Monday, May 01, 2006

Castello Sforzesco – The Castle of Milan

Milan is an antique city, remarkably well conserved over the centuries notwithstanding the numerous times it was conquered, pillaged and bombed. One of the primary landmarks of this great city is Castello Sforzesco, the Castle of the Sforza family. The construction began in the 1300s incorporating the defenses of Porta Giovia, one of the gates to the city. In 1450 Francesco Sforza is called from Rome to defend the city of Milan from the Venetians. He marries the illegitimate daughter of the Visconti, current lord of the castle, and begins an ambitious project to increase the defenses of the castle.

Francesco Sforza employed the best military architects in the construction of the castle’s defenses. His son dedicated his life to making the castle more livable for the ruling family. In fact, numerous artists added to the beautification of the castle including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The last unfinished sculpture of Michaelangelo, “Pieta’ Rondanini”, finds its home in the castle.

Over the years, and numerous emperors, the castle has grown to about five times its original size, to then be reduced to the original construction by Napoleon. Towers were raised, some blown up, some torn down by the people during various rebellions but the castle remains. The castle has been attacked, placed under siege for years, bombed in WWII, and seen various politicians over the ages that have attempted to tear it down to make room for “progress”, yet it remains. It is a symbol of the power of Milan, its culture, its wealth and the tenacity of the people of Milan.

Many an afternoon, during the warmer periods of the year, I have spent laying on the grass in its green gardens. Chatting, having a picnic lunch, or just relaxing. A walk through the castle’s park in the early evening is suggestive. Massive walls encompassing meticulously maintained gardens make you feel safe and the hustle and bustle of the city disappear.

The castle museum maintains original draperies, furniture, and armature. Fireplaces warm the rooms and torches adorn the walls. Secret passages lead out of the castle into the city. For the Milanese, the castle is a place of refuge, for the visitor a look into the past, either way it is a destination for all.


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Blogger Doll Face said...

I heard a story, please correct me if i'm wrong. Once upon a time (couldn't help the intro) soldiers wanted to invade the castle but couldn't penetrate the walls so the general stalked the castle until all food was eaten resulting in the occupants to surrender. Is this the castle?

9:26 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

This is the story of many battles of that time. The fortifications were so strong that it was impossible to penetrate them.

The Castello Sforzesco was submitted to one of the longest sieges in history and was surrendered diplomatically instead of actually being starved out.

8:54 AM


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