Following Leonardo da Vinci through Milan

Following Leonardo da Vinci through Milan

Discover works created by and places dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci in the Lombard capital.

Thanks to a slew of gourmet restaurants, clever museums, creative spaces and lively events, Milan grows more splendid by the day. Hidden gems that had seemed lost forever have been brought to light much to the pleasure of locals and visitors alike. Among these, many of them bear the signature of or recall the presence of Leonardo da Vinci. During the 18 years the Renaissance genius spent in Milan, he enriched the city with his art and other projects, some of which are more known than others.

Here are six places in Milan where you can discover the genius of  Leonardo da Vinci.

1. The Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie

There’s plenty written about Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, a work commissioned by  Ludovico Sforza. The Duke of Milan, Sforza wanted to embellish the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in honor of his family. The Last Supper is not just one of the world’s most famous artworks, but also one of the most fascinating and mysterious. From the imaginative theories of Dan Brown to the story of its complicated restoration, the painting attracts millions of tourists every year who try to grasp all its secrets while admiring its beauty. In April 2017, an environmental restoration project was announced to keep the painting’s very particular microclimate clean, a project that made possible thanks to partial funding from Eataly.

2. The vineyard at Casa degli Atellani

While painting The Last Supper, Leonardo lived at Casa degli Atellani, the home of one of Ludovico Sforza’s courtiers. The Duke gifted the property’s vineyard to Leonardo, however, it was eventually bombed during World War II, unfortunately. Casa degli Atellani was restored in the 1930s by iconic architect Piero Portaluppi and, on the occasion of Expo 2015, Leonardo’s Vineyard was not only re-planted, Casa degli Atellani also opened to the public. The palazzo’s rooms showcase frescoes, coats of arms and paintings dating back to the fifteenth century as well as neoclassical elements from the 1920s. The magnificent garden, home to the vineyard, is replete with findings that date back to the Atellani era. This authentic gem in the heart of Milan is behind the massive wooden door at Corso Magenta 65.

3. The Codex Atlanticus in the Ambrosiana Library

The Ambrosiana Library, adjacent to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana was founded by Cardinal Federico Borromeo in 1607.  Located just behind Via Torino, the Library houses rare and precious collections and codes such as the only surviving fragments of Plautus’s Vidularia, part of the Gothic version of Arian bishop Ulfila’s biblical texts and a variety of Arabic and Oriental manuscripts. Among these treasures, Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus is one of the most famous. The largest collection of Leonardo’s writings, the Codex Atlanticus touches every area of human knowledge: Mechanics, mathematics, astronomy, botany, geography, physics, chemistry, architecture and philosophy as well as the artist’s projects, drawings, inventions and fables. For conservation purposes, the display of 22 files in the library’s  Federiciana Hall rotates every three months.

4.  Axis Hall at Sforza Castle

In 1498 Ludovico Sforza commissioned Leonardo to paint a room on the ground floor of Sforza Castle’s Falconiera Tower, where the falcons were once kept. Today, this Axis Hall (Sala delle Asse)  is one of the castle’s most famous locales. Following the foreign dominations of Milan, the painting seemed to have disappeared forever, but in 1893, architect Luca Beltrami and historian Paul Müller-Valde found enough traces to call for a reconstruction and restoration of Leonardo’s work, a dense multi-colored vegetable plot complete with branches, fruit, roots and rocks. It’s simply breathtaking.

5. The Science and Technology Museum 

The National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan is named after Leonardo da Vinci. The museum, suitable for all ages, showcases Leonardo’s brilliancy through constructions and models of his inventions. Patrons can admire the world’s largest collection of models made from Leonardo’s drawings, which include a multitude of machines for flying, war, everyday use and hydraulics. In addition to this incredible collection, the museum hosts interactive workshops with models and artefacts that leads attendees through a journey through the history and evolution of science and technology. (Via San Vittore 21)

6. Conca dell’Incoronata in Via San Marco

Perhaps not everyone knows that Milan, for a long time, was a ‘city on the water’. Not like as Venice of course, but at one time the Navigli crossed the entire city. The construction of the peripheral Navigli canals, such as the Martesana, and the need to combine them with those of the inner canals called for the construction of some basins. The Conca dell’Incoronata, next to the Tombun de San Marc, was built using a layout designed by Leonardo–which just so happens to be present in the said Codex Atlanticus. In fact, Leonardo himself acted as a consultant during the construction.

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