Weather permitting, be sure to explore the beautiful Sempione park, which lies just adjacent to the castle
In 1447, when Filippo Maria Visconti, the Duke of Milan, died without an heir, the Milanese people proclaimed the Ambrosian Republic, razing the previous castle on this site to the ground. At the time the Republic was at war with Venice and had to turn to the military man Francesco Sforza for leadership; just three years later he proclaimed himself Duke of Milan and rebuilt Sforza Castle on the same spot. It was good while it lasted.
Over the centuries the iconic red-brick castle has been transformed into a magnificent Renaissance residence. Some of Italy’s greatest artists had a hand in decorating it, including Leonardo da Vinci, Donato Bramante and the inimitable Michaelangelo. His final work, the Rondanini Pietà, is kept in the frescoed hall of the castle’s Ospedale Spagnolo.
Brick-Red and the Seven Museums
The castle holds no less than seven museums, spread out over several floors around the Ducal courtyard, which shed light on Milan’s cultural and civic history. Highlights include the Museum of Ancient Art, which is found in the ducal apartments and contains fascinating examples of early Christian sculptures and reliefs showing Milan’s victory over the Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa.
The history of music and art in Milan is also examined: the art gallery displays a range of Italian paintings, including Andrea Mantegna’s renowned Trivulzio Madonna, and the museum of musical instruments has some beautifully preserved artefacts, such as a sixteenth century Venetian harpsichord and a glass harmonica. For a complete tour of medieval Milan, the Sforza Castle is must.
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