Audio File length: 3.39
English / USA Language: English / USA


You are in front of Filarete Tower, named after the Tuscan architect who designed it. There is a large fountain next to the Tower that is always crowded with tourists, especially in summer. The statue of the city's patron saint, St. Ambrose, sits atop the tower dressed in his bishop garb.

With the Saint's blessing you will soon enter the castle, where you'll immediately find lots of indications and an information office. Sforza Castle is one of the largest castles in Europe, and is now a major arts complex with museums, libraries and other cultural institutions. It has exhibition spaces in various buildings and on four different levels: are you ready to enter an authentic ancient fortress? Well then pause the guide and go to the Square of Weapons!


Inside the castle's walls you'll find that the castle is divided into three courtyards. The largest is the Square of Weapons, so named because the castle's soldiers used to stay here. On one side of the square you can see the remains of Renaissance palaces, while on the other side you'll notice a long, low building where plague patients were once hospitalized. This building has been home to a wonderful sculpture of Michelangelo, the Pietà Rondanini, since 2015. Note the battlements along the walls, and if you look down to the bottom of the inner moat you'll see piles of stone balls which remind you that this was a fortification made to withstand sieges.

Do you see that tower covered with beautiful vines? That's the Tower of Bona of Savoy, named after the dynasty's second Duchess who was widowed towards the end of the 1400s after her husband Galeazzo Maria Sforza was killed in a conspiracy; yes, the Italy of the Renaissance had more plotting and scheming than an episode of "Game of Thrones"...

Now pause and go to the Rocchetta courtyard!


The Rocchetta courtyard, on the left, was the most protected part of the castle, and the dukes took refuge here when the castle was under attack. If you look up, opposite  Bona Tower you'll see Castellana Tower: not by chance, the duchy's treasure was guarded here in the safest part of the castle, and was a treasure worthy of the "Lord of the Rings"! Don't miss the Renaissance decorations on the ceiling of the portico, with the mottos of the Visconti and Sforza families.

Now pause and go to the Ducal Court!


As you'll notice, the atmosphere here in the Ducal Court is completely different from the war-like one in the Rocchetta courtyard. It's like being in a Renaissance palace that happens to be within the walls of a fortress. You can feel how pleasant this space is, with its beautiful garden and long pool in the center! It was here that the great leader Ludovico il Moro came to reside for the twenty years he ruled, under which the Duchy of Milan reached its peaks.


FUN FACT: the Portico of the Elephant is right in front of you, and if you look closely at the fresco that decorates it and manage to distinguish the various, slightly faded animals, you'll see how it got its name.

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