Milan - Attractions
At the northeastern end of the lovely Via Dante, which intersects the Piazza del Duomo, looms the imposing Castello Sforzesco. Originally a military fortress, it was completely remodelled by more comfort-minded Francesco Sforza. The new and improved defences were designed by uber-engineer Leonardo da Vinci.
At the northeastern end of the lovely Via Dante, which intersects the Piazza del Duomo, looms the imposing Castello Sforzesco. Originally a military fortress, it was completely remodelled by more comfort-minded Francesco Sforza. The new and improved defences were designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
The castle houses a collection of modern museums that are well stocked with impressive antiquities. The excellent sculpture collection includes Michelangelo's Pietá Rondanini. There are also paintings by Bellini, Tiepolo, Mantegna, Correggio, Titian and Van Dyck. If you get bored with Italian masters, the collection of Egyptian artefacts should prove distracting.
Leonardo da Vinci's iconic Last Supper was painted in an experimental mix of tempera and oil. The paint has been steadily peeling from the walls of this convent since 1498. Waves of restoration have removed all but an echo of the master's brushstrokes, but that's enough. It's a powerful piece of work.
To visit the refectory of the Convento di Santa Maria delle Grazie, where the painting was most recently restored in 1999, you'll need to plan ahead. To join a group of 25 (sluiced through every 15 minutes), book weeks in advance by phone and get ready to give your credit card a workout. There are tales of travellers who managed to get in without making prior arrangements, but such miracles seem reserved for the truly faithful.
Milan's Duomo is the world's fourth-largest church. The late-Gothic wonder features a forest of spires and statuary, marble pinnacles and pillars, all woven together with a web of flying buttresses. Above the altar is a nail that is said to have come from Christ's cross. The view from the roof is the city's finest.
A gilded copper statue of the Madonna rises above the myriad vertices, distracting awed observers from the church's most interesting omission: The Duomo has no bell tower.
Every September, the Archbishop of Milan retrieves the sacred nail from its perch high above the nave and presents it to an adoring (or at least curious) congregation.
The neighbouring Museo del Duomo chronicles the church's six centuries and displays an interesting collection of art and artifacts.
Teatro alla Scala
La Scala, Milan's famous and fabulous opera house, first raised its curtain in 1778. Practically destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt and reopened in 1946 under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, who returned from New York after a 15-year absence. The adjoining Museo Teatrale alla Scala boasts such curiosities as Verdi's death mask.