such as the Piazza Roma and the Piazza del Duomo, but the most interesting is the Piazza Trento e Trieste.
Located in close proximity to the Cathedral, this square features the Caduti Monument which is dedicated to fallen soldiers in the great wars and throughout Italy’s military history.
Furthermore, this square also features the impressive Commune di Monza and the Palazzo degli Studi.
This square is a great place to explore, and is also a prime area from which to start a walking tour of the historic city centre.
13. Chiesa di Santa Maria in Strada
Many people overlook this church in favour of the fantastic Duomo, but the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Strada is just as beautiful and stunning.
Located only a short walk from the Duomo and the Piazza Trento e Trieste, the church is one of the oldest in Monza and was created in the mid 14th century.
The front facade of this church has a wonderful red colouration and features some interesting designs and stone statues.
Furthermore, to the right hand side is an ornate working bell tower.
Inside the church you can find some magnificent artwork on the ceilings and arches and various frescos depicting religious scenes.
14. Sample an authentic Italian meal at the Darmas restaurant
If you are looking for a fantastic place to eat in the centre of Monza then look no further – the Darmas Restaurant offers high quality dining, a welcoming atmosphere and an overall excellent experience.
This charming eatery is located just outside the historic city centre near the Corso Milano and the Monza train station.
From the extensive menu, you can choose from a range of Italian pasta and meat dishes, and also some fantastic starters like the bread-board platter.
Dishes include Veal, Spaghetti, Lasagne, and a small selection of seafood to name a few.
The presentation is amazing and the dishes look as good as they taste.
15. Enjoy a glass of wine at the Vineria Dei Tintori Monza
If wine is your indulgence, the Vineria Dei Tintori Monza is a great place to sample a glass or three and enjoy a quiet evening of fine drink and great conversation.
This charming bar/restaurant has a riverside location and is situated right next to the beautiful Ponte de Leoni.
The modern decor is pleasing on the eye, and the establishment has some fantastic little quirks like wine cork seats.
On the far wall, you will see a vast selection of quality wines to choose from and you can sample each if you please.
Aside from the brilliant drink selection, there is also a selection of meals and a fantastic range of appetizers to help the wine go down!