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Monte Stella: Milan’s Rubble Mountain

Monte Stella

The city of Milan is as flat as a pancake, save for a little bump in the northwest called Monte Stella. In the vast expanse of Po valley, where Milan is situated, Monte Stella looks little more than a swelling from an insect bite. But for the city’s joggers and young people looking for a little elevation in their daily exercise routine, Monte Stella provides the perfect spot.

Monte Stella’s existence is not a geological serendipity. Seventy years ago, this area was just a flat wasteland, that became a dumping ground after the city was essentially flattened by British bombers during the Second World War. As the economic and industrial center of Italy, and the country's second largest city, Milan was repeatedly bombed from 1940 to 1944. The first raids in 1940 were relatively light and caused limited damage, but the bombings during August 1943 were the heaviest and damaged nearly half of Milan’s buildings, leaving over 250,000 people homeless. The most tragic bombing took place on the night of October 20, 1944, when a navigation error caused a wave of bombers to go off course and bomb a heavily populated suburb resulting in the death of hundreds of civilians, including some two hundred school children.

bombing of milan

Piazza Fontana, after a bombing raid in 1943.

Milan’s bombing left at least one third of the population homeless. An equal proportion of buildings were lost either from direct strikes, by fires caused by bombing or they were so badly damaged that they had to be demolished. The immense mass of rubble cleared from the city’s soil was used to erect the 45-meter hill Monte Stella, also called Montagnetta di San Siro (“Little mountain of San Siro”). The hill was designed by architect Piero Bottoni, who dedicated the hill to his wife, Stella.

Thanks to the flat landscape, the hill provides a panoramic view of the city and hinterland, and on a clear day, one can see the Alps and Apennines from the top.

The hill is now surrounded by a small wooded park. In 2003, one section of the park was converted into a memorial dedicated to those who opposed genocide and crimes against humanity. Each tree in this “Garden of the Just” (Giardino dei Giusti) is dedicated to one such person.

Monte Stella

Monte Stella

Milan, seen from Monte Stella, circa 1960. Photo: Paolo Monti

Monte Stella

Milan, seen from Monte Stella, circa 1960. Photo: Paolo Monti

Monte Stella

Paths inside Milan Monte Stella Park. Photo: Goldmund100/Wikimedia Commons

References:
# http://imilanesi.nanopress.it/location/montagnetta-di-san-siro/
# http://www.storiadimilano.it/Repertori/bombardamenti.htm
# http://www.storiemilanesi.org/en/insight/i-bombardamenti-ricostruzione/
# https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/10/20/milan-seeks-us-apology-wwii-bomb-hit-elementary-school-italy/4045367002/
# https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Stella_(Milan)

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