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Lombardy, Ultimate Guide to Enjoying this Soul-Filling Region

The region of Lombardy in the northwest of Italy, is one of the most populated, richest and most productive regions in Italy. The population of Lombardy represents more than one-sixth of the population of Italy.

The region is so rich in history that it is considered to be the Italian region with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Of the region’s most famous cities is Milan with its metropolitan area that’s the largest in Italy and the third most functional urban area in the EU!

Sharing one of its borders with Switzerland, the weather in Lombardy mainly depends on the natural zone you’re in; mountains, hills or plains. This is also due to the proximity to inland water basins, local variances in elevations and large metropolitan areas.

Mainly, the weather in the region is humid subtropical, especially in the plains, though the main winter weather is lengthy, damp and rather cold with the presence of fog. The oceanic climate in the Alpine foothills is motivated by the presence of lakes which is the ideal environment for the growth of Mediterranean crops such as olives.

The hills and mountains have a humid continental climate while in the valleys it’s usually mild with lots of snowfall during the winter season.

A bit of history about Lombardy

The region of Lombardy witnessed the rise and fall of numerous civilizations and empires. While archeological findings suggest the area of the current Lombardy has been settled at least since the 2nd millennium BC.

Lombardy thrived under the reign of the Roman Empire, the construction of many new roads and the development of agriculture and trade made the region one of the most developed and richest areas in Italy.

The region suffered again after the fall of the Roman Empire, only to return to its former glory. It fell under the control of several occupiers such as the Germanic Lombards, the Habsburgs of Spain, Austrians and the French armies under the lead of Napoleon until the Second Italian War of Independence took place.

In 1859, Lombardy was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy and the Lombardy in its present state was inaugurated. This surviving region has booming industries in agriculture, aerospace and defense, electronics, furniture and has an epicenter of fashion in the city of Milan.

Let me assist you in planning your next trip. We’ll get to know how to get to Lombardy, its most prominent monuments, the delicious culinary treats that await you along with the festivals and events you can catch while being in the area.

How to get to Lombardy?

  • Fly in:

The nearest airport is in Milan. There are three available airports you can choose from. The first is Milan Linate, where the Milan trams dispatches a bus to take you from the LIN to Via Larga Altezza P.Za Fontana with the average time of 30 minutes.

Second, Malpensa Airport T.1 has an hourly train; Malpensa Express under your disposal that would take you to Milan in about 40 minutes. The ticket will cost a maximum of 16 Euros.

Third, the flight to the airport of Bologna will take a little less than two hours and with a cost of a maximum of 140 Euros

  • By train:

Lombard’s capital Milan serves a strategic rail hub. Trains from all over Europe will get you to Milan. There are many railway companies that you can choose from. Companies such as Trenord manages suburban and regional railways. While Trenitalia operate regional, national and high speed international routes to get you to the heart of Lombardy.

  • By car, motorcycle or camper:

Lombardy has an extensive road network that you can easily reach by car. Among the many roads designated for taking the journey are, not exclusively, the A1: Connects Milan to Naples, via Bologna, Florence and Rome. Also, the A9: Starts in Lainate and continues as a two-lane motorway to Ponte Chiasso and Switzerland, via Lake Como.

What to do in Lombardy?

With a rich region like Lombardy, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by what to do once you get there. The region is rich in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Let’s first explore the religious heritage of Lombardy, its theaters and museums, natural sanctuaries, fashion scene, festivals and events and the mouth-watering cuisine.

Religious Heritage of Lombardy

  • Duomo di Milano (The Milan Cathedral):

This cathedral has taken a striking 6 centuries to complete. Construction began in 1386 with the final details of the cathedral finished in 1965. It is the largest cathedral in Italy, the second largest in Europe and third in the world. The cathedral is dedicated to venerating the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus Christ.

The construction history of the Duomo is so rich, it’s easy to get lost reading it. The cathedral was meant to follow the Lombard Gothic style by the first chief engineer Simone da Orsenigo.

Duomo di Milano in Lombardy
Duomo di Milano in Lombardy

In the years that followed, two French engineers, each at a time, to assess the works done. Almost half the cathedral was complete in 1402 after which construction stopped until 1480 for the lack of funds and ideas.

Some decorations of the interior took place from 1500 to 1510 including the octagonal cupola. Carlo Borromeo strived for a more Renaissance appearance of the cathedral. His chief engineer Pellegrino Pellegrini designed a Roman style cathedral with columns, obelisks and a large tympanum.

Appointed engineers during the 17th Century fluctuated between continuing the work on the Roman style cathedral or revert back to the Gothic style. Following the orders of Napoleon, the cathedral’s construction continued in the Gothic style and works were finally finished decades later 1965.

There are countless monuments and works of art inside the cathedral. For example, the statue of Saint Bartholomew Flayed; the cathedral’s most famous statue stands at the left of the altar. There are three magnificent altars by made by Pellegrino Pellegrini, and display Federico Zuccari‘s Visit of St. Peter to St. Agatha when she was jailed.

In the days around the birthdate of Saint Charles Borromeo a series of large canvases, the Quadroni are exhibited along the nave of the cathedral.

To continue the improvement of the cathedral, a video installation by English artist Mark Wallinger in September 2005. It is installed in the cathedral’s crypt, beside the relics of Saint Charles Borromeo.

The installation titled Via Dolorosa is an 18 minute film reproducing scenes of the Passion excerpted from the film Jesus of Nazareth by Franco Zeffirelli.

It is worth mentioning that people looked at the Duomo with different eyes, some marveled at its wonders while others perceive it as ugly and unartistic. American writer and journalist Mark Twain was of the former category while Oscar Wilde is actually of the latter group.

  • Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace):

This UNESCO World Heritage site is a Church and Dominican convent in Milan. The church houses the famous mural “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. The convent was built first on the site of a prior chapel that was dedicated to the Marian devotion of Saint Mary of the Graces and works were finished in 1469.

Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace) in Milan
Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace) in Milan

There were many frescos that cover the walls of the church. Frescos such as Stories of the Passion by Gaudenzio Ferrari are an example. The church suffered great damage during the Second World War.

While the mural of The Last Supper survived, many frescos didn’t make it. Though the latest restoration works are said will protect the mural for centuries to come.

The Old Sacristy is the seat of the Dominican Cultural Center. Conferences and activities are held in the center pertaining to spirituality, art, philosophy and literature in addition to musical concerts and art exhibitions.

  • Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio:

The church built in 379–386 by St. Ambrose is one of the oldest churches in Milan. The first name of the church was Basilica Martyrum seeing as it was built on the burial place of many martyrs. The current Romanesque style of the church dates back to the 12th century, after the church underwent several restorations.

The basilica was originally outside the city of Milan except the city kept growing and eventually engulfed the basilica to be at its center. The two towers of the basilica symbolize the division in the basilica; as two separate and distinct religious communities shared the basilica.

The 9th century tower (Tower of the Monks) was used by the monks to call the faithful to the monks’ mass. The canons, on the other hand, didn’t have a bell tower hence weren’t allowed to ring bells until they’d finished their tower which happened in the 12th century.

The edifice of the church underwent several restorations throughout the centuries, as it settled on its current look in the 12th century. The plan of the original edifice was maintained.

A rather interesting and symbolic myth concerns a while marble column with two holes in it beside the church. It’s alleged that the devil made these two holes as he hit the column in frustration after his failure to seduce Saint Ambrose. This probably explains why this column is dubbed “The Devil’s Column”.

Saint Ambrose built three or four churches surrounding the city of Milan. San Nazaro in Brolo (previously Basilica Apostolorum), San Simpliciano (previously Basilica Virginum) and the Basilica Martyrum. The church of Basilica Salvatoris (now San Dionigi) is attributed to him as well, while it may not actually be from the 4th century.

  • Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore (Basilica of Saint Lorenzo):

This church located with the city’s ring of canals, is one of the oldest churches in Milan. Built between the late 4th and early 5th centuries, the exact date of establishment is not clear nor are the names of who commissioned the building or designed it. What’s certain is that at the time of its construction, the basilica was the largest, centrally planned building in the West.

The dedication to Saint Laurence the martyr was certified only from the year 590, during which Milan was already occupied by the Lombards.

Numerous disasters befell the church in the 11th and 12th centuries. The terrible “Fire of the Stork” devoured the basilica in 1071 ruining the internal decorations. Earthquakes threatened the stability of the complex which deemed restoration works a necessity in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Throughout the middle ages, the basilica remained a symbol of legacy of the Roman Empire. Its classical architectural canons were admired by humanists, architects and artists such as Da Vinci and Bramante.

In 1573, the dome of the cathedral suddenly collapsed, luckily with no casualties. The construction of the new dome began right afterwards and the dome was finished in 1619.

All around the basilica you can find The Park of the Basilicas which used to be houses built leaning against the basilica. The Austrian Government in the 1830s demolished these houses, the channel of the Vetra was covered and executions were abolished.

After Second World War bombings, these houses weren’t rebuilt, giving the way for the development of the park.

In the square facing the basilica, the “Colonne di San Lorenzo” or the “Columns of Saint Lorenzo” are featured. They were carried into their current place after the basilica was finished.

They are one of the few remains of the Roman Mediolanum, dating back to the 3rd century AD. They are said to belong to the large baths built by the emperor Maximian.

  • Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio:

It is one of the churches in the Basilicas Park city park in the city of Milan. The church was an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Rome, as it was said to hold the tomb of The Three Magi or Three Kings.

Allegedly founded in the 4th century, the church’s name refers to Eustorgius I who translated the supposed relics of The Magi. This is due to the discovery of a Christian burial after the removal of a pillar, that had coins of Emperor Constans; the son of Constantine the Great.

  •  Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore:

An important church in the upper town of Bergamo, this church was built on the site of two previous church and temple. Once a church from the 8th century dedicated to St. Mary which had been established on the ruins of a Roman temple of the Clemence.

Local stories, supported by some documents, say that the church was built to comply with a vow made to the Virgin Mary in 1133 by the people of Bergamo to protect the city from the plague which was ravishing Italy at that time.

There’s an inscription on the portal of the south entrance that states the church was found in 1137. More work was done in the years of 1185 and 1187, after which the works lagged for the length of the 13th and 14th centuries.

Works resumed in 1436 while during the period from 1481 to 1491, the old sacristy was replaced by Bartolomeo Colleoni to build his personal mausoleum, the Colleoni Chapel.

The structure of the church is very interesting. Such as the fact that the church opens right on the square of Pizza Duomo on its left side; the main façade has no entrance due to being once united with the Bishop’s Palace.

The church can be accessed by two entrances by Giovanni da Campione and by Isabello’s Porta della Fontana. The columns that support Giovanni da Campione’s porch in the left transept are supported by lions in white marble.

  • Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel):

This is a chapel and mausoleum that are attached to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The construction works took from 1472 to 1476 and the chapel was built to be the personal shrine of one of the members of the city’s most notable families, Bartolomeo Colleoni and his daughter Medea.

Even though Colleoni’s soldiers demolished the old sacristy to erect the chapel, it’s still debatable whether the demolition was authorized by the church administrators or not. The church is dedicated to three saints; Saint Bartholomew, Saint Mark and John the Baptist.

The design of the chapel by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo respected the style of the church. This is evident in the octagonal tambour of the dome, in the lantern cusp as well as in the use of polychrome marbles. Over the main portal of the church is a rose window; a symbol of Gothic style cathedrals and churches.

A funerary monument of Medea Colleoni who died in March 1470 is located on the left wall of the chapel. It has a statue of the Disposition from the Cross in high relief. The tomb was transferred here in 1892 from Basella di Urgnao.

After his death in November 1475, it was believed that Colleoni’s remains were buried elsewhere even though his tomb is on the wall facing the entrance of the chapel. This was due to the fact that the sarcophagus appeared empty and this belief went on for centuries. On November 21st, 1969 the remains were discovered in Colleoni’s tomb in a wooden coffin and hidden under a plaster cover.

  • Duomo Vecchio (Old Cathedral):

This Roman Catholic Church stands next to the Duomo Nuovo (New Cathedral) in Brescia, Lombardy. This cathedral is also known by the name “La Rotonda” because of its round layout and it’s also officially known as the Winter Co-Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

The earliest documents found place the start of the construction work around 1100 on the site of a prior church with a basilica layout. The Duomo Vecchio is one of the most significant Romanesque round churches that still exist to this day.

There are 13th century frescoes on the interior walls and a large canvas by Francesco Maffei showing the church with a bell tower, which later collapsed. Many of the additions to the original medieval building were removed in the 19th century. After which the entrance portal was added.

The cathedral houses the medieval crypt of San Filastrio, in honor of the beatified Brescian bishop. The Duomo Vecchio has beautiful frescoes such as l’Assunta and St. Luke, St. Mark and the Sleeping Elijah by Moretto da Brescia. As well as a Translation of the Bodies of Saints by Francesco Maffei. 

  • Duomo Nuovo (New Cathedral):

This is the largest Catholic Church in the community of Brescia in the region of Lombardy. The cathedral was constructed on the site where the paleo-Christian 5th and 6th centuries Basilica of San Pietro de Dom was located.

Brescia Cathedral - Duomo Nuovo in Brescia - Lombardy
Brescia Cathedral – Duomo Nuovo in Brescia – Lombardy

Construction works began in 1604, were interrupted by a season of the plague in around 1630 and only finished in the 19th century. The cathedral’s dome was the last piece to be added to the puzzle and completed in 1825. It is one of the highest domes in Italy with the height of 80 meters.

The present dome, however, was rebuilt after destruction by the bombing in the Second World War. The façade contains statues of the Virgin of the Assumption and of the Saints Peter, Paul, James, and John. The Duomo Nuovo is known as the Summer Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.

  • Duomo di Como (Como Cathedral):

Located near Lake Como in the city of Como in Lombardy, the cathedral is one of the most important in the region. The cathedral’s dedication is to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Construction works started in 1396 on the site of the earlier Romanesque cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Maggiore, 10 years after the foundation of Milan Cathedral.

The cathedral’s imposing west front was built between 1457 and 1498, it features a rose window and a portal between two statues of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, natives of Como. Construction works were finished in 1770 with the completion of the Rococo cupola.

The interior of the cathedral is home to a number of 16th century paintings by Bernardino Luini and Gaudenzio Ferrari. Along with some important tapestries, and others of the 16th and 17th centuries made in Ferrara, Florence and Antwerp. The cathedral is often described as the last Gothic cathedral to be built in Italy.

  • Basilica of Sant’Abbondio:

This 11th century Romanesque style church is located in Como in the region of Lombardy. As per the usual of many Italian churches, the edifice of the basilica rises over a preexisting 5th century Palaeo-Christian church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul.

The church was initially intended to house several relics of the two saints which Saint Amantius of Como had brought from Rome, was built at the distance of 1 kilometers outside the city walls.

The basilica was rebuilt in Romanesque style between 1050 and 1095 which was dedicated to Amantius’ successor, Abundius. The structures of the Palaeo-Christian Church discovered in a restoration in 1863 are still marked by black and pale marble stones in the pavement.

The church has two bell towers located at the end of each of the external aisles. The external decoration of the choir’s windows are not to be missed. In the apse, there’s a beautiful circle of mid-14th century frescoes. Abundius’ relics lay under the high altar.

The recently restored medieval monastery that’s annexed to the church currently acts as the seat of the local Faculty of Jurisprudence.

  • Duomo di Cremona (Cremona Cathedral):

A Catholic Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Cremona, Lombardy. The bell tower of the cathedral, Torrazzo, is a symbol of the city and is the tallest pre-modern tower in Italy.

The cathedral was originally built in Romanesque style, yet elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque nature were added during several restoration works over the years. Construction had begun in 1107 and came to a halt due to an earthquake in 1117. Works resumed in 1129 and the building was probably finished in the period from 1160 to 1170.

The main altar, consecrated in 1196, is dedicated to the two patron saints of the city  Archelaus  and  Himerius. The current facade was probably built in the 13th and early 14th centuries. Together with the adjoining baptistery, the main facade are of the most important monuments of Romanesque art in Europe.

  • The Torrazzo:

Stands at a height of 112.54 meters, the Torrazzo, is the known as the third tallest brickwork tower in the world. The bell tower of the Cremona Cathedral is the oldest brick structure taller than a 100 meters and still standing.

Construction works are said to have begun in 754, when in reality the tower was built in four phases. The first in 1230s, up to the third dripstone was built.

The second between 1250 and 1267, up to the dripstone under the quadriphore was built. Third phase in 1284 and the last is the marble spire in 1309.

Embedded in the wall at the base of the Torrazzo tower is a plaque that announces the height as 250 arms and 2 ounces; the ancient measuring system of the Lombard towns. The Torrazzo comprises of seven bells, all tuned in the scale of A major. There’s also the “Ringing Bell” which strikes the hour.

The largest astronomical clock resides in the 4th story of the tower. The mechanism of the clock was built between 1583 and 1588. The paintings on the exterior of the clock symbolize the sky with the zodiac constellations with the sun and moon moving around them.

The clock’s hands are four, except one of them is a double making the hands’ count to be five. The clock signifies a lot of astronomical phenomena such as eclipses, Lunar phases and solstices.

  • Tempio Civico della Beata Vergine Incoronata (Civic Temple of the Crowned Blessed Virgin):

Considered to be one of the masterpieces of the Lombard Renaissance art, it’s located in a very narrow street near the Piazza della Vitoria, the city of Lodi most famous square, Lombardy. The design of the church was laid in 1488 by Giovanni Battagio.

The bell tower was built in 1503 while the façade was completed in 1879. The church has an octagonal shape with a dome with the same shape with a lantern at the top. A huge art gallery is housed inside the church, with artworks from the late 15th century to the early 19th century by the prominent artists in Lodi.

  • San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro (Saint Peter in Golden Sky):

Is a former Catholic Cathedral, now a basilica in the city of Pavia, Lombardy. The name is to refer the mosaics of gold leaf behind glass tesserae that decorate the ceiling of the apse.

A church of Saint Peter in Pavia is recorded in 604 which was renovated between 720 and 725. The church is one of the Romanesque style churches in Italy and was consecrated in 1132.

Even though the tomb of Augustine of Hippo was installed in the basilica, remade in 1362, his actual remains were the subject of controversy. The body was said to have been removed to Cagliari, Sardinia, later returned by Peter, bishop of Pavia to the Church of Saint Peter around the year 720.

In 1695, stonemasons working in the crypt discovered a marble box with fragments of wood, numerous bones, bone fragments and glass vials inside. Some of the workers later claimed they read the name Augustine written with charcoal on the top of the box. This sparked a heated debate that went on till 1728 when Pope Benedict XIII intervened approving the authenticity of the bones discovered.

Once more the remains along with their guardians, The Augustinians, found themselves out of the city in 1700 while the cathedral in Pavia needed restoration works. Reconstructions took place in the 1870s, the church was re-consecrated in 1896 when the relics of Augustine and the shrine were reinstalled.

  •  Basilica of San Michele Maggiore:

Dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, this striking example of Lombard-Romanesque style is in the city of Pavia, Lombardy. The current church was built in the place of the first church dedicated to Saint Michael Archangel, which in turn was built on the location of the Lombard Palace chapel.

The old church was destroyed in a fire in 1004. Construction of the current building began by the end of the 11th century and was completed by 1155. The vaults of the nave were replaced in 1489.

  • Certosa di Pavia:

One of the largest monasteries in Italy till this very day, it was built between 1396 and 1495. The Certosa is built in both the Gothic and Renaissance styles with a fine collection of artwork that best represents the region.

The site of the complex was strategically chosen between Milan and Pavia. The church was the last building to be built, was intended to be the mausoleum of the Visconti. The construction of the church began in Gothic style, however, as the Renaissance style started spreading, the rest of the church was completed in such style.

  • San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore:

The church was originally attached to the most important female monasteries in the city of Milan. The entire complex was founded in Lombard times. Construction of the church began in 1503 and was finished 15 years later.

The church’s edifice was divided into two parts, one for the faithful and one for the nuns. The most important art work in the church is the cycle of the 16th century frescoes covering the walls. The dividing wall has frescoes showing the Life of San Maurizio.

The hall of the nuns is fully painted as well. The partition wall presents works by Bernardino Luini of the 16th century. Works such as images of Saint Catherine, Saint Agatha and the Carrying of the Cross of Christ.

Nowadays the church is open every Sunday from October to June, to celebrate in the Byzantine Rite, in Greek according to the Italian-Albanian tradition. At times, the church serves as a concert hall as well.

Historical Sites in Lombardy

  • Castello Sforzesco (Sforza’s Castle):

This castle built in the 15th century was considered one of the largest citadels in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Built on the ruins of a 14th century fortification, this castle was built in the 15th century. The castle is now home to many of Milan’s museums and art collections.

Castello Sforzesco (the fountain on the Milan Castle Square)
Castello Sforzesco (the fountain on the Milan Castle Square)

Works on the original structure took place from 1358 to 1370, during which the castle was known as the Castello di Porta Giova or Porta Zubia from the name of a gate in walls nearby.

The castle was later enlarged till it became a square-plan castle with 200 meters long sides. Back then the castle was the main residence if the city’s Visconti lords until it was destroyed in 1447 by the Golden Ambrosian Republic.

Reconstruction works began again in 1450, in 1452 the central tower, still known as the Torre del Filarete was built. In 1476, during the time of Bona of Savoy, the tower bearing her name was built.

Starting from 1494, several artists were called upon to decorate the castle. Rooms were frescoed by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci while Bramante painted frescoes in the Sala del Tesoro. Around 1498, Leonardo worked on the ceiling of the Sala delle Asse painting motifs of vegetables.

The castle suffered continuous damages in the following years. Such as assaults from Italian, French and German troops and the placement of mines under the castle’s foundations on orders of King Francis I of France. Being used as a weapons’ depot led to the explosion of the Torre del Filarete.

The castle became a citadel under Spanish rule in 1535. In 1550 works began to reinforce the fortifications of the citadel. Twelve bastions were added changing the original pentagonal shape of the citadel into a hexagonal shape. External fortifications extended to about 3 kilometers.

While the Austrians took over Lombardy, most of the outer fortifications were demolished under Napoleon’s rule. The establishment of the semi-circular Pizza Castello was constructed around the city side of the castle. The area on the country side of the castle was turned into a 700-by-700 meter square called Piazza d’Armi.

Following the unification of Italy in the 19th century, ownership of the citadel was transferred to the city of Milan and restoration works began right afterwards.

The most significant of the works is the opening of Via Dante to provide a direct road between the castle and The Duomo. Between 1900 and 1905, the Torre del Filarete was rebuilt.

The castle is home to many museums which we will now explore.

  • Museo d’Arte Antica (Museum of Ancient Art):

This art museum has a large collection of sculptures from the late antiquity, Medieval and Renaissance periods. The frescoed rooms of the museums house an armory, a tapestry room, some funerary monuments and two medieval portals.

The Sala Verde or the Green Room is home to 15th and 16th century structures, the collection of arms from the Castello Sforzesco and the Portale del Banco Mediceo which is a gate removed from Via Bossi.

Another collection of arms in the second part of the room contains sculptures, armor and swords in chronological sequence from the Middle Ages to the 18th century.

  • Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco (Literally The Picture Gallery of Sforzesco Castle):

This art gallery was inaugurated in 1878, it displays over 230 works that include masterpieces by talented artists such as Titan, Canaletto, Pisanello, Giovanni Bellini, Lorenzo Lotto and others.

The total works in the museum are more than 1,500 works, due to the fact that the collections have been enriched in the last two centuries by donations of illustrious citizens and collectors.

The first rooms in the Pinacoteca are dedicated to religious paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries. Art works by Bergognone, Carlo Crivelli and other Lombard and Italian Renaissance painters. The famous the Trivulzio Madonna by Andrea Mantegna dating back to 1497.

The second half of the Pinacoteca houses artworks from the 16th, 17th and the 18th centuries. This half includes both secular and religious works from artists such as Titan and Bernardo Bellotto. The museum is also home to some portraits of members of the Sforza family from 15th and 16th centuries.

  • The Museum of Musical Instruments:

Over 700 of musical instruments from the 15th to the 20th centuries are on display in the museum, with great attention paid to Lombard instruments. The musical collection includes plucked instruments, hunting horns, Lombard and Cremonese violins and various wood instruments such as flutes.

The Cremonese lutherie is well appreciated all over the world for the high quality of its musical instruments. The equipment of the former Studio di fonologia musicale di Radio Milano are also on display in the museum.

  • Museo Egizio (The Egyptian Museum):

This museum is part of the Milan Archaeological Museum. The museum is located in the underground level of the ducal courtyard and is divided into seven sections.

About Ancient Egyptian Writing, About Pharaohs, About Deities and Cults, About Everyday Life for the Egyptians, About Funerary Cult, Excavations Conducted by Achille Vogliano, Mummies, Sarcophagi and Funerary Masks.

In the section of Mummies, Sarcophagi and Funerary Masks there’s a mummy dating back to the Greco-Roman period and ancient Egyptian sarcophagi. Some papyrus of the Book of the Dead is on display in the Funerary Cult section.

  • Civico Museo Archeologico di Milano in Italian (The Archaeological Museum of Milan):

It’s located in the ex-convent of the Monastero Maggiore, along the ancient church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore.

The first part of the museum is dedicated to the history of ancient Milan or Mediolanum founded in the 4th century BC and conquered by the ancient Romans in 222 BC. A small section is dedicated to Gandhara’s arts takes place on the basement.

The inner cloister which houses Roman remains (1st to 3rd century AD) and two medieval towers are visible, connects the first part of the museum with the new building in Via Nirone. The Early Middle Ages section, the Etruscan section, the Ancient Greek section and the temporary exhibition room all exist in that first part.

There was a polygonal tower from the Middle Ages situated in the inner cloister expose a sculpture by Domenico Paladino which he donated to the museum. Collections from prehistoric and Egyptian civilizations are on display at the Castello Sforzesco Museums.

Statues and tombs from ancient Rome are displayed along the cloisters of the former monastery, a path leads from the cloisters to a polygonal tower (late 3rd century) with early medieval frescoes (13th century) and comes out in the new museum in Via Nirone.

  • Raccolte d’Arte Applicata di Milano (The Applied Arts Collection of Milan):

This museum is divided into several sections emphasizing jewelry, ivories, pottery and art glass. The ceramic collection in the museum includes medieval, Renaissance and Baroque pottery.

Pieces from the 17th century exist in the maiolica group from Lodi and Milan and a collection of European chinaware and earthenware.

The collection of artistic glass includes the Cup Gonzagna, made of crystal clear glass and decorated with small golden flowers and the Gonzaga coat of arm with a quadripartite black eagle on a white background.

In the Sala Della Balla is the Arazzi Trivulzio, a series of twelve tapestries representing the different months of the years. The design is inspired by drawings of Italian painter Bramantino.

  • The Antique Furnishings and Wooden Sculpture Museum:

It is located on the first floor of the Sforza Castle ducal courtyard. Artifacts are chronologically arranged from the 14th century up to the modern times with particular attention paid to the Italian and Lombardic furniture history.

The Chamber of Griselda is one of the most important artifacts exposed in the museum. It’s a wooden room reconstructed with 15th century detached frescoes to create a replica of how it looked like in its original location in the Roccabianca Castle near Parma.

The 20th century furniture design and Italian design are well represented by furniture signed by Carlo Bugatti, Ettore Sottsass and Alberto Issel. The 18th century Italian school of cabinetmakers is well represented by several cabinets signed by Giuseppe Maggiolini.

Religious furnishings from the 16th to the 18th centuries along with furniture of the noble families of Milan are also on display. Several wooden sculptures and various decorative items, such pottery or tableware including a tea set designed by Gio Ponti, are also displayed in the museum.

  • The Achille Bertarelli Print Collection:

Even though Betarelli obtained a degree in Law and worked in helping his father manufacturing furniture, he had a love for prints. Soon after he started collecting and catalogue in in his Milanese home in Via San Barnaba.

The reason of Bertarelli’s collection of collecting printed materials of exceptional aesthetic quality is to acquire the largest number of iconographic documents as a unique way to document historical figures, events and locations.

One of the collector’s special collection is called “Popular Prints” which is divided into “Sacred” and “Profane” that are on display at the Castello Sforzesco. This collection still provides a rare and precious window on all aspects of daily life and on the evolution of tastes and customs.

The stamp collection was granted the name of its founder in the year 1938; the same year Bertarelli died, to honor his great efforts of putting together this collection over the course of more than 13 years.

  • The Museum of the Rondanini Pietà:

This museum houses the last sculpture by Michelangelo named Rondanini Pietà. Michelangelo has been working on this sculpture from 1552 until the last days of his life, in 1564.

The name Rondanini refers to the fact the statue stood for centuries in the courtyard at the Palazzo Rondinini in Rome. The sculpture embodies the Virgin Mary mourning over the emaciated body of Jesus Christ.

Michelangelo’s last series of drawings called “The Crucifixion” and the sculpture of the “Deposition of Christ” which was intended for his own tomb. The Rondanini was produced at a time when Michelangelo’s sense of mortality was growing. He worked on the sculpture all day, six days before his death.

It’s been suggested that the Rondanini should not be considered “unfinished work” rather a continuous process of being made visible to the viewer as they move around it to see it from multiple angles.

May 2015 is the year the Rondanini found a home at the Sforza Castle. Originally held in a room by the BBPR architects in the 1950s, they pushed for a new dedicated museum to be established. After years of heated debate, this unique work of art found home in a museum dedicated solely to it.

The way the Rondanini put on display at the museum serves the continuous effect of the sculpture. Upon entering the room, the visitor will see the Pietà from behind; the last part carved by Michelangelo. The visitor will see the Virgin Mary as she mourns over the dead Christ.

Only by walking around the statue and facing it that they’ll be able to see the frail body of Jesus Christ supposed by his beloved mother. This way of presenting the sculpture emphasizes the unfinished part of the sculpture, in a way helping the visitor to appreciate this fact about it.

  • The Archivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana:

The library and archive holds a manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci called The Codex Trivulzianus. The library offers many services such as a reading room, reproductions, educational activities, books and documents and projects. The library opens on Wednesdays at 10:00 am.

  • Villa Reale (Royal Villa of Monza):

This neoclassical palace is located in the community of Monza on the banks of the river Lambro, the region of Lombardy. It’s surrounded by one of the largest enclosed park in Europe; Monza Park.

The villa was built between 1777 and 1780 on the instructions of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria to be the summer residence of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria.

Even though the Monza was chosen because of its serene location in the countryside, the real reason was that it was a symbolic link between Vienna and Milan; as it is on the way to the Imperial Capital.

The addition of the gardens took some years after the palace was built. The villa is built in an inverted U-shape plan, it was reused to combine the strong scenic impact that the side wings give to the main façade. The central setting was used for gatherings, while private apartments and the avant-corps for service functions were on the side.

The palace complex includes the Capella Reale (Royal Chapel), the Cavallerizza (horse shed), the Rotonda dell’Appiani, the Teatrino di Corte (Small Court Theater) and the Orangerie. The first floor rooms consist of salons and halls and the Royal apartments. In front of the palace are the royal gardens.

The Orangerie; the greenhouse or as it’s now known as the Serrone, is located on the north side of the villa. A corridor called “Passage of the Ladies” connected the Orangerie to the palace. The building gets plenty of sunlight from the south from a long series of windows.

The villa was used as the Royal Palace and was home to the Viceroy of Italy during the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. The structure of the villa was improved, adding the theater on the north wing.

The entire complex of the villa and its garden was extended between 1806 and 1808 through the construction of the fenced park called Monza Park. The 14 kilometers long wall was built exactly between 1807 and 1808 using the demolition material of the ancient Visconti’s castle.

Under the reign of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, the Monza was included in the province of Milan. The new Archduke; Ranieri was passionate about botany, in 1819 he ordered the construction of a school in the park that trained professional gardeners to care for the gardens of imperial residences.

Thanks to Ranieri, the park and garden of the Monza became rich in new species. Ranieri ordered the modernization of the villa, specifically the apartments specified for his sons and daughters, which in turn had magnificent decorations. The last Archduke to settle in the Monza was Archduke Maximilian in 1857.

When the new Kingdom of Italy was established in 1861, the villa was used as the palace of the Italian Royal House of Savoy. This was short-lived as the palace was abandoned in 1900 after the assassination of King Umberto I as he attended a sports event organized in the Monza.

In 1934, most of the villa was donated to the municipalities of Monza and Milan by royal decree. Vittorio Emanuele III only kept the southern portion with his father’s apartment, King Umberto I but was to remain closed in his memory.

Equestrian monument of Vittorio Emanuele in front of the Duomo Milano
Equestrian monument of Vittorio Emanuele in front of the Duomo Milano

After the Second World War, the villa withered away. Ever since the establishment of the Italian Republic, the villa was administered by the municipalities of Monza and the Region of Lombardy.

Left to decay after the Second World War, plans to restore and renovate the villa began in 2012, ending on the 26th of June 2014 with the inauguration taking place on the 8th of September.

Restoration works included, not exclusively, works on the central body, the north and south wings, consolidation of the walls on the ground floor, restoration of the pavement, the gate and the south façade.

The royal apartments of King Umberto I Margherita di Savoia that still keep a part of the original furnishing are now open to visitors. Nowadays, the villa hosts exhibitions including the orangerie and there’s a wing that’s home to the Artistic High School of Monza.

  • Villa Toeplitz:

Built in 1901, this villa is located in the city of Varese in the region of Lombardy. It holds the name of the banker Giuseppe Toeplitz who bought the villa in 1914. Its beautifully designed gardens, scenic fountains and water features render it one of the ten most beautiful parks in Italy.

The villa currently houses the headquarters of the Faculty of Communication Sciences of the University of Insubria as well as the Ethno-Archeological Museum Castiglioni.

Built towards the end of the 19th century, the villa is built in the center of a complex of orchards and farm buildings. It’s one of 120 villas in a municipality that has 73% of the landscape protected. When Toeplitz bought the villa, he substantially renovated it according to plans inspired by his wife until the works were completed in 1926.

Originally created as a summer residence for the German Frey Family in 1901. After Toeplitz bought the villa, he commissioned its renovation except that these works were not finished until after the First World War in 1918. One of the main modification works was the expansion of the surrounding park.

The villa’s park includes the main villa, the residential villa and the porter’s lodge. The park was divided into several parts: the orchard; a lawn area; access roads to the Villa; patches of shrubs and groups of trees; a “wood” of conifers and exotic plants and a lookout.

There’s a chapel on the upper part of the property; a hornbeam rock; areas for bowls, tennis courts and croquet games; a flower garden; a swimming pool (today a pond); and, a wood-aged chestnut.

Internal renovations of the villa included building an attic above the first floor, a small balcony on the east side and a tower with a metal dome where an astronomical mirror was installed.

One of Toeplitz’s important projects was a full hydraulic engineering project to transfer water from the nearby Monte Martica river into the garden’s attractions. These water features are no longer functional.

The main building was completed near the end of the 1920s after which the villa became a place of cultural and artistic meetings. Mainly, these meetings were under the care of Toeplitz’s second wife; Edvige Mrozowska; a Polish dancer and actress.

The exterior of the villa has many distinguished features. Such as the use of serliana and above the windows there are lunettes and gables, generally painted or decorated. Another feature is the cover of the loggia above the main entrance and that of the tower are wooden coffered ceilings.

The interior of the villa has marble staircases, parquet floors in the rooms, ceramic in the service rooms and painted wooden doors. The reception on the ground floor remain unchanged and is still furnished as it was in the days of the Toeplitz family, with inlaid chessboard tables, a bar corner in solid wood and antique armchairs.

One of the most important renovations commissioned by Toeplitz was the construction of a tower crowned by an arched loggia, four on each side. The arches support the roof structure with an openable metal doom used as a scientific observatory.

The high tower drew suspicions during the Second World War; the Germans thought the tower was used by Toeplitz for secret communications. Suspicions even reached Toeplitz’s wife that led her to sell the palace at the end of the Second World War. In 1972 the building became a property of the municipality which began using it as a school.

Toeplitz literally thought of everything, so he thought about the prominent figures he welcomed into his home. These figures included the writer Matilde Serao and the Agnelli.

The building – guest house – Toeplitz designed to serve such a purpose utilized the characteristic materials of Lombard architecture. Its decorations were in colored bands, mainly in blue and gold to stand out in the upper part. Which was typical of early 20th century architecture.

Today Toeplitz’s guest house is home to the Castiglioni Museum. The museum houses a massive ethno-archaeological collection of thousands of finds, donated by brothers Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni to the municipality of Varese.

The two brothers spent 60 years researching in the archaeological, anthropological and ethnological fields throughout the African continent. They collected and categorized artifacts of many ethnic groups and documented everything with photographs.

The archeological section on the ground floor houses Egyptian and prehistoric finds. Exhibits on how gold was mined at the time of the Egyptian pharaohs and the origin of the emeralds used since the time of Cleopatra are among many others that tell the Egyptian history.

Upstairs in the ethnographic section, you’ll see findings of traditional populations from savannah and desert environment. These include exhibits of the typical elaborate hairstyles of the Nile Camiti and shepherds of the African savannah (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda).

The Toeplitz Villa’s gardens are a staggering 80,000 square meter garden. They’re connected by pathways running through a connected

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