The Sforza Castle stands as a prominent symbol of Milan’s history, a sprawling fortified complex that now houses significant museums, archives, and libraries. This castle stands as a testament to defensive engineering, a collaborative effort involving notable engineers and architects, including the likes of Leonardo da Vinci.
Situated just beyond the city’s historic core and overlooking Parco Sempione, the Sforza Castle was erected in the 15th century under the patronage of Francesco Sforza, who had recently ascended to the position of Duke of Milan. It was constructed upon the ruins of an earlier 14th-century medieval stronghold known as the Castello di Porta Giovia. Evolving over the years through substantial transformations, the Castello Sforzesco served as a pivotal military citadel in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The towering pinnacle of the castle, recognizable by its distinct profile and functioning as the main entrance, bears the name Filarete Tower. This designation pays homage to the Tuscan architect tasked with its design by Duke Francesco I in 1452. Despite being ravaged by a fire in June 1521, the tower was reconstructed in the early 20th century, following the blueprints of architect Luca Beltrami.
Today, visitors are invited to explore an extraordinary compound that is rich in art, history, and culture. They can navigate through a museum divided into various thematic sections, or simply amble through the courtyards nestled within the expansive gardens surrounding the castle. For those with extra time to spare, a stroll atop the battlements that traverse the walls offers an array of breathtaking vistas.
The Sforza Castle houses the most splendid art collections belonging to the City of Milan. Inside, visitors can marvel at an impressive assortment of furnishings, musical instruments, tapestries, ceramics, ancient weaponry, coins, and above all, paintings and sculptures, including the renowned Pietà Rondanini by Michelangelo. Among the museum’s most charming spaces is the Ducal Courtyard, a historical setting and home to the dukes of the Sforza family since 1466.
Within the courtyard, standouts include the loggia, the Elephant Portico, the Ducal Chapel, and particularly, the captivating frescoes that adorn the Sala delle Asse, one of the Castle’s most enthralling historical backdrops. Lastly, among the ancient manuscripts in the Trivulziana Library, you’ll encounter the Codex Trivulzianus—an invaluable notebook replete with notes and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci.
The annals of the Sforza Castle resonate with the presence of great artistic luminaries. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Andrea Mantegna, Bramantino—these eminent creators have etched their mark upon the castle’s renown. Leonardo for his embellishments within the Sala delle Asse; Michelangelo for the preserved Pietà Rondanini within the museum situated in the old Spanish Hospital in the Courtyard of Arms; Mantegna’s treasured painting “Madonna in Glory and Saints John the Baptist, Gregory the Great, Benedict and Jerome” in room XXIII of the Pinacoteca; lastly, Bramantino’s cycle of tapestries depicting the twelve months is exhibited in the Sala della Balla (room 37 of the Museo degli Strumenti Musicali).0