Click on images for more details!

Milan Historical Centre (Centro Storico Milano)

Milan is known as the fashion capital and is the wealthiest city in Italy. Almost every Italian on the street wears a genuine leather jacket or sports coat. Unfortunately, we were welcomed by a group of female pickpockets in the first hour we arrived. Although we stayed in a nice neighborhood, we were on guard for the next few days.

Our modern apartment was located in the historic center of Milan with short walks to Sforzesco Castle and the Last Supper. We could also easily hop on the tram, what us New Orleanians call a trolley or street car, for further destinations.

Sforzesco Castle

Castello Sforzesco originated as the Visconti fort in the 14th century and was later tranformed into a medieval fortification in the 15th century by its ruler Francesco Sforza.

There are records of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) at the Sforza Court, and during that time he painted the ceiling of the Room of Wooden Boards (Sala delle Asse). It is currently under restoration, which has revealed the Sforza coat of arms, tree trunks, roots, rocks, and trellaces with vegetation.

The castle is now home to several museums, for which you can purchase tickets. The Museum of the Rondanini Pietà houses Michelangelo’s last sculpture, Pietà. The castle grounds and inner courtyards are free to visitors.

Arch of Peace

Northwest of the grounds, you will find Napoleon’s triumphal arch, Arco della Pace. The arch marked the beginning of the Simplon Pass (Corso Sempione), the road that connects Milan and Paris. The Austrian Empire conquered Napoleon before it was complete; therefore, the history depicted on the arch is quite ironic and different than what Napoleon intended (him being defeated rather than his conquer).

The Last Supper – Leonardo Da Vinci

One of the highlights of Milan was getting to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper (1495–1498). It is found on the north wall of the convent refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie, a terracotta Renaissance church. Francesco Sforza ordered the build of Dominican convent in 1463. The church was not completed until decades later.

During World War II, the refectory was bombed and The Last Supper was mostly saved by being protected by sandbags. Due to the environmental issues, the method of how it was painted, and a door being cut into the bottom of painting (cutting off Jesus’ feet), little of the original painting’s details remain. Extensive restoration has been completed in order to save the painting.

The Crucifixion by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano (1495) sits opposite of the refectory. It is better preserved due to using the fresco technique (painting with wet plaster).

Piazza Duomo

Milan’s central piazza is surrounded by a gothic cathedral (Duomo di Milano), a royal palace (Palazzo Reale Milano), and high-end shops (Gucci, Fendi, Dior, Chanel, Ferrari). Here is where you come for expensive, name-brand shopping, but instead we got drinks at Terrazza Aperol, a modern style bar with a terrace view over the cathedral.

PinaCoteca Ambrosiana

Wanting to see Leonardo’s sketches of architecture and inventions led us to this art gallery. PinaCoteca Ambrosiana has the largest collection of his sketches, as well as many other notable works, such as Raphael’s preparatory drawing for the School of Athens. We were going to see Raphael’s apartment in the Vatican in the next week, so getting to see the life size drawing up close prior to seeing the completed painting was a real treat. There were also paintings from Soreau, Vecchio, Caravaggio and Botticelli. The gallery itself is beautiful, and I could not help to capture some of the halls and room layouts. We spent two hours browsing the gallery, but we could have definitely spent more. At the very end, we arrived in a library where Leonardo’s Atlantic Codex (Codex Atlanticus), his largest collection of writings and drawings bound in a book, was displayed. Several pages were out for viewing in glass cases.

The Milanese people work hard during the week and spend their holiday (weekends) at Lake Como. We took a day trip to the Como region and Bellagio, and it was absolutely beautiful.

Dreaming of this adventure? Or have you had an experience of your own? Share with us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *