Smack dab in the middle of Milan is an imposing reminder of its past.

As a tourist wandering Milan’s compact historic center, you’d be remiss to not notice its Castello Sforzesco, Milan’s most importnat Reniassance monument.

Completely restored at the start of the 20th century, the Sforza Castle was once the headquarters of the noble Visconti (and later) Sforza families. From here, these families ruled over Milan.

Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

The fortifications are impressive. 4 meters/13 feet wide and 31 meters/100 feet high walls protect the castle from the onslaught of enemies.

Moats no longer host crocodiles and drawbridges today are picturesque rather the defensive.

Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

Castle construction began under the reign of Galeazzo Visconti (1358-1370), and was reigned over by the Visconti family until their ousting in 1447.

Francesco Sforza filled the vacuum in 1450, and began reconstruction of the castle, which became his residence.

Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

Perhaps the most famous Sforza, however, is Ludovico Sforza, who took power as Lord of Milan in 1494. Ludovico Sforza gathered some of the greatest artists to Milan. He was patron to Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante, who frescoed rooms in the castle.

The Parco Sempione behind the castle was created following the unification of Italy, in 1871. The park was built on former military parade grounds.

Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan

Today the castle is a museum, but visitors can freely walk around its courtyards, moats and ramparts.

When I was living in Milan, I came to cultural events held here, including outdoor opera.

When you’re next in Milan, take time to visit this imposing medieval castle.

Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan
Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy / Kimberly Sullivan