Centuries before Piazza del Duomo became Milan’s main square, medieval Piazza Mercanti was the heart of the city. Marking the center of Milan’s historic center, this charming space is lined by porticoed palaces dating from the Middle Ages and offers a picturesque counterpoint to the rest of the city’s stately majesty.
Italy’s finance and fashion capital, Milan is known for its urban hustle and bustle, especially in and around the main Piazza del Duomo. To get an idea of what the city looked like centuries before the Duomo and adjacent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II were built, join a walking, bike, or rickshaw tour of Milan's historic center that includes a stop in Piazza Mercanti along with Sforza Castle and Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Piazza Mercanti, a short walk from Piazza del Duomo, is a welcome respite from the crowds of the city’s main square.
- Piazza Mercanti is paved and pedestrian-only, so easy to manage with a wheelchair or stroller.
- Tours of Milan’s historic center are mainly outdoors, so be sure to dress for the weather.
How to Get There
To reach Piazza Mercanti, walk from the northwest corner of Piazza del Duomo along Via Mercanti until you see the piazza on your left. The square is located between the metro stops of Duomo and Cordusio.
When to Get There
Piazza Mercanti is much less famous than Piazza del Duomo, so generally not as inundated with tourists and shoppers. You can take a break here during the busiest hours of the day when the crowds are at their peak. The piazza is just northwest of Piazza del Duomo, so you can easily combine a skip-the-line tour of the city’s soaring cathedral with a visit to its more modest original main square.
The History and Architecture of Milan’s Former Main Square
Piazza Mercanti, or Merchants Square, was once much larger than it is today, occupying part of present-day Via Mercanti. Most of the buildings on the square were built in Gothic or baroque style, including the Palazzo della Ragione (Milan's historic city hall), Loggia degli Osii, Palazzo dei Notai (Notary's Palace), and Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine. A well dating from the 1700s and fitted with two columns a century later marks the center of the square. A stone once stood near here that was used to publicly shame the city’s merchants who were debtors or, worse, bankrupt.