A maze of museums, Michaelangelo and mummies – Milan's castle is a satisfying one-stop shop.
The first castle on this site was built in 1368 by the Visconti family, but it was partially demolished in 1447 when Duco Francesco Sforza built this formidable pile on top of it. Ludovico 'il Moro' Sforza was probably the most influential of the family, acting as patron to Leonardo da Vinci, who painted the ceiling in the Sala delle Asse for him. Later generations continued to add embellishments. The tower by the main gate was only added in 1901-4 to replace the Filarete Tower which had been blown up in 1521. There were also three courtyards – the parade ground, the public Renaissance Rocchetta Court and the private Ducal Court; together they linked the city with the hunting preserve beyond, now the Parco Sempione. Few people give Milan’s formidable castle the respect it deserves in sightseeing terms. They wander around the edge, inspect the fountain and the walls but don’t fully explore the maze-like collection of museums within.
It would take days to work your way around all 12 mini-museums, which cover everything from musical instruments to ancient Egypt, from photography and prints to furniture and decorative arts. The most important collections are probably the Museum of Ancient Art and the Pinacoteca di Castello, a magnificent art gallery containing works by Leonardo, Bramante, Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto and Mantegna amongst many other masters. The castle’s star attraction is Michelangelo’s last work; the unfinished Rondanini Pietà was carved when he was 89 years old.