Milano, Castello Sforzesco
Built for defensive purposes by Galeazzo Visconti around 1368, the Castle was enlarged by Gian Galeazzo Visconti at the end of the 14th century. However only Filippo Maria (1412) lived there permanently and the Castle became a princely dwelling. When Filippo Maria died (1447) it was partially dismantled by the citizens who saw it as a symbol of tyranny. In 1450 Francesco Sforza, the new Lord of Milan, rebuilt it to make it a very well equipped fortress, and then having consolidated his power he embellished it using great architects such as Filarete, B. Gadio and B. Ferrini. Ludovico il Moro (Ludwig the Moor 1479-1508) turned it into one of the richest courts of the Italian Renaissance, centre of attraction for the best artists of the time, among which were Leonardo and Bramante. In the 16th century a slow decline started lasting until the 19th century when architect L. Beltrami, starting from 1893, rebuilt it according to the ancient plan to be used as quarters for ancient collections and cultural institutions.
The powerful square mass (200 m. per side) is built entirely of brick and is surrounded by a moat. On the corners there are two cylindric and two square towers. The towers are dressed in powerful rough-hewn serizzo (type of granite) stone and at mid-height display large coats of arms with the sculptured grass snake of the Viscontis. The one tower is called "del Falcone (of the Falcon)" (North side), and the other "del Tesoro (of the Treasure)" or "Castellana (of the Castle)" or "Maestra (Master)" (Western side). The front side towards the city is composed of a high crenellated wall plastered to repair the wear made by patrols and is perforated by large mullioned windows with pointed brick arches. In the centre, the large arched main entrance door opens, preceded by the drawbridge and surmounted by the Torre del Filarete (Filarete Tower) or "dell'Orologio" (Clock Tower). The tower is 70 m. high, it was rebuilt in 1905 in imitation of the original which was destroyed in 1521. In the middle of the back facade opens the Porta del Barchio (Door of Barchio); on the left side, the Porta dello Spirito Santo (Door of the Holy Spirit); on the right side, the Porta dei Carmini (The Carmine Door). Very close to it, towards the north, the Ponticella of Ludovico il Moro, also called after the Bramante who built it, stretches from the wall and crosses the moat. The Ponticella connected the Ducal Court with the external enclosure (now disappeared), called "la Ghirlanda" (the Garland). The small windows on the moat provided light to the covered passage, dug in the counter-escarpment of the moat and connected with the secret passages that led to the countryside. The cortile delle milizie (military courtyard) or parade ground was used to train the Sforza troops. The courtyard is surrounded by low buildings used today as libraries and for art collections. The Ducal Court which is accessed through the Porta Giovia (Jovian Gate) has got a large coat of arms by its doorway. In the entrance hall there are still traces of a wall fresco of the 15th century. The Rocchetta Courtyard, the real heart of the Castle, is a sort of a fortress within the fortress, the last bastion could be relied upon: a vast square courtyard, surrounded on three sides by porticoes with round arches and at one time covered with splendid frescoes and graffiti.
Address: Piazza Castello