Many interesting facts surround Milan’s robust Sforza Castle (also spelled Sforzesco Castle), not the least of which is that Leonardo da Vinci himself helped design its fortified defence structures. But it’s when you go inside the castle walls that you really get to see the great artist’s lasting impact. Here, you’ll find his painted fresco of 16 intertwining mulberry trees, which dates back to 1498.
The castle’s history itself goes back to around 1360, when it was built as a Visconti fortress. Then, when military and political leader Francesco Sforza rose to power as the duke of Milan in the mid-1400s, he built on and enhanced it. The castle complex features three inner courtyards, lots of towers, battlements, ravelins, two moats, ducal apartments, a Spanish hospital, a chapel, a treasure room and more.
Today, Sforza Castle is home to a number of fascinating museums and displays, including an archaeological museum housing prehistoric and Egyptian artefacts, a museum of musical instruments and a museum of ancient art. Michelangelo’s final work, the Pietà Rondanini sculpture, which he never completed, is a not-to-be-missed highlight here. The on-site art gallery also boasts its fair share of Italian masterpieces, including the Trivulzio Madonna by Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna.
Sforza Castle is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9am to 7:30pm and stays open till 10:30 on Thursday nights. Entry is free after 2pm on Tuesdays and for the last hour on other days. A single-ticket entry will gain you access to all of the castle’s museums. You can also book a guided tour in advance to be able to visit parts of the castle not generally open to the public, such as the battlements, rampart walkways and underground passages of the covered road. The closest metro station to Sforza is Cairoli. Or it’s roughly a 20-minute walk from Milan Cathedral. On a sunny day, take a stroll or relax along with the locals in the beautiful Parco Sempione behind the castle.