FAI Spring Days offer many events in Milan, Lombardy

Italy’s environmental foundation opens many doors in Milan.

The Italian Environmental Fund (FAI), the equivalent of Britain’s National Trust, is opening over 1,100 sites across the country for the 27th edition of its traditional "Spring Days" initiative on 23 and 24 March, including 30 castles, 227 palaces and villas, two ships and 296 religious sites in 430 towns and all 20 regions.

In Lombardy alone, 173 sites will entice visitors for a comfortable day trip, many of them not normally open to the public, 21 of them in Milan itself.

Over 40,000 volunteer FAI members will be on hand to explain the details of the sites or to guide visitors, helped this year for the first time by about a hundred foreign guides.

There is something for everyone among the sites open to visitors, FAI deputy president Marco Magnifico told media.  One example, he said, is a 16th-century castle "that no one knows about" in Melegnano, less than an hour’s drive south of Milan, whose signore was “the villain Medeghino dei Medici".  The castle (pictured) will open its non-restored east wing especially for the occasion.

One of the favourites in previous editions of the FAI weekends is Palazzo Mezzanotte, named for its architect but better known as Milan’s stock exchange. Visitors can see the former trading hall, used when bidding used to be by shouts, and the remains of a Roman theatre in the basement.

There is an interactive list of sites on the FAI website with details of the many places to visit in the city or within comfortable reach of a day trip.  Each site profile page includes the opening hours and helpful directions on reaching the location.

A small number of places around the country will be open only to FAI members, but this includes those who sign up on the spot. At all the others, a voluntary contribution is requested, dedicated to the recovery, maintenance and preservation of the historical sites.

FAI Spring Days have seen nearly 11 million visitors since the event first began in 1993. The organisation has set a target of 250,000 members by next year, up from the current 190,000.