Parks are rare in Milan, and this 47-hectare (116-acre) expanse behind Castello Sforzesco is the city's biggest. Since its 1996 clean-up, it has become a firm favourite with everyone from canoodling teenagers to summertime drinkers in the park's outdoor bars.
Milan's French rulers began carving the orchards, vegetable gardens and a hunting reserve out of the remains of the ducal gardens in the early 1800s. It was only in 1893 that it was landscaped, by Emilio Alemagna. He opted for the then-popular 'English garden' look, with winding paths, lawns, copses and a lake. The Arena Civica, the mini-colosseum designed in 1806 by Luigi Canonica and located at the back of the park, is another addition from the city's Napoleonic period. The rulers of the Roman-inspired French Empire used it for open-air entertainment - chariot races and mock naval battles (for the latter, the arena was flooded with water from nearby canals). Today, it's used for athletic events and the occasional outdoor concert.
There's a handful of museums and galleries in the park, including the Palazzo d'Arte (Triennale); near this palazzo are several abstract sculptures from the 1970s. Be sure to visit Giò Ponti's 1933 Torre Branca, Milan's answer to the Eiffel Tower, which offers visitors a 360º view of the entire city. At the base of the tower is designer drinking spot Just Cavalli Café (02 311 817, www.justcavallicafe.com, closed Sun).
Construction of the Arco della Pace, currently under renovation (until 2010) at the northern end of the park, was begun in 1807 to a design by Luigi Cagnola, to celebrate Napoleon's victories. Work proceeded too slowly, however, and came to an abrupt halt in 1814 when Napoleon fell from power. Construction resumed in 1826 - with a few changes to the faces in the reliefs - and the arch was eventually inaugurated on 10 September 1838 by Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I. Among its decorative sculptures are the Chariot of Peace by Abbondio Sangiorgio, and Four Victories by Giovanni Putti.