• LOCATION 22 | The Mysteries of Milan: From the Duomo to the Royal Palace

    San Nazaro in Brolo

    Now head straight on keeping the long magnificent façade of the university to your right.

    Started in 1456 its function was the city’s first big hospice for the poor. Francesco Sforza’s grand project would replace all the small charitable institutes run by different confraternities dotted around this area. Because it was conceived on such a grand scale it was nicknamed the Big House or Cà Granda.

    As you go take a look at the decorations and sculptures. A great Florentine architect called Filarete provided the original design and the lower part of the building is his work. It was the first Renaissance building in the city but the Milanese just weren't ready for this. They felt that Filarete was far too modern and disrespectful of their local building traditions. So he left the city less than ten years later and building was continued by his rival, Guiniforte Solari. The twin-mullioned windows at the top are in traditional Lombard Gothic style, but the terracotta gives the façade a uniform appearance. The material was provided by a family of craftsmen called the Curti who had furnaces not far from here. Many of the long-gone palaces and still existing abbeys outside the city were built in Lombardy cotto fired by the Curtis. They've kept this family business alive for six centuries and artists still design original wares from the furnace premises. In such a globalized world I love knowing that bygone professions are still thriving thanks to expertise handed down through the generations.

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The Mysteries of Milan: From the Duomo to the Royal Palace