Sforza Castle is an oasis of art and culture, and is one of the landmarks in Milan. A favourite for visitors, it is home to some of the best museums that tells the stories of the city’s past. Although I couldn’t visit the museums during my recent visit to Milan, it is on my bucket list to do so on my next visit. The grounds were splendid, of which I am glad to have visited. Whether you visit this fashion capital for a day, or a few days, Sforza Castle should be on your list. I share what I have learnt of this magnificent Castle, both from research and from my personal experience. You will find Sforza Castle in Milan at:
45.4705° N, 9.1793° E
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The Torre del Filarete (central tower), Sforza Castle, Milan by Dimitris Vetsikas of Pixabay
Why and When was it built
This iconic red brick fortress was built in the 14th century by the Visconti family who made it into a splendid palace. It was almost destroyed during the Golden Ambrosian Republic. Later, in the 15th century, it became the home of the Sforza family, who were powerful rulers of Milan. Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan built on the remnants of the 14th fortification. The castle was reconstructed with the involvement of several of the greatest artists of the times such as Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci. It was one of the most magnificent residences in Italy as a result. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Sforza Castle was renovated and enlarged to be one of the largest castles in Europe.
During the next four centuries, the castle was dominated by foreign powers, French, Spanish, Austrian. The function changed as well, from a residence to a military complex. It was later used as barracks by the Italian army.
In 1905 the castle was completely restored to the way it was under the Sforza family by architect Luca Beltrami. The parade grounds at the rear of the castle was turned into a park.
During World War II, the castle was severely damaged. At the end of the twentieth century the Castle square was built with a fountain in the centre. In 2005, the restoration of the Cortile della Ghirlanda and the halls of the castle were completed.
The Sforza Castle is of a square plan, with three inner courtyards dominated by four imposing towers on each corner. There are two round towers facing the city and two square towers at the other end. The round towers are known as the Torre di Santi Spirito and the Torre del Carmine. At the rear are two more towers, the Torre Castellana and Torre Falconiera.
The main entrance to the Sforzesco Castle is via the castle’s tallest tower, Torre del Filarete. It leads to an expansive inner courtyard. Exploring the castle grounds will bring you to the Torre di Bona di Savoia. Beyond this tower lies two smaller courtyards, the Cortile della Rocchetta to the left and the Corte Ducale to the right.
Cortila delle Roccheta, Sforzesco Castle, Milan, by Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay
The Rocchetta was the castle’s stronghold and the last refuge in case of a siege.
Corte Ducale, Sforzesco Castle, Milan, by Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay
The Corte Ducale (Ducal Courtyard) is elegantly designed in Renaissance style with a beautiful loggia, Loggetta di Galeazzo Maria. Some of the rooms around the Corte Ducale are decorated with magnificent frescoes from the fifteenth century, designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
Sforza Castle today | An oasis of art & culture
The building alone is well worth a visit but within the walls of Sforza Castle is home to some treasure trove of Milan history.
The Museums at Sforza Castle
The Castle houses several distinct museums bringing together art, paintings, sculptors and musical instruments that tells the stories upon stories of Milan’s cultural and civic history. Watch the virtual tours through the links below, courtesy of Google Arts & Culture, and you will discover, as I, just how fascinating these museums are.
The highlights of the Museums are:
1 | Rondanini Pietà Museum
This museum features Michelangelo’s final and unfinished work, the Rondanini Pietà, now housed in the frescoed hall of the castle’s Ospedale Spagnolo (Spanish Hospital).
Michelangelo continued to work on this sculpture up until the last days before his death in Rome in 1564. It was just a few weeks before what would have been his 89th birthday.
Carved from a single block of marble, the sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Christ stands to a height of 74 inches.
2 | The Museum of Ancient Art
The Museum of Ancient Art houses the Sforza family’s sculptures of great value from the 5th century to the 16th century.
3 | The Pinacoteca
The Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery) hosts Lombard, Venetian and Flemish works. Made up of over 1500 works of art between the 13th and 18th century, it includes famous names such as Canaletto, Mantegna, Bronzino, Lorenzo Lotto, and Titian.
4 | Museum of Musical Instruments
Displays musical instruments from all over the world and is one of the most important museums in the world.
5 | The Antique Furniture and Wooden Sculpture Museum
This part of the museum features antiques dating from the 15th to 20th centuries. The furniture are displayed in various rooms representing respective periods.
6 | Museum of Decorative Arts
The museum shows the work of pottery makers, sculptors, upholsterers and weavers.
7 | Sala delle Asse
This part of the the museum is frescoed by Leonardo da Vinci,
8 | Egyptian Museum
Houses several objects from Egypt including statues, and mummies.
9 | The Archaeological Museum of Milan
This museum is home to objects from the main cultures that lived in Lombardy from the Neolithic period.
There are couple more exhibitions such as the Medal & Numistica Collection, and the engraving collection, “Achille Bertarelli”.
Practical information for visiting Sforza Castle, Milan
Hours and Admission
Tuesday-Sunday 9.00-17.30 Last admission 17.00 (only for ticket holders)
Closed on Mondays, December 25th, January 1st, May 1st
Free entry to Sforza Castle
The Castle’s central courtyard is free at all times. It is Free entry to the museums on every first and third Tuesday of the month from 14.00
How to get to Sforza Castle
Location: Sforzesco Castle, Piazza Castello, 20121 Milan
On public transport:
M1 and M2 (red and green lines) Cadorna FN
M1 (red line) Cairoli
M2 (green line) Lanza
For a comprehensive guide to using the public transport in Milan, read this article that has all the information you need. Includes type of tickets you may require, costs and links to the official ATM websites.
Tel: +39 02.88463700 | www.milanocastello.it
While most of the rooms are accessible to the disabled, rooms 9, 10, 15, 23, 24 are not accessible.
My thoughts on Sforza Castle
Sforzesco Castle, is not only a castle full of art but is also huge and beautifully landscaped with central courtyards that beckons a visit when you are in Milan. If you do not have time for the museums, visit this castle courtyards as it is open to the public and it is free. Moreover, Parco Sempione, Milan’s largest public green space is located at the rear of this magnificent landmark, so a visit through the courtyard is highly recommended if you are visiting Sempione Park.
If you are planning on visiting the museums, then consider doing one of the tours offered by Get your Guide, a trusted partner. View choices here.
You may also like to have a read on these, so you know more of Milan before your visit.
So, what do you think? Is this post valuable to you in planning your visit to Sforza Castle? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you. As always, I am contactable for any further info or to design your itinerary for you.
Enjoy the beautiful city of Milan.
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