City Center Museums and Galleries (Self Guided), Milan

Milan is not only the business and fashion center of Italy, it also a cultural center. The city of Milan offers numerous cultural activities, as well as countless art galleries and museums that exhibit some of the world's most famous and imposing artworks and artifacts. Most of these cultural centers are located in the very heart of Milan and within a pleasant walk.
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City Center Museums and Galleries Map

Guide Name: City Center Museums and Galleries
Guide Location: Italy » Milan (See other walking tours in Milan)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Author: karen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museo della Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio
  • Museo Civico Archeologico
  • Pinacoteca Castello Sforzesco (Sforzesco Castle Art Gallery)
  • Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Art Gallery)
  • Poldi Pezzoli Museum
  • Manzoni Museum
  • Museo del Duomo (Cathedral Museum)
  • Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library)
1
Museo della Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio

1) Museo della Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio

The Museum of the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, established in 1949, contains sacred finds relevant to the Basilica including mosaics and church furnishings. It was established to document the history of the Basilica through a precious collection of artworks and liturgical objects. The gold and silver cross which St Charles Borromeo carried in 1576 in a thanksgiving procession to mark the end of the plague is displayed here among other highlights such as the original chapel and some amazing mosaics.

Why You Should Visit:
Entry to the basilica costs nothing, but if you wish to visit the museum then you will pay just a couple of euros.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-12pm / 2:30-6pm; Sun: 3-5pm
2
Museo Civico Archeologico

2) Museo Civico Archeologico

Museo Civico Archeologico is a small and fascinating museum that reveals information about the Milan during the era of Roman Empire. It shows how Milan unexpectedly became the capital of the empire in the fourth century A.D.

The museum has some unique masterpieces of art in its collections. The most important of which include the Trivulzio's cup, a rare example of intact diatret glass from the Roman times; patera from Parabiago, beautiful example of silverware of the late Roman Empire and the art from Gandhara, the region between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The building of the museum is also very interesting as it has been constructed inside the structures of the Roman Circus. Remains from the Roman times can be seen present all around the museum.

The Municipal Archeological Museum has its home in the Benedictine Monastery since the 1960s. Established through a merger of the Brera Archeological Museum and the Municipal Art Museum, it houses items from the rich numismatic collection of Greek, Italian and Etruscan masterpieces. All the documentation of sculptures, ceramics and mosaics dating from the prehistoric to the modern age are housed in there. It has an interesting section of the items excavated from Palestine along with a complete section showing historic treasures from the Necropolis of Lovere. The Archaeological Museum is also famous for its rich scientific activity and for its accurate publications on the collections it houses.

A visit to the museum will give you a real insight into the history of the Milan during the Roman Empire.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Sunday 9 am - 5.30 pm.
3
Pinacoteca Castello Sforzesco (Sforzesco Castle Art Gallery)

3) Pinacoteca Castello Sforzesco (Sforzesco Castle Art Gallery)

Inaugurated in 1878, this well-known art gallery is part of the complex of the Sforza Castle Museums in Milan. The gallery displays over 230 artworks, which include masterpieces by Titian, Andrea Mantegna, Canaletto, Antonello da Messina, Pisanello, Vincenzo Foppa, Giovanni Bellini, Correggio, Bernardino Luini, Lorenzo Lotto, Tintoretto and others. The complete collection of the museum, enriched in the last two centuries by donations of illustrious citizens and collectors, now has more than 1500 artworks.

The first rooms of the Pinacoteca are dedicated to religious paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries with artworks by Vincenzo Foppa, Bergognone, Bramantino, Carlo Crivelli, Bernardino Luini and other Lombard and Italian Renaissance painters. This part of the museum includes the "Trivulzio Madonna" by Andrea Mantegna, dating from 1497 (another "Trivulzio Madonna" by Filippo Lippi is also in the museum).

The second half of the Pinacoteca displays artworks from the 16th, 17th and 18th century. This includes both secular and religious works from artists such as Canaletto, Giambattista Tiepolo, Bernardo Bellotto, Titian and Tintoretto.

Some portraits of the Sforza family members from the 15th-16th centuries century are also on display in the museum.

Tip:
Definitely get the audio guide and be prepared with a proximity card for your payment as for some odd reason they do not have the capability of accepting the usual chip card (fortunately, Google Pay works).
While there are 14 different exhibitions in the Castle itself, please note that some of these are closed in the afternoon. A ticket for all exhibitions in the Castle comes at a very reasonable cost.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5:30pm
4
Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Art Gallery)

4) Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Art Gallery) (must see)

Pinacoteca di Brera is an art collection containing some of the most valuable Italian paintings gathered from the churches and monasteries taken over during the Napoleonic rule. The gallery sits on the street of the same name where there are many traditional cafes loved by the locals. Entering through the main gate, you are welcomed by the statue of Napoleon. The first floor of the building is occupied by the Accademia di Belle Arti, while the picture gallery itself rests on the second floor.

There are nearly 40 rooms featuring great masterpieces, like Andrea Mantegna's amazingly foreshortened "Dead Christ", Raphael's "Betrothal of the Virgin", and Piero della Francesca's "Madonna with Saints". The museum also exhibits more than 500 paintings of the Venetian and Lombard schools spanning the 14th-19th centuries. Precious artifacts are showcased in a chronological order, starting from the 14th century on to the Renaissance period, thus demonstrating the progression of the painting techniques. There is also a modern art section with paintings by Modigliani and Picasso.

The gallery has an onsite restoration lab, plus a cute little garden in the backyard, filled with aromatic herbs, flowers, climbers and vegetable plants. Among them are Europe's oldest ginkgo biloba trees, reaching up to 30 feet in height, brought over from China in the early 1700s.

Why You Should Visit:
Though humble in size, the Pinacoteca displays superb and exclusive works by Italy's most renowned artists from the 13th-20th centuries.
After finishing your visit, you may want to explore the lovely neighborhood of Brera for food and drinks – great way to spend a morning or afternoon.

Tip:
Take a good look at the free map to understand the flow of the gallery and to find the rooms that interest you most. To appreciate the paintings fully, get an audio guide.
Another advice would be to use the seats whenever available; there is much to see here, so sitting down every now and again is highly recommended.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 8:30am-7:15pm (ticket office closes at 6:40pm)
Every 3rd Thursday evening of the month, for Brera/Music performances:
8:30am-10:15pm (ticket office closes at 9:40pm)
5
Poldi Pezzoli Museum

5) Poldi Pezzoli Museum (must see)

Founded in 1881, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, featuring 19th-century Northern Italian and Flemish paintings along with a plethora of decorative art pieces, such as textiles, porcelain, glass, clocks, jewelry, and metal works, was originally a private collection of Poldi Pezzoli and his mother Rosa Trivulzio.

In 1818, Poldi Pezzoli inherited great wealth from his uncle Giuseppe Pezzoli which included the beautiful palace and the garden filled with statues and fountains. He then spent his entire life decorating the house with paintings (spanning the 14th-18th centuries) and eventually garnered 3,000 pieces of art.

During WWII, heavy bombardment in one night destroyed all the main Milan museums. The Poldi Pezzoli palace was also severely damaged, yet the works of art – previously moved to a safer location – remained unharmed. From the 1950s onward, the Association of Friends of the Museum and private Milanese donators have replenished the collection, making it one of the finest in Europe.

Why You Should Visit:
Gorgeous building with a matchingly wonderful art collection well worth observing.

Tip:
This is one of the few places open on Monday and is rather inexpensive, so spending just a little extra on the audio guide is surely worth it.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm
6
Manzoni Museum

6) Manzoni Museum

Situated in the heart of Milan, Casa del Manzoni (Manzoni Museum) is a magnificently elaborated ex-residence of an Italian author and poet Alessandro Manzoni. Born in 1785, he was second in Italian literature only to Dante. Manzoni died a tragic death when he fell down the steps of San Fedele in 1873.

Inside the house where Manzoni once lived, everything seems to be frozen in time. There is an evocative atmosphere inside the rooms. All Italian schoolchildren study “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed) and “Il Cinque Maggio”. Author’s desk is still present in the very room where the author wrote some of the most significant works in Italian literature and where Manzoni met Garibaldi in 1862 and Verdi in 1868. Pictures, prints and souvenirs donated by collectors such as Pietro Brambilla are on display here.

Many important people visited Manzoni house including Garibaldi, Verdi and author Tommaso Grossi. The interior of the house is very well preserved. National Centre for Manzoni Studies has been opened here along with a large library including over 40,000 books and the complete work of Manzoni. The building also hosts the National Manzoni Studies Centre and the Manzoni Museum.

Manzoni’s hobbies included botany and gardening and the presence of beautiful gardens here was one of the reasons of him buying the house. Tommaso Grossi also had a studio in the Manzoni home and he lived happily there for a long time. 

Casa del Manzoni is not just an outdoor museum; rather it is a masterpiece of architecture. Alive and stunning, it is an integral part of the monumental wealth of the city and treasure chest of great artistic significance.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Friday: 10 am - 6pm; Saturday: 2 pm - 6 pm.
7
Museo del Duomo (Cathedral Museum)

7) Museo del Duomo (Cathedral Museum)

Housed inside the Royal Palace of Milan, the Grande Museo del Duomo di Milano preserves artifacts and works of art related to the Duomo Cathedral and those from the deposits of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo (Milan Cathedral Factory).

The museum was inaugurated in 1953, although the idea to preserve the history of the Cathedral emerged in the penultimate decade of the 19th century. In 1948, the Veneranda Fabbrica obtained concession of nine rooms on the ground floor of the oldest wing of Palazzo Reale, formerly a Visconti-Sforza residence built by architect Giuseppe Piermarini in the second half of 18th century, thus safeguarding suitable site for hosting and exhibiting the treasured items, whose quantity largely increased following the damage caused by air bombings during World War Two. The deterioration of many works of art caused by atmospheric pollution, plus the arrival of new material from the Fabbrica's storages and sacristies of the Cathedral soon necessitated more exhibition space with special preservation and restoration facilities.

In the 1960s, the museum was expanded with another ten rooms granted by the Municipality of Milan. On 4 November 2013, on the occasion of the San Carlo Borromeo festival, the museum reopened after an extensive renovation.

The exhibition space of the Duomo Museum is divided into 26 rooms spread across an approximately 2,000 m², covering a total of 14 thematic areas. The strict chronological order of the exposition allows visitors to follow all the phases of the Cathedral's construction, starting from its foundation in 1386 to the 20th century, while exploring the works of art gathered there since the late 14th century. The large collection of sculpture is complemented by the invaluable stained glass windows, paintings, tapestries and embroidery, terracotta sketches and large architectural models.

Why You Should Visit:
Entry here is included in the Duomo ticket and the cool dark rooms also offer some respite from the heat of the city while you take in the beautiful pieces that make up the Cathedral's history. One of the major interest here is the magnificent 1:22 wooden scale model of the Duomo – a feat in itself!

Tip:
If you want more info in English, you can also rent an audio guide.

Opening Hours:
Thu-Tue: 10am-6pm (last ticket: 5pm; last entry: 5:10pm)
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library)

8) Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library) (must see)

Biblioteca Ambrosiana is a historic library named after Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan. The building was constructed in 1603 to house the collection of 15,000 manuscripts and printed books gathered by Cardinal Federico Borromeo. Upon its foundation in 1609, the cardinal donated his entire collection of paintings and drawings to the library.

***Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpieces Tour***
Shortly after the cardinal's death, the library acquired a twelve-volume set of drawings and manuscripts by Leonardo da Vinci, known as Codex Atlanticus, created between 1478 and 1519. This is the largest collection of Leonardo’s writings on practically every area of human knowledge: mechanics, mathematics, astronomy, botany, geography, physics, chemistry, architecture and philosophy. It also contains the artist’s drawings, sketches and fables. For conservation purposes, the display of 22 files in the Federiciana Hall rotates every three months.

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).

Back in the day, the library also had its own printing press, and housed a school of classical languages. The building suffered damage during World War II resulting in the loss of the opera libretti archives of La Scala. It was restored in 1952 and underwent further major renovation in 1990–97.

Why You Should Visit:
A chance to 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.
Apparently, there's also a paid audio guide (English/Italian) that offers some interesting insights into each room and displayed artworks.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm

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