Castello Sforza

Florence has its Medicis and other rich families; Milan had the Sforzas and Viscontis (a 20th C Visconti descendent, Luchino, was a famous Italian film director). This magnificent fortress was another easy walk from our apartment in Brera, the Montmartre of Milan. So much history, wealth, marriages with other noble families, intrigues and more.

The walled fortress is now surrounded by the city, but still feels like a step back into Romanesque and Italian Gothic times. Not to mention a wonderful place for kids large and feel like aristocrats. It's vast, with room for an archive with thousands of ancient documents, a tourism bureau, a sizeable art museum, and a spacious inner courtyard for outdoor performances (one was being set up for an evening music concert when we were there).

There's even a small, precious galllery housing the last Pieta Michelangelo sculpted, an unfinished, sorrowful depiction so different from his more famous one at St Peter's in Rome. Shown in the video below, it's arresting because Mary appears to be lifting her dead son almost to full height. There is also a bust of Michelangelo and a room filled with tapestries from possibly the 1400s or 1500s depicting symbolic representations of every month of the year.

Started in about the 1200s, the castello and grounds have been restored and repaired numerous times. Even Napoleon's troops renovated one of the towers to use as a barracks in the early 1800s!