Leonardo Da Vinci Sightseeing Locations In Milan
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Think Florence's Uffizi Gallery is the be-all and end-all when it come to discovering Leonardo da Vinci? There's infinitely more to the great renaissance man than certain famous paintings let on. Take a da Vinci themed sightseeing trip around Milan to discover a visionary mind who dabbled in everything from science and technology to art and literature. Milan was a place where some of his most ambitious mechanical projects were realised, where his penultimate compendium of notes are housed, and is 'the' place for his grandest wall murals.
Where To Discover Da Vinci In Milan?
Below you'll find a list of sights and attractions that every da Vinci seeker should check out while visiting the capital of Lombardy. Feel free to leave a comment below if you think we've missed out a key piece of the master's legacy.
1, Navigli Canals (Various Locations):
In their heyday the Navigli canals served an important role in commercial transportation. Barges laden with raw imports and manufactured exports would sail to and fro along the hydraulic network, supplying inner Milan with materials for growth and ensuring local businesses had a direct link to the Adriatic Sea via the Ticino and Po Rivers. This vital function survived well into the 20th century when it was overtaken by modern road systems, leading certain portions of the Navigli to either be filled in or consigned to irrigation support. Two of the most important canals, however, the Pavese and the Grande, remain to the present day in all of their original splendour.
Located side-by-side in the docklands district of Porta Ticinese both waterways are highly notable tourist attractions, popular for their renaissance ambience and the many bars and restaurants that line the adjoining walkways. Another important sightseeing draw is that Leonard Da Vinci himself designed a lot of the systems that made the Navigli possible. His contributions are visible in the mechanical sluice doors, locks and dams.
While Pavese and Grande are loved for their nightlife scenes, Martesana Canal in the northern end of Milan is renowned for its 38 km long cycleway, which stretches from the Giardino Cassina de Pomm (alongside Via Melchiorre Gioia) to the commune of Trezzo sull'Adda. This leafy cycle route was extensively renovated in 2015, offering an easy-going and sensuously scenic journey for riders of all skill levels. It's worth noting that Da Vinci had a direct role in the planning and mechanics of Martesana. If you do decide to follow its cycle route then be sure to stop off in Gorgonzola, home to the famous cheese of the same name.
2, Leonardo's Horse (Piazzale dello Sport):
As a complex polymath whose ideas were often well ahead of their time it's little wonder that a lot of Leonardo's visions never got off the pages of his sketch book. The 1482 commission he received from Ludovico Sforza was one such project that never came to fruition during the great man's lifetime. The duke's request was for an enormous equine sculpture which, at the time, would've been the largest of its kind in the world. Though war and other political intrigues eventually scuppered the project Leonardo's copious preparatory notes survived, leading to the statue's completion over 500 years later.
To see Leonardo's Horse in all its glory sightseers should head towards the Ippodromo di San Siro, ahead of which is the Piazzale dello Sport. In the centre of the square atop a giant marble pedestal you'll encounter the 24-foot masterpiece, finally realised in silicon bronze alloy and stainless steel. Hop-off at stop 10 (C-Line) on the City Sightseeing Milan bus tour for easy access to the Cavallo di Leonardo.
3, The Last Supper (Santa Maria delle Grazie):
The Duke of Milan may not have lived to see his giant horse in physical form, but his best known commission is a different story. Leonardo set to work on the The Last Supper some time around 1495, an undertaking which was to last four years. It adorns the back wall of the dining hall in the Santa Maria delle Grazie, a monastery frequented by millions of sightseers each year. Viewings require advanced booking- the mural being as famous and fragile as it is, along with the UNESCO listed status of the building that houses it. Do this by heading over the basilica's own site and following their links to the official reservations page.
4, The Sala delle Assee (Sforza Castle):
The Sala delle Assee, whose name translates into English as 'Room of Wooden Boards', is one of the main attractions in the museums section of Sforza Castle. In many ways it's a memento of Leonardo's employment by the Sforza Court, and certainly the most vivid of its kind contained within the family residence itself. His task was to create a drawing room that would invoke soothing impressions of open-space, something which he set to work on alongside his painting of the Last Supper.
The all-encompassing design depicts a detailed natural environment wherein a ring of tree trunks extend from the base of the floor to the ceiling, at which point their lush 'lunette' branches fan out to envelope the entire ceiling. The Sforza family coat of arms can be seen at the centre of the design, flanked by four blue/gold plaques. In a move likely to please the purists, the Sala delle Assee was restored to many of its former specifications following a large-scale clean-up in 2013, so the version viewable today is about as truthful to Leonardo's original vision as is currently possible.
Like every other exhibition space in the Sforza Castle museum, his floral masterpiece is open to visitors from 09:00-17:30, Tuesday-Sunday, with last admission at 17:00.
5, Codex Atlanticus (Pinacoteca Ambrosiana):
Anyone even vaguely familiar with di Vinci knows that he was every bit the genius when it came to mechanical inventions, and nothing else conveys the astounding breadth of his work in this field quite like the Codex Atlanticus. This famous 12-volume compendium of writings and drawings consists of 1,119 individual pages. These contain his technical designs on everything from war machines to flying devices, as well as the thought processes that went into them.
The entire tome is housed within the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a historical library located close to Milan Cathedral, and though viewings are rare given the precious nature of the documents exhibitions of selected excerpts are held on special occasions. The latest showcase is being held at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, an art gallery housed within the library. It was organised as part of Expo Milano 2015, though has been extended into February 2016 by popular demand. Even after this date has passed keep in mind the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana for potential future exhibitions.
Other works worth visiting at the art gallery include di Vinci's 'Portrait of a Musician', Botticelli's 'Madonna of the Pavilion', and Caravaggio's 'Basket of Fruit'.
6, Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci":
Having inspired countless generations of thinkers since his death in 1519 it should come as no surprise that in 1953 the city of Milan dedicated its largest science and technology museum to Leonardo da Vinci. This fascinating attraction boasts an entire exhibition showcasing models of his most iconic inventions. 130 are on permanent display, including highlights such as the tortoise-inspired armoured car, air screw, parachute, and 'da Vinci diving suit'.
The National Science and Technology Museum is located on Via San Vittore and is open everyday 09:30-17:00 (09:30-18:30 on Saturdays) except Sunday.