What to see in Vigevano

Piazza Ducale-Torre del Bramante-porticato

A Brief Guide to Ludovico il Moro’s Ideal City

Are you in search of an elegant and historically rich destination? Well, we have just the city for you! Explore with us what to see in Vigevano, the ideal city of the Sforza family.

Vigevano is a charming town situated in the heart of the Lombard region known as Lomellina. To reach it, one must traverse vast expanses of rice fields that offer a truly picturesque view, especially during the summer. Upon arriving in the city, one might expect to immediately witness the Renaissance beauties left by the Dukes of Milan. However, like many industrial cities, Vigevano underwent urban development, at times uncontrolled, which concealed its ancient splendors. One immediate observation is the abundance of bicycles and cycling paths, making it a delightful place to explore.

Our concise guide to discovering what to see in Vigevano loosely follows a specific historical thread: the Ducal Vigevano. Between the 14th and 16th centuries, thanks to the Dukes of Milan, the city reached its zenith, essentially becoming a second capital. Before this Ducal era, Vigevano was a small village within the perimeter of the castle walls or a little more. Little is known about its history until the Renaissance, except for some Roman and Lombard relics and its participation in the second Lombard League.

After these brief historical insights, let’s embark on our journey to discover what to see in Vigevano!

What to see in Vigevano: Piazza Ducale

An itinerary of what to see in Vigevano must inevitably begin at Piazza Ducale. Regarded as one of Italy and Europe’s most beautiful squares, it stands as a prime example of Lombard Renaissance architecture and urban planning. Constructed between 1492 and 1494 by the will of Ludovico il Moro, who envisioned it as a splendid antechamber to the castle, Piazza Ducale enlisted the expertise of court architects, including Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci. While it’s uncertain if Da Vinci directly contributed to the square’s design, he sketched its details in Manuscript H as an exemplary work of art and architecture. The square perfectly harmonizes various elements, surrounded on three sides by a beautiful colonnade with 84 distinct capitals. The Renaissance-style decorated buildings above once housed wool and silk merchants’ shops, transporting visitors back to that era.

Today, Piazza Ducale serves as Vigevano’s “drawing-room,” hosting luxurious boutiques and renowned establishments where locals gather.

What to see in Vigevano: the Cathedral

What to see in Vigevano - Piazza Ducale - Vigevano Cathedral - Cathedral of Sant'Ambrogio - baroque facade
Piazza Ducale and Facade of the Cathedral (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The fourth side of the square is occupied by the dramatic Baroque façade of the Cathedral of Sant’Ambrogio, a captivating sight in Vigevano. Its concave façade seamlessly integrates with the square’s structure and was commissioned in the 17th century by Bishop Caramuel. The Spanish bishop aimed to transform Piazza Ducale from the castle’s antechamber, as conceived by Ludovico il Moro, into the Cathedral’s antechamber. To achieve this, he even proposed demolishing the grand ramp connecting the square to the castle, concealing it behind the square’s palaces. The cathedral’s interior boasts rich decoration and features fascinating works by Bernardino Ferrari, one of Vigevano’s renowned painters.

What to see in Vigevano: Visconteo-Sforzesco Castle

Our exploration of Ducal Vigevano continues with the Visconteo-Sforzesco Castle. As mentioned earlier, it’s challenging to glimpse the castle from Piazza Ducale, except for the Bramante Tower. The tower bears a striking resemblance to the Filarete Tower of Milan’s Sforza Castle. Indeed, during the 19th-century restoration of the latter, the architect drew inspiration from Vigevano’s tower for its reconstruction. The tower is open to visitors, offering a stunning view of the city and the surrounding territory from its terrace.

Beyond the tower, the castle reveals itself as an extensive complex of interconnected buildings surrounding a large courtyard.

Sforzesco Castle - Courtyard - Male - Towers - Trees
Courtyard and Keep of the Visconti-Sforzesco Castle(Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The complex includes:

  • Bramante’s Tower;
  • three large stables;
  • a neo-Gothic entrance hall;
  • a loggia called the falconry;
  • a bridge with an aerial loggia;
  • the keep;
  • two 19th-century buildings between the keep and the tower;
  • the covered road;
  • the old fortress with the stable.

We recommend taking a guided tour of the structure to uncover hidden secrets and explore the most captivating areas not accessible to regular visitors. You’ll be astonished to discover the few remaining traces of Renaissance decorations or witness the architectural beauty of Ludovico il Moro’s Stable.

What to see in Vigevano- Ludovico il Moro's stables - Interior - perspective - columns - cross vaults
Ludovico il Moro’s stables (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

You’ll also walk along the castle’s underground streets, marvel at various foundation elements, including ancient stables and the icehouse. You’ll be amazed to see Duke Luchino Visconti’s Covered Road, whose extraordinary dimensions make it unique.

Covered Road - perspective - wooden beams
Covered Road(Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Castle Museums

The Visconteo-Sforzesco Castle is also the city’s cultural hub, hosting four museums narrating Vigevano’s history from various perspectives:

  • National Archaeological Museum of Lomellina, preserving significant artifacts recounting the region’s history from prehistoric times to the Early Middle Ages.
  • Civic Art Gallery, housing works primarily by Vigevano artists spanning from the 15th to the 20th century.
  • International Footwear Museum, collecting historical footwear, documents, memorabilia, and various items related to the world of footwear. The collection includes Beatrice D’Este’s flat shoe, the wife of Duke Ludovico il Moro, found near her quarters in the castle.
  • Leonardiana, a unique museum celebrating Leonardo da Vinci’s genius, which greatly contributed to Vigevano’s development. The exhibition covers the extensive and diverse work of the Tuscan genius. With the aid of advanced technology in the cultural field, visitors can admire Da Vinci’s drawings and paintings down to the smallest details.

What to See in Vigevano: San Pietro Martire Church

The last place we recommend visiting in Vigevano is the Church of San Pietro Martire. Located a few meters from the castle walls, it was frequented by the ducal court during the Renaissance. During a guided tour of the castle, the guide will reveal the passage used by the Dukes to attend mass without being disturbed by the common people. The church externally presents itself as a typical example of Lombard Gothic, with an octagonal bell tower. Inside, you’ll find a highly suggestive neo-Gothic decoration from the 19th century that covers Renaissance frescoes, preventing the admiration of the works that adorned the church during the time of the Dukes of Milan.

What to see in Vigevano- Church of San Pietro Martire - Exposed bricks - rose window - Lombard Gothic - octagonal bell tower
Church of San Pietro Martire (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Certainly, a visit to Vigevano wouldn’t be complete without tasting the local dishes. Read on to discover them with us.

Local Dishes in Vigevano

Vigevano is deeply connected to its history, and tradition reigns supreme in its cuisine. Strangely, we’ll start with desserts, which also celebrate the Renaissance. Two sweets are dedicated to Ludovico il Moro and Bramante. The first is Dolceriso del Moro, a delicious tart with shortcrust pastry filled with rice, candied milk, almonds, and rose water. Legend has it that Ludovico’s wife, Beatrice d’Este, invented and dedicated it to her husband. The second is Bramantini, exquisite lemon shortbread cookies featuring the Bramante Tower, the city’s symbol.

As mentioned earlier, the area around Piazza Ducale is rich in elegant restaurants catering to your craving for local dishes. From typical appetizers like goose salami and fish carpione to numerous risotto options, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Choosing the wine won’t be easy either, but we have a suggestion: try the Pinot Grigio from Oltre Pavese DOC. This fresh and delightful wine won’t disappoint.

Now, it’s time to discover the sights of Vigevano with your own eyes.

Final Tips

If you plan to stay in Vigevano, click here to discover the best accommodations at the best prices.

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Article Name
What to see in Vigevano
Explore elegance and captivating history in Vigevano. Discover what to see in Vigevano, your ideal destination for cultural richness and charm."
Publisher Name
La Scimmia Viaggiatrice

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