Located a striking distance from the Milan Cathedral, from Parco Sempione and from the Golden Quadrilateral, the Sforza Castle, locally known as Castello Sforzesco, is one of the top tourist sights of Milan. It’s not just the fact this is one of the most historical buildings in Milan, but also the fact the castle is at present home to a dozen or so museums and galleries which can easily complement the city’s sightseeing tour for all art aficionados (and not only for them).
The Sforza Castle was originally built in the second half of the 14th century, but much of the present edifice was delineated in the mid 15th century. Indeed, first erected by order of Galeazzo Il Visconti as fortress in 1368, and then extended as royal residence by his heirs, the castle was completely destroyed by the Milanese people, since the castle stood out as an emblem of the harsh Visconti family. The castle was rebuilt by Francesco Sforza in the mid 15th century, after his proclamation as Duke of Milan, but plenty of additions were brought during the reign of Ludovico Sforza who resorted to the services of the likes of Bramante and da Vinci (Leonardo’s main surviving contribution to the castle refers to the ceiling friezes in Sala Delle Asse) to build a kingly residence. The Renaissance touches owed to such great artists are easily distinguishable by the eye of an architecture connoisseur.
Further extensions were built during the 15th and the 16th century when, under the Spanish rule, the edifice grew into being one of the largest fortifications on the continent, though sundry past elements of the building were left neglected. The decay of the castle continued throughout the first half of the 19th century, but the in the early 20th century, it was opened to the public after a several-decade period of restoration works carried out under the supervision of Luca Beltrami.
There’s plenty to see at the Sforza Castle at present. Its architecture, with highlights like Torre del Filarete (the tallest tower, through which the entrance is made into the castle), Torrre di Bona and the inner courtyard, not to mention the splendid loggias and arcades which border the two small courtyards (Cortile della Rocchetta and Corte Ducale), is not to be disregarded, though the most popular sights inside the castle refer to the several museums it hosts: the Museum of Ancient Art, the Egyptian Museum, the Museum of Prehistory and Protohistory, the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Castle Picture Gallery, a Furniture Museum, the Achille Bertarelli Print Collection and the Photography Collection, just to mention a few.
Look for information on each of these museums in order to learn about admission prices and opening hours. Keep in mind the AmaMi Card can offer you major admission discounts if you decide to purchase the card.
The Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery was built between 1865 and 1877. It is now home to some of Milan’s historical cafes and renowned fashion boutiques.
The Villa Reale Gardens are located across the Public Gardens of Milan. They were laid out in an elegant English style and are home to Villa Reale.
The Brera Botanical Garden of Milan is located behind the Brera Art Gallery. It was founded in the 1770s, and it is managed by the University of Milan.