Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library & Art Gallery), Milan

Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library & Art Gallery), Milan (must see)

In the bustling city of Milan, amidst its grandeur and energy, lies a place of quiet contemplation, the Ambrosiana Library and Art Gallery. Its origins date back to 1603 when local Cardinal Federico Borromeo, who had just returned from Rome's artistic circles, founded this sanctuary of knowledge and beauty. With over 36,000 manuscripts and more than 750,000 prints, the library is a true treasure trove of intellectual inquiry and spiritual reflection. Named after the patron saint of Milan, Ambrose, it is a testament to the intersection of religion, intellectualism, and aesthetics that defined the Renaissance period.

One of the main attractions here is the Codex Atlanticus, a collection of twelve volumes of drawings and manuscripts created by Leonardo da Vinci between 1478 and 1519. Containing the artist's drawings, sketches and fables, it is undoubtedly the largest collection of Leonardo's writings on practically every area of human knowledge: mechanics, mathematics, astronomy, botany, geography, physics, chemistry, architecture and philosophy.

Part of the library is the famous Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, the art gallery, featuring da Vinci's "Portrait of a Musician", Caravaggio's "Basket of Fruit", as well as Raffaello's life-size, pencil and carbon sketch of the "The School of Athens", a full-color final version of which is displayed in the Vatican.

Among other major acquisitions here are Islamic manuscripts, 11th-century diwan of poets and the oldest copy of the 'Kitab Sibawahaihi', plus a complete set of manuscripts from the Benedictine monastery of Bobbio (1606) and those from Vincenzo Pinelli of Padua, comprising more than 800 pieces, including the famous Ilias Picta (Ambrosian Iliad).

Why You Should Visit:
A chance to immerse yourself in the world of academic tomes and works of art, experience the tranquil ambiance that has enchanted scholars and art lovers for centuries, see art restorers at work on peculiar Renaissance masterpieces -- and in a brilliant building, too.

Tip:
On a weekday, you can practically have the entire place to yourself. The provided map/guide is quite clear, with all the main highlights identified, but if you're pressed for time, taking a guided tour is advisable.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Milan. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library & Art Gallery) on Map

Sight Name: Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library & Art Gallery)
Sight Location: Milan, Italy (See walking tours in Milan)
Sight Type: Museum/Gallery
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Milan, Italy

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Milan may well be a world fashion capital and one of the financial capitals of Europe, but religion, and particularly churches, are an inseparable part of the Milanese life. Indeed, steeped in history, this city has garnered over the centuries a wealth of iconic places of worship.

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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In 286 the Roman Emperor Diocletian moved the capital of the Western Roman Empire from Rome to...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
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The best place to start is...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpieces

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Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest Renaissance artists and polymaths in history, left an indelible mark on Milan through several of his masterpieces created in this city over the nearly 20 years that he spent here.

One of the notable places where you can explore the maestro's work is the Ambrosian Library (Biblioteca Ambrosiana), which houses a vast collection of his drawings and...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles

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