Castello Sforzesco in Milan, Italy is a splendid palace that holds a significant place in Italian history. This fortified palace is a much-beloved landmark, as it stood witness to the ebbs and flows of the city of Milan. It was built by the Viscontis and the Sforzas, powerful men who ruled Northern Italy during the late Middle Ages until the Renaissance period. The palace serves as an emblem of power for the Viscontis and the Sforzas. It has a tumultuous past, as it has experienced demolition and rebuilding several times.

The Sforza Castle traces its origins to the middle of the 14th century, during the time of Galeazzo II Visconti. It was built basically for defense, with towers at each corner of the palace. Then called Visconti Castle, it was declared as public property because of the lack of legitimate heirs. In 1447, Milan's people tore down the castle and used the stones as payment for debts, and restored the town's walls. Then it was christened Castello Sforzesco in 1450 in honor of Francesco Sforza. He had the castle rebuilt using the old foundations of the Visconti Castle. The graceful Filarete tower was added to the entrance, as well as round towers all around, all designed by architect Bartolomeo Gadio.

The Duke's courtyard within the Castello Sforzesco ramparts.
The Duke's courtyard within the Castello Sforzesco ramparts. [CC] credit.

Then, in 1466, another heir (Galeazzo Maria) reconstructed the courtyard and turned it into a Ducal Residence(Corte Ducale). Beside it was the Rocchetta, which has a high tower named Torre di Bona. Another successor, Ludovico il Moro had a picturesque bridge built overlooking the Ponticella (outer moat). Leonardo Da Vinci also had a hand in painting the frescos inside the Sala delle Asse walls. The next years proved to be more colorful, as the castle fell into the hands of the French, the Spanish and the Austrian, respectively, until it finally fell into Napoleon's hands at the end of the 18th century.

And now it stands as a center for culture, a tradition that started at the beginning of the 20th Century. There are several museums and art galleries housed in the Castle at the moment.

Part of the Castello Sforzesco courtyard.
Part of the Castello Sforzesco courtyard. [CC] credit.

The castle is now host to a wealth of historical artifacts and masterpieces belonging to the Civici Musei Castello Sforzesco, as the museums are collectively known. The Museum of Applied Arts in the Ducal Courtyard is a rich exhibit of 15th and 21st-century wooden sculptures and furnishings. There is also the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, an exhibition of 230 masterpieces by renowned Italian painters such as Andrea Mantegna, Cesare da Sesto, Procaccini, Cerano, Antonello da Messina and many others. Foremost in the collection are Michelangelo's Rondanini Pieta and Da Vinci's Codex Trivulzianus. Aside from these exhibits, the Castle is also home to the Egyptian and Prehistoric sections of the Archeological Museum, the Collections of Applied Arts and the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Museum of Ancient Art as well as the Achille Bertarelli Print Collection.

Stroll along the courtyard and the numerous salons and discover the treasures that abound in the Castello Sforzesco.