The construction of the Duomo di Milano initiated in 1386 on the site of the ancient basilicas of Santa Tecla and Santa Maria Maggiore, which were then demolished at a later date. Dedicated to Maria Nascente, the cathedral was commissioned by Gian Galeazzo Visconti and had a dual purpose: the plan was to replace the sites of worship in the heart of Milan with an imposing edifice and it was also intended to celebrate the Visconti Signoria and its ambitious expansion policy.
It is the largest and most complex Gothic building in Italy, made of pink-veined white marble from the Candoglia quarries, in the Val d'Ossola. It is 157 metres in length and covers an area of 11,700 m2. The highest spire measures 108.5 and, in October 1774, the golden 4,16 metre-high statue of the Madonna by the sculptor Giuseppe Perego was placed on its pinnacle.
The construction works were prolonged over five centuries and, during this extensive period, local and European architects, sculptors, artists and workers all proceeded in turn to work in the Fabbrica del Duomo. The result of all their labour is a unique style of architecture, a fusion of European Gothic style and Lombard tradition.
The Galleria, a place of transit for busy managers or a stop for enchanted and curious tourists, expresses the various faces of the city through its many facets.
As soon as it was finished, the Galleria became immediately famous for its large size, extraordinary for the time and sign of a new era.
Taking that classic wander through the Galleria, the very heart of the city, as visitors have done for many years, still creates that wonderful sensation. Entering the Galleria, the corridor between Duomo and La Scala Theatre, its magnificent arch welcomes you and hints at the Milanese spectacle that lies within. The original idea of the designers was to create a porticoed street that would function as a showcase and offer somewhere to take a pleasant stroll, enjoy an aperitif or have dinner after the opera.
Today it can still be considered the “parlour” of the city, a place where you relax and enjoy a coffee at the bar Camparino, let yourself be enchanted by the cute hats of Borsalino and the collections of Prada and Louis Vuitton, or stop for an aperitif at Savini.
Castello Sforzesco is a surprising monument sheltering several specialized museums and traces of the city’s past. An oasis of art and culture. It was originally a Visconti fortress and later home to the mighty Sforzas, the rulers of Milan, who transformed it into a magnificent ducal palace thought to have been decorated by several of the greatest artists of the times including Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci.
Transformed into a military complex during four centuries of foreign occupation and subsequently used as the barracks of the Italian army, at the end of the 19th century the Castle was restored by architect Luca Beltrami who turned it into the headquarters of Milan’s Civic Museums.
Today the Castle sits in all of its glory in the eponymous square with its 70m-tall “Torre del Filarete” and a number of majestic circular keep-towers.
Brera is synonymous with the artistic heart of the city. In fact, as you stroll along the streets of this ancient district, you cannot help but be enchanted by its almost surreal atmosphere boasting small artisan’s workshops or quaint stores selling canvases and paints. Additionally, Brera is home to the impressive Accademia di Belle Arti, where visitors can admire Milan’s famous painting collection at the Pinacoteca (the Brera Picture Gallery), the historic Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense (Braidense National Library) , the Museo Astronomico (The Astronomical Museum), the oldest scientific research institute in the city and the Giardino Botanico (Botanical Gardens), an evocative green space located.
La Scala, or Teatro alla Scala in Italian, is one of the most famous opera houses in the world. Its sober and elegant exterior never fails to surprise those that visit it for the first time.
The Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este commissioned the construction of a new Ducal Theatre when a fire burnt down the previous theatre in 1776. The opera house was built on the site where the former site of the Church Santa Maria alla Scala, hence the name of the Teatro alla Scala.
Like other theatres of the same period, La Scala also housed a casino during its early years. In 1943, during World War II, the theatre was badly damaged by bombing. It was reconstructed three years later. In 2002, the Opera House was closed for two years while it was renovated and opened in November 2004 with an opening performance of Europa riconosciuta by Antonio Salieri, which is the same opera that was performed when the theatre was inaugurated in 1778. Many famous operas have had their first production in La Scala, such as Othello, Nabucco by Verdi or Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini.
During its early years, the composer Giuseppe Verdi did not want his work to be represented in the Teatro alla Scala because he was convinced that the orchestra modified his compositions. Nevertheless, he then established a very close relationship with the Opera House.
The Theatre Museum contains a large collection of paintings, busts, costumes and several other objects related to the world of opera and theatre. The visit includes discovering the theatre’s grand foyer, an elegant and sparsely decorated hall. Then you will be taken to the small box seats covered in red satin, where the high society enjoyed and still enjoys the various operas and ballets performed in La Scala. The enormous auditorium is made of wood and covered in red velvet, adorned with golden coloured stuccos. The stage is lit by a huge Bohemian crystal chandelier with 383 bulbs.
It seems that in the first half of the 15th century the Visconti stayed "in the countryside", a step away from the current Marche metro stop in Milan, in Villa Mirabello. At the time, however, the building we are talking about was called Cascina Mirabello, and it can be found in the documents of 1468 that recognized it as the property of this Pigello Portinari. The Florentine nobleman dear to Prince Sforza, general manager of the annuities of the Milanese duchy and representative of the Florentine House of the Medici in Milan, was also the promoter of the construction of the Portinari Chapel in Sant'Eustorgio.
Towards the end of the 15th century, the villa changed hands, becoming the property of the noble Landriani. Antonio Landriani, awarded by Francesco Sforza as mayor of Milan in 1456, then appointed prefect of the ducal treasury by Galeazzo Maria Sforza, later president of the Mint of Milan by the appointment of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, then became a trusted man and adviser politician of Ludovico il Moro. Ludovico himself was a guest of the Landriani in Villa Mirabello on February 4, 1500. A few years later the villa became one of the houses of the order of the Humiliati, of which Gerolamo Landriani was general. The Landriani family remained the owner of Villa Mirabello for some tens of years, enough to leave traces still visible today in the form of coats of arms that stand out on the fireplace of the main hall and on the ceilings, together with the motto "always el duty ”frescoed on the walls of the villa next to pomegranate figures and blue crosses. It seems that the villa then passed from Landriani to Marino, a rich family of Genoese origin whose member Tommaso entrusted Galeazzo Alessi with nothing less than the construction of Palazzo Marino in Piazza Della Scala.
The history of the villa, in the following years, is rather confused, but it is known that it later became the property of the Serbelloni family and that, starting from the mid-1500s, it faced a sad decline: the building was reduced exclusively to uses agricultural and over the next three centuries it became increasingly dilapidated, until Luca Beltrami, in 1891, considered it by re-evaluating it as an illustrious example of Lombard architectural art.
The new museum, created inside the ancient Ospedale Spagnolo (Spanish Hospital) in the Castello Sforzesco, is a fascinating space that has never opened to the public before and is exclusively dedicated to Michelangelo’s last masterpiece.