A new art circuit features the city’s main museum hubs: the Pinacoteca di Brera, the Gallerie d’Italia-Piazza Scala, the civic complex consisting of Palazzo Reale and the Museo del Novecento and, last but not least, the Grande Museo del Duomo.
This is an itinerary extending over 900 metres, that can be crossed on foot in just 15 minutes, from via Brera to piazzetta Reale, cutting through piazza Scala and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which hosts an extraordinary part of our country’s art history.
Fine Arts In Milan
Let’s start from Brera, one of Milan’s signature districts and one of the coolest areas in the city: it boasts a number of retro-style boutiques, historic workshops and antique shops. Home to the famous Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts), over the years it has been a meeting place for artists and intellectuals (artist Piero Manzoni’s studio was located here).
The Neo-classical building of the Accademia – which opens out onto a superb courtyard consisting of a two-storied loggia and a forceful statue of Napoleon by Antonio Canova – hosts the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, the Museo Astronomico (Astronomical Museum), the Giardino Botanico (Botanical Garden) but, above all, the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery).
Among the most important national galleries of ancient and modern art in Italy, the Pinacoteca di Brera contains a wonderful collection of both Venetian and Lombard masters as well as important works by other schools. Thanks to multiple donations, the exhibition features works ranging from the dark ages to contemporary art, with impressive oeuvres by 20th century artists. Its permanent collection offers a wealth of Italian and foreign masterpieces such as Piero della Francesca, Giuseppe Bellini, Donato Bramante, Andrea Mantegna, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens, van Dyck and Hayez.
The History Of The City
While heading towards the centre to reach the Duomo, the heart of the city, you will come upon the imposing Gallerie d’Italia-Piazza Scala, three historic buildings overlooking Milan’s elegant via Manzoni, piazza della Scala and via Morone serving as the prestigious home to 19th and 20th century masterpieces, a new exhibition space offering visitors the artistic treasures of Fondazione Cariplo and Intesa Sanpaolo.
Epitomizing the history of Milan, the buildings were designed by two prominent Italian architects between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Two of them host masterpieces of 19th century Italian art, the opulent Neoclassical rooms of Palazzo Anguissola and the 19th century Palazzo Brentani. The works on display cover a century of art history – the Italian nineteenth century – from Antonio Canova to Umberto Boccioni. The exhibit is divided into 13 sections and spans 23 rooms of significant architectural and decorative value revisited by architect Michele De Lucchi.
Palazzo Anguissola marks a turning point in architecture between the 18th and 19th centuries while, in the adjacent Palazzo Brentani, the atmosphere is that of noble 19th century dwellings. Particularly worthy of note, in the area dedicated to 19th century Lombardy works, are several never-seen-before views of old-world Milan, the Duomo, Navigli (canals) that no longer exist together with highlights from battle scenes during the Risorgimento and scenes from private family lives.
The new section “Cantiere del ’900” (Twentieth century worksite) is located in the early twentieth century Palazzo housing Milan’s historic Banca Commerciale in Piazza della Scala. In the bright halls of the ground floor, masterfully redesigned by architect Michele De Lucchi, the layout takes visitors on a journey through 12 sections and 2 overtures with works executed according to the different artistic techniques and poetics of the post World War Two period, suggesting a dialogue between sculpture and painting – or between plastic and representational forms – and between artistic experimentation centres in Italy, primarily in the relationship between the Milanese and Roman scene.
After crossing Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an integral part of the pulsating heart of the city for almost 150 years, home to exclusive shops and restaurants, you will reach Palazzo Reale, literally a 5-minute walk away. Formerly the residence of all those who governed Milan – from Napoleon to the Royal House of Savoy – it is situated just steps from the Duomo and is currently one of the most important cultural centres in the city hosting exhibitions of international renown such as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
As one of the youngest museums in the city, lying adjacent to the Duomo, the Museo del Novecento hosts more than 400 20th century masterpieces of Italian and international art. Ranging from Fontana to Picasso, some of the most prolific artists are exhibited in this recently refurbished Palazzo dell’Arengario, a building where works of art interact with the city engaging with the past while looking towards the future.
The Duomo’s hidden face
The heart of Milan beats in piazza Duomo. It is here that its symbol, the splendid Gothic cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente resides. Furthermore, its amazing history – which is also the history of the city – is chronicled and safeguarded just a few steps away at the Grande Museo del Duomo. Completely refurbished in 2013 and extending over a surface area of two thousand square metres, the museum is home to hundreds of works of art including sculptures, paintings, jewellery, vestments, religious objects, stained glass windows and architectural models, from the 15th century to the present time. An extraordinary heritage that reveals the very soul of the cathedral, where works by famous masters are displayed alongside those of anonymous artisans. Together with the treasures of the Duomo, the Museum’s collections retrace the story of its age-old history, from the first stone right up to the birth of the symbol best loved by the inhabitants of Milan, i.e. the ‘Madonnina’ which, since 1774, has stood atop its highest spire. Particularly noteworthy are the rooms of the Treasure, Christ at the Temple by Tintoretto, various works by Giovan Battista Crespi known as ‘Il Cerano’, an imposing wooden model of the cathedral dating back to 1519 and the panels of the fifth door of the Duomo by Lucio Fontana and Luciano Minguzzi.