The city of Milan in the Lombardy region of northern Italy is a global capital of fashion and design. It is also a financial hub being home to the national stock exchange and is a city well known for top of the line dining and shopping. It offers visitors many impressive art works and admirable architecture.
A special treasure is the city’s most famous mural, “The Last Supper” which is the art work of Leonardo Da Vinci. The mural can be seen on the wall of the refectory next to the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie. This impressive art work shows Christ and his disciples at the most dramatic moment when Christ reveals that he known about his betrayal. It counts among the world’s most iconic images. In order to see it you have to book in advance or sign up for a guided tour. It is worth taking in all that you can as viewing time is limited to 15 minutes.
Built out of pink Candoglia Marble Milan’s extravagant Gothic Cathedral is a sight to behold. The cathedral was commissioned in 1387 and completed almost 600 years later. It has a pearly white facade that is adorned with 135 spires and 3200 statues. The interior has the largest stained glass windows of any religious structure. Beneath the cathedral you can see the crypt of Saint Carlo Borromeo and explore the ancient ruins in the Battistero di San Giovanni. From the spired roof terraces you can get fantastic views of the city and on a brilliantly clear day you can see all the way to the Alps. The most impressive of all of its ornaments is a gilded copper statue of the Madonnina or Little Madonna, who is the city’s traditional protector. The statue is perched atop of a spire.
Standing over Piazza del Duomo offering fantastic views of the cathedral is Mussolini’s Arengario, the place from which he addressed huge crowds in his day. It now is home to the Novecento Museum of 20th century art. It was built around a futuristic spiral ramp and has a magnificent collection of art works that include Umberto Boccioni, Campigli de Chirico and Marinetti. You ascend through various rooms that take you from the powerful Neo-impressionist painting of striking workers “Il Quatro Stato” by Volpedo to the impressive art of futurist greats like Boccioni. Carlo Carra, Gino Severini and Giacomo Balla and on to abractionism, surrealism, spatialism and Arte Povera.
Above the centuries old and still one of Italy’s most prestigious art schools, Accademia di Bella Arti you will find the Pinacoteca di Brera. An art gallery that houses Milan’s most impressive collection of the Old Masters among them the art work of Rembrandt, Goya and Van Dyck. You’ll also be able to admire the work of Italian artists such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Mantegna, the Bellini brothers and Caravaggio.
The interesting Castle Sforzesco was once a Visconti fortress. Later on the red-brick castle became home to the great Sforza dynasty, who ruled during the Renaissance in Milan. Michelangelo Da Vinci designed the castle’s defenses. The moat was drained and the drawbridges were removed by Napoleon. Today the castle is home to seven specialized museums which display items pertaining to the cultural and civic history of Milan. Here you can also see Da Vinci’s final art work, the “Rodanini Pieta”.
Set up in ducal apartments, the Museum of Ancient Art offers visitors a chance to see Paleo-Christian frescoes, the equestrian tomb of Bernarbo Visconti and the sculpted reliefs which depict Milan’s triumph over Barbarossa.
On the first floor you’ll find the Furniture Museum and Picture Gallery where you can see Ducal wardrobes and writing desks and a collection of Lombard Gothic Art. Some of the highlights are “Trivulzio Madonna” by Andrea Mantegna, “St. Sebastian” by Vincenzo Foppa and “Noli me tangere” or Touch me not by Bramantino.
Near Castle Sforzesco you’ll find the refreshing green space of Sempione Park. The parks is located right outside of the historic center of Milan. Within the park are some impressive buildings and monuments as well as an over one hundred meter tall tower. The parks is nicely landscaped with winding paths, large open grassy areas, tall trees and a picturesque bridge stretching over a central pond. Many events are held in the park during the spring and summer.
Among the interesting structures in the park is The Arena Civica located in the eastern part of the park. It was built in 1806, designed by Luigi Canonica. He took his inspiration from the classical arenas of Ancient Rome. Napoleon was at the opening of the arena which was used for festivities, horse races and chariot races. Later on it was used for football games, athletic events and concerts.
In 1807 Luigi Cagnola designed and built the Arco della Pace or Peace Arch. It was completed in 1838 and inaugurated by King Ferdinand I of Austria.
To the south you’ll find the Acquario Civico which is the only structure that remains of the 1906 Milan World Expo. The aquarium was designed by Sebastiano. It was done in Stile Liberty, a local version of the Art Nouveau Style. The front facade is nicely decorated with colorful tiles, a central statue of Neptune and sculptures of sea animals.
Another incredible structure in the park is Torre Branca. This is a 108 meter tall tower that was erected in 1933. It can be found in the western part of the park. There is a platform at the height of 97 meters and from here visitors can have a great view of Sempione Park, the Castle Sforzesco and the historic center of Milan. Nearby is the Palazzo dell’ Arte and its the permanent location of the Triennial Exposition of Decorative Art.
A most picturesque square is Piazza Mercanti not far from Milan’s Gothic Cathedral. At the time of the Middle Ages it was the commercial and governmental center of Milan. During those times the city hall, court of law and a prison were located in this square. There was even a market in the square. The square has a lot of impressive architecture.
The large building at the center is the Palazzo della Ragione built between 1228 and 1233. It was constructed on order of Milan’s magistrate, Oldrado da Tresseno. The magistrate is shown on a horse in a niche on the exterior of the Palazzo and most likely created by one of that era’s most renowned sculptors Benedetto Antelami.
The Loggia degli Osli is the most intriguing building at the square and was commissioned in 1316 by Matteo Visconti. It was constructed as a loggia with large open arcades and housed the offices of notaries and judges. The facade of the building is adorned with statues of saints and coat of arms. Officials announced weddings, edicts and sentences from the balcony. There are other buildings to admire as well.
In Milan the most romantic neighborhood is Navigli and is located southwest of the city’s historic center. It was named after the navigli canals. The canals formed a 150km long network connecting the city with the rivers and lakes of the Lombardy region. The canals were used for irrigation, provided the city with water and used for transportation. Today only three canals remain – the Naviglio della Martesana, the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese.
The most interesting of these is the Naviglio Grande. In this area you’ll see iron pedestrian bridges, a small church and the picturesque Vicolo dei Lavandi. It is particularly interesting during the summertime when there are cruise boats on the canal.
The slender Pirelli Tower was recognized as an international landmark when it as completed in 1959 as the headquarters of Pirelli. The tower is slender and reinforced by concrete walls. The Pirelli Tower rises straight up from a small base up to a height of 127 meters. Its form can be found in other skyscrapers such as the Metlife Building in New York City (formerly the PanAm Building).