Stella's Palace

Corso Magenta, 59. (Open Map)


Palazzo delle Stelline is near the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, one of the best-known and loved monuments in Milan. In addition, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper is close at hand.Elements worth noting at Palazzo delle Stelline include the stone staircases, and above all the fine cloister that creates an atmosphere of tranquillity, almost of defence against the outside world. A few historical notes help appreciate this monument to the full.This building is named after an ancient convent for the Benedictine nuns of Santa Maria della Stella (“Stelline,” little stars). The convent building was refurbished progressively over the centuries, and it became an orphanage for girls in the mid-18th century. The building grew up in an atmosphere of charity and solidarity on the part of the people of Milan, who did not want to ignore the problems of abandoned and needy infants. Later, the Palazzo acquired another use. The orphanage was transferred in the early 1970s, and the building was purchased by the Municipality of Milan.In 1986, the administration and the Region of Lombardy formed a Foundation to manage the Palazzo and promote its cultural activities.Today, the building is a prestige location for congresses, conference, debates, events and courses. Every year, over 1,300 events take place, with over 100,000 people involved. These figures provide an idea of the city’s cultural, social and economic energy, and likewise the wealth of the hinterland.The history of the “Stelline” is linked to that of the Martinitt, an institution providing care for male orphans whose existence runs back to the 16th century.
Saint Gerolamo Emiliani, son of a Venetian senator, reached freedom after having been a prisoner of war. As a vote of thanks for his good fortune, he welcomed the orphans of Venice and gave them a home in one of his properties.
A Milanese nobleman, Francesco Sforza, heard about the story and allowed the Venetian to provide a home for more orphans in Milan, at the oratorio of San Martino di Milano, in a building on what is now Via Manzoni. The male orphans were therefore named Martinitt, while the girls were the Stellin (“Stelline”, little stars). Some of them, benefiting from support provided by benefactors, education, and their own determination, became important personalities in the city.At the “Stella hospital for poor beggars and the shameful,” in the mid 17th century, the presence of adults was limited, privileging orphans and needy children. In 1788 the institution became exclusively an orphanage for girls, on order by Francis II. The Stelline orphanage remained at the building for three centuries, until 1971. During the war (1942-44), the two associations, Martinitt and Stelline, joined forces, only to split once again up until the 1970s, when the premises in Via Pitteri (Martinitt) were refurbished to become a residential community, while Palazzo delle Stelline was transformed into a congress and exhibition venue.Visitors and scholars who would like to immerse themselves in centuries past can make their way to the Museo Martinitt e Stelline which was opened to the public in 2009. The museum conserves a compilation of all the documentation of the orphanages from 1800 to 1960, along with a collection of paintings and the orphans’ reading books: a special feature of the museum is the interactive route through which visitors can not only easily consult the old materials in electronic format but also participate in answering questions from the teacher, work in the ironing room or read about the history of the benefactors ... just like virtual Martinitt orphans.

The complex now hosts various institutions: the European Union’s offices in Milan, the Istituto per il Commercio con l'Estero (Institute for Foreign Trade), the French Cultural Centre, and the ENI Enrico Mattei Foundation. In addition, the building provides space for the Congress Centre, the Gruppo Credito Valtellinese art gallery, and the Milano Stelline offices of the Credito Artigiano bank.