If visiting art galleries doesn’t appeal, Milan also has a great selection of special interest museums: learn how Italy came to be a nation, delve into the world of Leonardo Da Vinci’s science or admire the creative genius of Giorgio Armani, one of Italy’s most celebrated fashion designers. The ticket prices are very reasonable, especially if you purchase the city’s Tourist Museum Card: you can visit all of the civic museums for just €12 over a period of three days.
Accessories display at Armani / Silos, Milan | Courtesy Giorgio Armani
In the trendy Zona Tortona neighbourhood in the south-west of the city, there is a museum dedicated to celebrated Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. Armani founded his company in 1975 and rose to prominence in the 1980s with his line of ‘power suits’. Today the eponymous brand remains one of the most successful in the global fashion market. The Armani/Silos museum highlights a special selection of the designer’s work from the 1980s until today. Grouped thematically over four floors, the exhibition highlights the points of inspiration that have influenced Armani’s creative approach throughout his career. It is grouped under ‘Stars’, ‘Daywear’, ‘Exoticism’, ‘Colour Schemes’ and ‘Light’. The museum also hosts temporary presentations related to the life and work of the inimitable designer. For example, in 2017 it staged ‘The Beats and The Vanities’, an exhibition of work by American society photographer Larry Frink. 125 black and white photographs by Frink captured the excess and style of the Beat Generation and Hollywood parties. Audio guides available in English.
Located in a grand townhouse in the heart of Milan’s historic centre, this small specialist museum focuses on the inception of Italy as a nation, referred to as ‘Italian Unification’, or risorgimento in Italian. The permanent collection, which comprises prints, paintings, sculptures, weapons and diverse memorabilia, charts major events between Napoleon Bonaparte’s first campaign in the Italian territory (1796) to the annexation of Rome to the Kingdom of Italy (1870). Not only does it provide a great overview of modern Italian political history but also gives detailed insight into Lombardy and Milan. It touches upon fashions of the period, significant battles, key figures and art.
Admission: €5 (concession €3) Free admission Tuesday to Sunday during the last hour of opening, and Tuesday starting at 2pm.
After the Duomo, Castello Sforzesco is the next major ‘symbol of Milan’ and is one of the best places to learn about the city’s medieval and early modern history – the castle bore witness to Spanish, Habsburg and Napoleonic rule. The imposing fortress was built by Francesco Sforza (the first Duke of Milan) in the 15th century, but underwent several modifications in the following decades. It is worth allotting a large amount of time to visit the castle because it comprises multiple museums and galleries, including a museum of furniture and wooden sculpture, archaeology and musical instruments. The Sforzesco Pinacoteca is home to paintings by the likes of Bronzino, Tintoretto and Titian. A single ticket allows entry to all the museums.
Admission: €5 (concession €3) Free admission every Tuesday from 2pm; from Wednesday to Sunday from 4.30pm; every first Sunday of the month.
Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci
Italy’s largest museum dedicated to science and technology is named in tribute to the unparalleled artist, engineer and scientist, Leonardo Da Vinci. It is housed in a vast and beautiful 16th-century monastery in the Saint Ambrogio neighbourhood close to Da Vinci’s former Milan residence and the location of his famous painting ‘The Last Supper’. Beginning in the Renaissance period, the museum charts macro and micro global advances in science and technology. Major sections include: ‘Leonardo’s art and science’, ‘Communication (including Space)’, ‘Food’, ‘Materials’, ‘Energy’ and ‘Transport’. The presentation is dynamic and accessible with over 13 interactive workshops and displays (video games, immersive environments, etc.), making the museum particularly suited to children and young teenagers. All display texts are available in English.
Museo Nazionale Scienza Tecnologia, Milan | Courtesy Archivio Museo Nazionale Scienza Tecnologia Photo: Lorenza Daverio
Part of the Transport display at Museo Nazionale Scienza Tecnologia, Milan | Courtesy Archivio Museo Nazionale Scienza Tecnologia Photo: Alessandro Nassiri
Museo di Storia Naturale di Milano
Established in 1838, Museo di Storia Naturale is the oldest civic museum of Milan and has been building its collection and research initiatives for 180 years. As such it has an important reputation in Italy and wider Europe. The permanent display (which covers 23 rooms and over 5,000 square metres) is divided into sections on mineralogy, zoology (vertebrate/invertebrate), paleontology and the history of man. The large dinosaur and animal displays make this museum particularly suited to children, but most of the educational activities and display information is in Italian only. The museum is located within Milan’s most romantic park, Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, and the building is beautiful.
Admission: €5 (concession €3) Free admission*: every day one hour before closing; every Tuesday from 2pm; the first Sunday of every month. *Also check website for up to date information on which individuals qualify for free admission.