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Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpieces (Self Guided), Milan

Over the nearly 20 years that Leonardo da Vinci spent in Milan, the maestro created a number of masterpieces of art, of which the incomparable Last Supper mural in the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie and the innovative ceiling fresco of the Sala delle Asse at the Castello Sforzesco are just a few. If you wish to explore these and other spectacular pieces of art, architecture and technology left by the Renaissance genius in the city he held so dear to his heart, embark on this self-guided tour of Leonardo's Places in Milan!
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Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpieces Map

Guide Name: Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpieces
Guide Location: Italy » Milan (See other walking tours in Milan)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: alexei
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library)
  • Castello Sforzesco (Sforzesco Castle)
  • Casa Atellani (Atellani House)
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, "The Last Supper" Fresco
  • Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology
1
Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library)

1) 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
2
Castello Sforzesco (Sforzesco Castle)

2) Castello Sforzesco (Sforzesco Castle) (must see)

Castello Sforzesco, one of the biggest fortresses in Europe that once housed the Duchy of Milan, today is a home to several museums and art collections. First built in the 14th century, the castle has survived numerous battles, invasions, sacking and destruction throughout its history. One of its famous towers, the Filarete tower, used to store ammunition. In 1521, a lightning rod hit the structure, causing explosion of all the ammunition inside. The blast left many casualties and destroyed the entire fortress.

The Sforzesco had endured several restorations until the assault by Napoleonic troops in 1796. That attack caused severe damage to the old fortress. Napoleon then decided to demolish the external structure and use the castle as quarters for his troops. The frescoed rooms at the ground floor of the Corte Ducale were even used as stables.

Following the Unification of Italy in the second half of the 19th century, architect Luca Beltrami carried out complete reconstruction of the old fortress. The castle was given back to the city of Milan in 1905 and became a major center of art and culture with seven distinct museums open to the general public.

***Leonardo da Vinci's Masterpieces Tour***
The castle rooms are originally decorated with intricately detailed works of art, the most famous of which is the elaborate ceiling fresco in the great hall, the Sala delle Asse, by Leonardo da Vinci. The Sforza family, Leonardo's patrons, commissioned him to do the job. The painting depicts a garden pergola with 16 mulberry trees bound together by a golden rope.

Why You Should Visit:
Each room herein is a treasure, not only for the exhibited items, but also for the ceiling frescoes which are wonders in their own right.
Entrance to the castle is free, so if you're on a budget, just walk through and admire the courtyards and architecture. As for the "all museums" fee, it is quite reasonable.

Tip:
Exploring the entire Castello Sforzesco, complete with its gardens, may take a few days.
Try to go on Tuesday around 2pm to get free entry (entry on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month is free for all public museums).
There's no way to access the battlements or the "inside" (aside from the museums) except by a guided tour – consider booking one in advance for that.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5:30pm
3
Casa Atellani (Atellani House)

3) Casa Atellani (Atellani House)

Casa Atellani or Casa degli Atellani (Atellani House) is a 15th-century palace in Milan. It was built during the rule of Ludovico Maria Sforza, known as il Moro, regent of the Duchy of Milan, who granted numerous building permits to his courtiers and collaborators, thus wishing to make the road axis of the ancient village of Porta Vercellina a prestigious outline of the newly-built church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Having bought the palace in 1490 from the Landi counts of Piacenza, the Duke donated it to the Atellani family, his courtiers. The palace became famous for the parties organized by the owners, described in many chronicles of the time, which brought together major personalities of the Sforza court.

Alongside frescoes, coats of arms and paintings dating back to the 15th century, the palazzo’s rooms also showcase neoclassical elements from the 1920s restoration performed by iconic architect Piero Portaluppi. Sadly, the palace was badly damaged by air raids during World War II.

Its magnificent garden, however, home to the famous Leonardo’s Vineyard, has survived. While working on The Last Supper mural, Leonardo da Vinci stayed in Casa Atellani. The Duke gifted the property’s vineyard, a rectangular plot of 60x175 meters, to the artist in 1498 in recognition for his talent. Coming from a family of winemakers, Leonardo treasured the gift and remained emotionally attached to it long after he left Milan.

On the occasion of Expo 2015, Leonardo’s Vineyard was re-planted. The replanting was carried out in collaboration with the University of Milan based on the DNA analysis of the remains of the vines – Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, a white grape popular in the Renaissance period – found there during excavation. This was done in a bid to reproduce the wine that Leonardo himself may have sipped.

Visiting the vineyard is undoubtedly one of the highlights of a trip to Da Vinci's Milan. If you want to see it, you need to book in advance.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, "The Last Supper" Fresco

4) Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, "The Last Supper" Fresco (must see)

Santa Maria delle Grazie (the Church of Holy Mary of Grace) is a world-famous church and Dominican convent in Milan, included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list. The Duke of Milan, Francesco I Sforza, ordered the building of Santa Maria delle Grazie in the 15th century. The design of its apse has been attributed to Donato Bramante, who at that time was in the service of the Duchy. While adhering to the overall Gothic style of the convent, he added some Romanesque touches as well.

The church is primarily famous for the mural of The Last Supper (Il Cenacolo Vinciano) found in the refectory of the convent. Created by Leonardo da Vinci for his patron Duke Ludovico Sforza and the Duchess, this 15th-century wall painting was made on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster, and, thus, is not truly a fresco. A fresco cannot be altered as the artist works; therefore, Leonardo decided to paint on the stone wall and then cover it with a sealing layer. The work began to deteriorate a few years after he had finished it. Two early copies of "The Last Supper", thought to be the work of Leonardo's assistant, still exist.

During World War II, on the night of 15 August 1943, an allied aerial bombardment hit the church and the convent. Much of the refectory was destroyed, but some walls survived, including the one holding "The Last Supper", which had been sand-bagged for protection. The preservation works continuously done ever since, and hopefully in the future, are believed to maintain this painting intact for many centuries to come.

Why You Should Visit:
Viewing "The Last Supper" in its own setting will make you feel more appreciative of the single point linear perspective and the 3D effect so cleverly used by Da Vinci.

Tip:
To view "The Last Supper", make sure to book your tickets well in advance on the official website, as they are usually sold out within at least two weeks prior to the sought date.

Opening Hours:
Daily (exc. Sundays & Holidays): 10am-12:20pm / 3*-5:30pm (* in July at 3:30)
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology

5) Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology (must see)

The Museo nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci" in Milan is the largest science and technology museum in Italy, and is dedicated to the Italian painter and scientist Leonardo da Vinci. Opened on 5 February 1953, the museum is housed in the ancient monastery of San Vittore al Corpo of Milan. Its collection is divided into seven main departments, namely: Materials, Transport, Energy, Communication Leonardo da Vinci, Art & Science, New Frontiers, and Science for Young People. Each of these departments has a laboratory for children and young students. The Transport section is made up of four different parts, such as Air, Rail, Water and Submarine Enrico Toti-S-506.

One of the most popular sections within the museum is, undoubtedly, the Leonardo da Vinci, Art & Science area, and it is made up of four parts. The Jewelry collection displays objects made of gems and precious metals, including gold, as well as ivory. The Leonardo da Vinci section exhibits the machines reproduced from Da Vinci's drawings, such as a hydraulic saw, a spinning machine, a flying machine and the so-called Leonardo’s Tank. The exhibited models are the fruit of the reinterpretation by a group of experts who have translated and completed the drawings. The Horology collection illustrates the evolution of watchmaking by showing several pendulums, ancient clocks, personal watches and tower mechanisms. The Musical Instruments section exhibits instruments from the 17th to 20th centuries. A reconstruction of a lutemaker’s workshop from the 17th century is also exposed in this part of the museum.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Milan, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Milan

Create Your Own Walk in Milan

Creating your own self-guided walk in Milan is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Central Milan Souvenir Shopping

Central Milan Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Milan without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of shops selling unique gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Milan, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit. Take this self guided tour to find the right Milanese products to bring home.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Historic Center Walking Tour

Historic Center Walking Tour

Contained within the area once delimited by the medieval walls, the historic center of Milan encompasses the city's perhaps most famous landmarks and tourist attractions, such as the Duomo (cathedral), Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle shopping arcade and the Teatro alla Scala opera house, to mention but a few. Compact in size and easily walkable, the Centro Storico is just as full of historic...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Historical Churches Walking Tour

Historical Churches Walking Tour

Milan may be a world fashion capital and a European financial capital, but religion, and "the church" in particular, remain a major part of Milanese life. The city boasts a number of world-class religious buildings that include Milan Cathedral, which is the third largest religious structure in Europe, San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, also known as "Sistine Chapel of Milan"...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Milan Introduction Walk

Milan Introduction Walk

Recognized as one of the world's four fashion capitals, Milan is also a global hub of design and a key tourist destination. The etymology of the name Milan remains uncertain. One theory holds that the Latin name Mediolanum comes from the Latin words medio (in the middle) and planus (plain).

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
City Center Museums and Galleries

City Center Museums and Galleries

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.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Best Shopping Streets and Malls

Best Shopping Streets and Malls

One of the world's four fashion capitals and, as of lately, that of design as well, Milan is renowned internationally as a top shopping destination, where fashion is the second religion. In a rich city such as this, dedicated to art and pleasure, there's no shortage of options for those accustomed to upscale shopping and those in favor of bargains. If you're a fashionista and/or...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles

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