Countries Italy Milan Cultural Tours

Milan: Treasures of the Visconti and Sforza

Clare Ford-Wille
Clare is an independent art historian. She has led study tours to Europe and lectured on European art, architecture and sculpture for more than thirty years, primarily for the University of London, the National Gallery, the V&A and NADFAS. She has also contributed to several academic guides.
What's included...
  • Return flights on British Airways (economy) from London Heathrow to Milan Linate
  • 3 nights in the 4-star Rosa Grand Hotel near the Duomo
  • 4 breakfasts, 2 dinners and 2 lunches (lunch and dinner includes wine, water and coffee)
  • A day in Pavia visiting the Castello Visconti and the Certosa
  • All church, museum & gallery entry tickets
  • The services of your lecturer and tour manager
  • A tour-guide headset system to make hearing the lecturer easier
  • Transport by luxury coach, as the itinerary requires
  • All tips and taxes
Rosa Grand Milano
Getting about
Participants should be reasonably fit. There is a significant amount of
walking, standing and use of stairs.
Inspirational tours frequently booked together
with £1,905 per person
The Last Supper is a late 15th-century mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci housed by the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The painting was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Due to the methods used, a variety of environmental factors, and intentional damage, very little of the original painting remains today despite numerous restoration attempts, the last being completed in 1999. As a consequence, there is limited time to view the artwork in a bid to prevent further deterioation.
The Certosa di Pavia is a monastery and complex near a small town of the same name in the Province of Pavia.It is one of the largest monasteries in Italy.Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the first Duke of Milan, commissioned the building of the Certosa to the architect Marco Solari.The foundation stone was laid in 1396, as is recorded by a bas-relief on the facade. In the main apse of the church is a fresco by Bergognone celebrating the Incoronation of Mary between Francesco and Ludovico Sforza. Among those buried in the church are Ludovico 'Il Moro' Sforza, Duke of Milan and his duchess, Beatrice d'Este.
The Brera gallery, unlike many of the other major galleries in Italy, did not start out as the private collection of a wealthy patron, rather it was intended to be a gallery to house many of artworks from the churches, monasteries, and abbeys of Lombardy that the French had conquered. This accounts for the bias towards the religious paintings that are on display. And what a display it is with work by Raphael, Tintoretto, Piero della Francesca, Andrea Mantega, Giovanni Bellini, Caravaggio, Bramante, Lorenzo Lotto, Annibale Carracci, Titian, Correggio, Rubens ... 
Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan built the castle as his princely residence in Milan. In 1452 he hired sculptor and architect Filarete to design and decorate the central tower, which is still known as Torre del Filarete. After Francesco's death, the construction was continued by his son Galeazzo Maria, under architect Benedetto Ferrini. The decoration was executed by local painters. In 1476, during the regency of Bona of Savoy, the tower with her name was built. In the 16th and 17th-centuries, it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. It now houses several of the city's museums and art collections which you have the opportunity to visit. Clare Ford-Wille will take us on a curated tour of the Pinacoteca.

The Castello Visconteo was built in 1360 by Galeazzo II Visconti. The castle used to be the main residence of the Visconti family, while the political capital of the state was Milan. Today, the castle houses the Civic Museums of Pavia which include the Pinacoteca Malaspina (which has an extensive collection by northern Italian artists including Veronese, Vicenzo Foppa, Correggio, and Giovanni Bellini).
Take this cultural tour of Milan and discover the treasures of the dominant feudal families that ruled the city. This is a holiday to Italy to be remembered. 

The Duchy of Milan was a constituent state of the Holy Roman Empire in northern Italy. It was created in 1395 when it included twenty-six towns and the wide rural area of the middle Padan Plain. During much of its existence, it was wedged between Savoy to the west, Venice to the east, the Swiss Confederacy to the north, and separated from the Mediterranean by Genoa to the south. It was a very powerful and wealthy city-state that wielded much influence in European politics during the Renaissance.

Medieval and Renaissance Milan is inextricably linked to the two great princely families who ruled Lombardy as Imperial Dukes, the Visconti and Sforza dynasties. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Visconti family dominated affairs and became major patrons of the arts, creating in Milan a court of unrivalled wealth and beauty. But in 1450 they were replaced by the Sforza family who continued these traditions until they were expelled by the French, who invaded the Duchy in 1498, claiming it as their own, thus ending the city’s period as one of the centres of the renaissance. Nonetheless, for about a hundred years the Milanese Court employed an extraordinary range of architects, sculptors, painters, musicians, and humanists. Above all, there was Leonardo da Vinci and his contemporary, the marvellous architect, Donato Bramante, both of whose work will be one of the dominant themes on our visit. Thus, if you are interested in renaissance culture, Milan is an exciting place to study the mechanics of patronage, without the crowds of Florence, Rome or Venice.

Milan’s subsequent history is linked to those of the Habsburg family and their hereditary rights of involvement in Italian affairs as Holy Roman Emperors. The city and its Duchy (what is today modern Lombardy) continued their great role as commercial and manufacturing centres. Indeed, when Italy emerged as a united nation in the later nineteenth century, this role continued to develop, such that the city remains the business and commercial capital of the country. Modern Milan is a very wealthy place indeed as we shall see through the varied and rich collections housed within the palaces, houses and villas of the city and its surrounding hinterland.
Following our morning departure from Heathrow, we arrive in Milan and transfer to our hotel in time for lunch. After lunch, we take a short stroll to visit the Duomo di Milano. This gothic building took more than six centuries to complete and is now the largest church in Italy, as St Peter’s is in the Vatican City.  The most famous statue in the Cathedral, is of Saint Bartholomew Flayed, by Marco d'Agrate, which depicts the saint with his flayed skin thrown over his shoulders like a stole. There are the tombs of two Visconti archbishops and the relics of St Charles Borromeo. For the nimble, there is the opportunity to explore the roof of the Milan, either by taking the stairs or the lift. We visit Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper . We dine together at a wonderful local restaurant.
This morning, we drive out of the city to the Certosa of Pavio, resting place of Ludovico Il Moro Sforza and his beautiful wife, the Duchess Beatrice. The Certosa was commissioned by the first Duke of Milan, Gian Galeazzo Visconti from the architect Marco Solari in 1396. There are painted masterpieces by Bergognone including the panels of St. Ambrose and San Siro  and most and a 1490 Crucifixion (1490). There are paintings by  Giovanni Battista Crespi, Il Morazzone, Guercino, Francesco Cairo and Daniele Crespi, and a remnant of a polyptych by Perugino.

We lunch together before our visit to the Castello of Pavia, otherwise known as Visconti Castle. While Milan was the political base of the Visconti, their main residence was in the castel which was built under the orders of Galeazzo II Visconti in 1360. Today, it is home to a wonderful pinacoteca housing hundreds of outstanding paintings from masters such as Giovanni Bellini, Ambrogio Bevilacqua, Domenico Campagnola, Correggion, Lorenzo Costa, il Cerano, Vicenzo Foppa, Paolo Veronese and Alvise Vivarini. We then return to Milan for an evening at leisure.
After breakfast, we walk through Milan to the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of Italy’s foremost art galleries. Inside we find a cornucopia of paintings from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to the Modern. Famous paintings such as Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin, Andrea Mantegna’s Dead Christ, Piero della Francesca’s The Virgin with Child and Angels, along with Tintorettos, Caravaggios and Tiepolo’s. After lunch, we spend the afternoon at Castello Sforzeco, which was built on the orders of Ludovico Sforza, on a site where the destroyed Castello Visconti had stood. It is a large, rectangular building that now contains several museums. We spend time in the pinacoteca looking at paintings such as Andrea Mantegna's Trivulzio Madonna and masterpieces by Canaletto, Tiepolo, Vincenzo Foppa, Titian and Tintoretto. There is some time for personal exploration of the castle complex before we return to the hotel. We dine together on our last evening.
In the morning, we visit the Pinacoteca Ambrosiano which includes da Vinci's Portrait of a Musician, Caravaggio's Basket of Fruit, and Raphael's cartoon of The School of Athens. Time is also spent in Santa Maria pressa San Satiro which was built from 1472 to 1482 under commission from the Duchess, Bona of Savy and Duke Gian Galeazzo Maria Sforza. Inside is Bramante’s extraordinary feat of Tromp l’Oiel, the perspective illusion choir. There is some free time available before the coach departs for Milan Linate and on flight to London Heathrow.
Sapienza Travel has booked rooms in the same category in the Hotel Rosa Grande Milano. Please, contact us if you would like a quote for a room upgrade.

Flights - The outward flight departs London Heathrow at 9.20am. The return flight departs Milan Linate at 4.35pm arriving in London Heathrow at 5.35pm.
If you would like to fly BA Club class, please contact us and we will provide a price for the upgrade.
Hotel accommodation can be arranged at Heathrow on request. Please, contact us.

Travel advice - Please refer the Foreign Office's website to make sure you are comfortable with the travel advice they provide for the destination(s) you are visiting. 

Activity level - Our tours involve a lot of walking, climbing stairs and standing still for periods of time. The historic centres of cities are often uneven and cobbled requiring everyone to be confident walking across them.

Clare Ford-Wille
Clare is an independent art historian. She has led study tours to Europe and lectured on European art, architecture and sculpture for more than thirty years, primarily for the University of London, the National Gallery, the V&A and NADFAS. She has also contributed to several academic guides.
Charles Barber
Having graduated with a Bachelors of Law from the University of Edinburgh, Charles Barber embarked on what became a twenty-year career in business at the Reed Travel Group, LexisNexis and The Economist. Charles received his MA in Renaissance Studies from the University of London. He has a Master of Arts in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, where he specialised in Early Netherlandish art and its impact on the art of Renaissance Florence. Shortly, Charles will commence doctoral studies at King’s College London researching politics, power and diplomacy at Northern Italian courts in the 15th & 16th centuries. 
Rosa Grand Milano
The Rosa Grand Milano is a luxury 4-star hotel near Milan's Duomo that perfectly captures Milan’s mix of the innovative and the inspiring. Widely acclaimed as one of the best hotels in the city centre, the Rosa Grand puts you in the heart of the city’s historic district from where you can easily walk to many of the churches, galleries and museums on our itinerary.
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