Cosa vedere a Vigevano- Piazza Ducale- Duomo di Vigevano- Duomo di Sant'Ambrogio- facciata barocca

A Brief Guide to Ludovico il Moro’s Ideal City

Are you in search of an elegant place rich in fascinating stories? Well, we’ve got just the city for you! Join us in exploring what to see in Vigevano, the ideal city of the Sforza dynasty.

Vigevano is a town in the heart of the Lombard territory known as Lomellina. To reach it, one must traverse extensive rice fields, providing a truly picturesque view during the summer. Upon arrival, one might expect to immediately witness the Renaissance beauties left by the Dukes of Milan. However, like many industrial cities, Vigevano underwent urban development, sometimes chaotic, concealing its ancient charms. Yet, the immediate presence of numerous bicycles and cycling paths makes it a delightful place to explore.

Our brief guide to discovering what to see in Vigevano 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 the ducal era, Vigevano was a small village within the castle walls or a bit more. Little is known about its history before the Renaissance, except for some Roman and Lombard remnants and its participation in the Second Lombard League.

After this brief historical overview, let’s begin our exploration of what to see in Vigevano!

What to See in Vigevano: Piazza Ducale

Any itinerary of what to see in Vigevano must start from Piazza Ducale. Considered one of Italy and Europe’s most beautiful squares, it stands as a prime example of Lombard Renaissance architecture and urban planning.

Built between 1492 and 1494 at Ludovico il Moro’s behest, who envisioned it as a splendid antechamber to the castle, the square was entrusted to court architects, including Donato Bramante and Leonardo Da Vinci. While it’s uncertain if Da Vinci directly contributed to the square’s design, he detailed it in Manuscript H as a remarkable example of art and architecture.

The square seamlessly blends harmonious elements, surrounded on three sides by a stunning arcade with 84 columns, each with unique capitals. The Renaissance-style palaces above allow imaginative immersion into the past when wool and silk vendors occupied the shops.

Piazza Ducale-Torre del Bramante-porticato
Piazza Ducale and the Tower of Bramante

Today, Piazza Ducale is Vigevano’s “salotto buono” (good living room), hosting luxurious boutiques and renowned establishments where locals gather.

What to See in Vigevano: the Cathedral

The fourth side of the square is the only one not tied to its Renaissance design. It features the scenic Baroque façade of the Cathedral of Sant’Ambrogio, one of Vigevano’s most intriguing buildings. 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, initially conceived as the castle’s antechamber by Ludovico il Moro, into the antechamber of the cathedral. To achieve this, he decided to demolish the large ramp connecting the square to the castle, hiding it behind the square’s palaces. The cathedral’s interior is richly decorated with fascinating works by Bernardino Ferrari, one of Vigevano’s renowned painters.

What to See in Vigevano: Visconteo-Sforzesco Castle

Our journey into Ducal Vigevano continues with the Visconteo-Sforzesco Castle. From Piazza Ducale, it’s challenging to spot the castle’s silhouette, except for Bramante’s Tower. You’ll notice its resemblance to the Filarete Tower in Milan’s Sforza Castle. In the 19th-century restoration of the latter, the architect drew inspiration from Vigevano’s tower for its reconstruction. The tower is accessible, offering a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding area from its terrace.

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

Cosa vedere a Vigevano- Castello Sforzesco di Vigevano- Cortile- maschio- Torri- alberi
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.

Un consiglio che ti diamo è quello di seguire una visita guidata della struttura.

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.

Cosa vedere a Vigevano ducale- Scuderia di Ludovico il Moro- Interno- prospettiva- colonne- volte a crociera
Interior of 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.

Cosa vedere a Vigevano ducale- Strada Coperta- prospettiva- travi di legno
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

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. If you’re interested in other exciting activities and guided tours in Lombardy, click to explore further.

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
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La Scimmia Viaggiatrice