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A Guide to Castello Sforzesco, Milan

Picture of James Fenn
Photography Commissioner
Updated: 4 July 2017
Milan’s Castello Sforzeco is a huge castle in Milan which houses a number of small museums. Also known as Sforza Castle, it was first built in the Middle Ages for Galeazzo II Visconti, a member of a prominent Italian noble family.

With new successors came a huge expansion, seeing the castle’s sides reach 200m in length. However, the fortress was destroyed by the Golden Ambrosian Republic in 1447, and a few years later, its reconstruction was taken over by another Italian dynasty: the Sforza family. Francesco Sforza, and later his son, hired architects and painters to spruce up the castle. During this time, two of the castle’s main towers – Torre del Filarete and the tower of Bona of Savoy – were built.

The Sforza family’s reign over the castle continued, and in 1494, Ludovico Sforza commissioned artists, including Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante, to decorate the interior. Da Vinci painted many frescoes throughout the castle, including Sala delle Asse. Over the next few years, however, the castle was subject to numerous attacks, and eventually fell under Spanish rule. During this time, the castle was adapted and expanded, transforming into a star-shaped fort and had a further 12 bastions added.

Later, Napoleon removed the drawbridges and moat surrounding the castle, and added Piazza d’Armi, a huge square parade ground, at the back of the castle. When use of the castle was eventually transferred to the city of Milan in the 19th century, this parade ground became Parco Sempione, now one of Milan’s largest city parks.

Castello Sforzeco is now home to a number of Milan’s best museums, including a Furniture Museum and the Museo d’Arte Antica (Museum of Ancient Art).