What a thrill to check a visit to Milan’s illustrious La Scala Opera House off our bucket list.
Museo Teatrale alla Scala
Milan’s La Scala is undoubtedly the most famous and prestigious opera house in the world and were delighted to watch part of a full dress rehearsal. The theatre was built in 1778 and took its name from the site where the former Santa Maria alla Scala church had stood. Renowned for its great acoustics, we learned there is a rather unique concave channel built beneath the wooden floor of the orchestra that contributes to the quality of the sound.
Lucky audiences have witnessed 28 world premiere operas at La Scala, including 3 of our favorites: Othello by Giuseppe Verdi (1887) and Madama Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (1926) by Giacomo Puccini. Giuseppe Verdi, was a favored Milanese composer during his lifetime and he debuted 7 operas at La Scala.
In addition to the famous opera house, La Scala is home to the La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala Theatre Ballet, La Scala Theatre Orchestra, the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra and an interesting museum.
The museum has a collection of paintings, costumes, musical instruments, statues and historical documents both of opera in general and of La Scala specifically.
Arnaldo Pomodoro (1926-) is a retired Italian sculptor. In the mid 1960’s he worked, for a short time, at Stanford and then Berkeley Universities in California. A couple of years ago during our stay in Rome, we wrote about his famous large ‘Sphere Within a Sphere’ sculpture that we saw near the Vatican. That same year we saw a second sculpture of his when we visited Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and this year we were pleased to find a 3rd installation entitled ‘Grande Disco’ in a courtyard at the Gallery of Italy in Milano.
The Gallerie d’Italia is a relatively new art museum, celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2021. It exhibits primarily the work of 19th century Lombard painters and sculptors. We especially enjoyed the painting style of Francesco Hayez (1791-1882). He was one of the leading artists of Romanticism in mid-19th-century Milano, renowned for his grand paintings of historical and political commentary and his rather austere portraits. There was also an amazing series of nearly lifesize photos of Roberto Bolle entitled ‘The Art of Dance and Photography’ – view our Gallery of Italy photo album, linked below.
In Italian, Castello Sforzesco means “Sforza’s Castle”. It was built in the 15th century by the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, on top of the ruins of an older 14th century fort. The original fortress had been built by the House of Visconti but was destroyed in the battle between the Sforza’s and Visconti’s. Francesco Sforza won and in 1450 built the new castle as his residence.
Nearly 50 years later, in 1494, when Ludovico Sforza became the Lord of Milan, he invited Leonardo da Vinci to fresco several rooms.
Like most historical structures through the centuries, the castle has been renovated and enlarged and now houses several museums and art collections.
We started at the Museum of Musical Instruments. This wonderful collection includes nearly 1000 bowed, plucked, wind and keyboard instruments with most dating between the 16th to the 20th century.
We were able to see Michelangelo Buonarroti’s (1475-1564) last, partially finished, masterpiece. It represents the Madonna, on her feet, supporting the dead body of her son Jesus after the crucifixion. Michelangelo worked on the sculpture from 1552 until his death. The statue has been named the Rondanini Pietà and there is a certain sentimental aura about the incomplete piece.
We recommend you visit Sforza Castle more than once. There is truly so much to see it becomes overwhelming, and that is coming from us who visit museums and galleries weekly. We saw amazing ceramics, furnishings, statues, 14th and 15th century masterpiece paintings, tapestries, armory, wrought iron works, murano glass pieces and much more. The salon designed by Leonardo da Vinci was closed for renovation during our visit.
At first glance Milano is a handsome city, but as you explore and peel back the layers, the wonderful complexity of Milano emerges and you may, like us, fall in love with this northern Italian gem.💚🤍♥️ A good time to plan a visit may be when Milan hosts the 2026 Winter Olympics.
This final photo was taken at the Milano Centrale Train station; waiting for the train to our next destination. Arrivederci bella Milano.
Saluti from these Milanese,
Edoardo + Guilia (Ted + Julia)