Milano Centrale's Artistic Heritage

Milano Centrale’s Artistic Heritage: Museums, Galleries, and Cultural Gems

In a country like Italy, there’s almost nowhere you can go that doesn’t have incredible artistic and cultural heritage. That’s certainly true of Milan, one of the biggest and most important cities in Italy. For centuries, Milan was the capital of its own independent nation. It even spent some time as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. And although it isn’t the modern capital of the country, it remains a financial and cultural powerhouse and a wonderful place to explore culture, both ancient and modern.

You can begin that exploration right from Milan’s central train station. In fact, Milano Centrale is something of a work of art in its own right. The towering halls of the station resemble an art gallery, and the stone eagles frowning down from their perches near the roof are a reminder that this is a masterpiece of Fascist architecture. Twice the size of Milan’s already massive cathedral, the railway station dwarfs human scale in a reminder of the all-powerful Fascist state Mussolini founded here in 1919.

Step out of the railway station, though, and you’ll be ready to explore the cultural gems of this fabulous city. Much of Milan is within walking distance of the station itself, and what isn’t can be easily reached by the excellent public transportation network you’ll find here. Drop off your bags at a Milan luggage locker and check out some of these cultural gems.

Casa museo Boschi di Stefano

It may not be one of the best-known museums in Milan, but its proximity to the station means you can begin your exploration of Milan’s artistic heritage right here. Just a few blocks away, you’ll find this beautifully preserved Art Deco apartment that belonged to Antonio Boschi and Marieda Di Stefano, a wealthy engineer and his artistically-minded wife who amassed an extraordinary collection of 20th-century art, which is now displayed in the apartment they shared.

This couple collected more than 2000 works of art in their lifetimes, filling the apartment almost from floor to ceiling with artwork from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and beyond. It’s fascinating to browse a collection curated by nothing other than the personal taste of two individuals, especially in the home they once shared together.

Shoah Memorial of Milan

Shoah Memorial of Milan

If the Fascist architecture of the train station has left a bad taste in your mouth, pay a quick but cleansing visit to this Holocaust Memorial located right next to the station itself. It’s perhaps fitting that this Memorial occupies the place it does, right next to one of the grandest of Mussolini’s building projects, as a reminder of what his evil movement was really all about.

The memorial marks the spot where Jews and other prisoners were loaded onto cattle trucks before being deported to the extermination camps. There is a wall of names commemorating the lives lost, along with a research library that explains more about Italian anti-Semitism. It’s a grim but humbling place to commemorate a history that should never be forgotten.

Castello Sforzesco

Castello Sforzesco

One of Milan’s undisputed top attractions, the Sforza Castle, a 15th-century fortification that was once the home of the powerful Sforza family that ruled northern Italy, can be reached with a walk of a little over 30 minutes from Milano Centrale. Alternatively, you can make things easier on yourself by taking Metro Line 2 direct from the railway station to Lanza Station, right outside the castle entrance.

There’s lots to explore here, so you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to see everything. Naturally, the castle is a great place to learn about the medieval and Renaissance history of Milan through the story of the Sforza family, and you’ll see arms and armament along with furniture and decoration from that time.

However, the castle is also famous for its Pinacoteca or gallery of paintings. In just about any city outside of Italy, this gallery alone would be a major attraction since it holds work by Canaletto, Titian, Correggio, Tintoretto, and other well-known Italian painters.

And yet, this is only one of the many museums in the castle. There is also an Egyptian Museum, a Museum of Musical Instruments, a Museum of Ancient Art, and Milan’s archaeological museum, which traces the origins of the city back through the Roman Empire to the very earliest stages of occupation.

And yet, with all that going on, the castle is perhaps most famous as the home of Michelangelo’s last and unfinished sculpture. That makes the castle an absolute can’t-miss attraction for anyone with an interest in history, art, or culture, and an entire day isn’t really enough to see everything on display here.

Pinacoteca di Brera

The collection of art in the Sforza Castle is really astounding. But just a short walk away, you’ll find this art gallery located in a historic palace that might be even more impressive.

The Brera Art Gallery was established during the Napoleonic era and has become one of the world’s most outstanding collections of Italian and European art. Home to work by Titian, Correggio, Rubens, Tintoretto, van Dyck, and Raphael, this gallery provides a crash course in the major movements of Western art over the centuries.

Another highlight for art fans in Milan, this is also one of the top attractions in the city, so it’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance to make sure you don’t miss out.

Cenacolo Vinciano

Cenacolo Vinciano

Also a short walk from the castle and the Brera, this church is home to one of the world’s most famous artworks by one of its greatest artists. The Last Supper, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, has inspired fascination in millions of people since it was painted and remains as beautiful and enigmatic today as it was when it was first painted on the wall of this church. You’ll definitely have to book tickets in advance if you want to visit this unique attraction, but it’s worth it to see this incredible painting up close.

Milan’s cultural highlights

As you can see, even from this short list, Milan is absolutely packed with incredible art and things to do. Leave your bags behind and check out these and other museums and galleries throughout this historic city as you immerse yourself in some of the highlights of Italian culture.

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