Palazzo Reale, the Royal Palace of Milan
A timeline of history in one building
Once known as Palazzo del Broletto Vecchio in the 12th century, it served as a modest town hall. The Old Town Hall became an elegant dwelling in the heart of the city, and later expanded and grew into a genuine palace.
Featured image: Palazzo Reale and Piazza Duomo Diego Baglieri / Wikimedia
Throughout the centuries, ownership of the palace changed, as did the appearance of the Royal Palace.
Although Milan has a castle, the Sforza castle, in the 15th century the castle had been used as military fortress and armory during French occupation. Under the rule of Louis XII and of François I the royal court was transferred to the palace.
The Palazzo flourished under Governor Ferrante Gonzaga, who took permanent residence in Milan in 1546. The Gonzaga family refurbished and transformed the ducal court into a palace suitable for a governor, with expanded and newly inaugurated rooms dedicated to official functions.
The noble Visconti family decide to transform it into their Milan residence.
Among other owners of the Royal Palace were the Habsburgs, the Bonaparte, the Sforza and Visconti families. It was Mussolini who added the final embellishments and decor transforming it into a grand palace.
The two original grand courtyards that were once part of the palace were dismantled and designated to creating the city square Piazza Duomo and building the cathedral.
Much of the ancient frescoes and original architecture was destroyed over time and during WWII. Today the palace is open to visitors the several museums within the walls.
The central part of the building is a museum dedicated to the history of Milan’s main centerpiece: the Duomo cathedral. In the collection there is a wooden model of the original temple, drawings and schematics. All nine exhibition rooms are decorated with unique sculptures, paintings, priceless documents. Don’t miss seeing the “Crucifixion” fresco, the “suspended sarcophagus” and the bell tower.
The other halls host contemporary exhibits. This early Renaissance building is the perfect backdrop to modern art. Some of the most interesting exhibitions in Milan take place at Palazzo Reale. Vasily Kandinsky, Auguste Rodin, Modigliani, Picasso are just some of the exhibitions held in the galleries.
Piazza del Duomo, 12 – Milan