Vigevano and the Renaissance

Today I’m heading back to Vigevano, a beautiful Renaissance city in Lombardy around 45 kms from Milano. So close to the largest industrial and most polluted city of Italy, and yet it feels so far away when you’re there. Vigevano retains its Renaissance aura, despite this proximity. I like to imagine the Sforza family of the 1400s travelling between their castles in Milano and Vigevano, and the pageantry of the tour. Or of the condottiero, Francesco Sforza, and his mercenary troupes arriving on horseback, returning from battles and diplomatic deals around Northern Italy.

Portrait of Beatrice d'Este by Leonardo da Vinci

The original post was published at the beginning of 2019, based on my visit to Vigevano in November 2017. It took a year to write. After visiting the enchanting Castello Sforzesco, I became immersed in the lives of the famiglia Sforza, especially that of Beatrice d’Este, the beautiful and well educated wife of Ludovico Sforza, who held court to gather around her learned men, poets and artists, such as Castiglione, Bramante,  Leonardo da Vinci and others. I’m still in search of a well written biography/history of the Sforza family.

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In a country brimming with Renaissance architecture, it would be hard to choose which town might be considered the most beautiful, the most ideal Renaissance city. Maybe we could just settle for a short list? What is the framework for making such a claim? Do we choose on the basis of architecture, famous art, sculpture, painting, churches, piazze, harmonious urban landscape, civic pride or all of the above? Tourists in search of the Italian Renaissance in situ might put Florence near the top of the list, given that city’s fame. I personally find Florence dark, uninviting and not so harmonious when it comes to all things Rinascimento. Florence is crowded and many tourists are happy to see the fake David and Donatello, wander over the Ponte Vecchio, traipse through the Uffizzi for hours, catch a Masaccio or Giotto in one of the smaller churches, get in the queue to wander…

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6 thoughts on “Vigevano and the Renaissance”

  1. You have just put a wonderful smile on my face going back some 18 months to realize just how little I knew ! And how much I retrospectively enjoyed to learn !! Never more than now . . .We can ‘connect’ with places in such varying ways . . . for me Milano for some two deadens at least was business, long conferences after long flights . . . absolutely fabulous food n unreal restaurants, visits, as many as could be fitted in, to the Italian Lakes . . . and, being a total opera freak, being at La Scala etc whenever possible . . . . perchance now I have to smile ruefully at realizing what perhaps should have time-wise forced been onto the agenda . . . thanks !!

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    1. Sounds like you had a ball there Eha. What kind of work took you to Milano?
      It was very sad to see a huge mustard coloured lid of smog hovering over Milano for the time we were near there- and that choking cloud spread almost as far as Lake Como and throughout the Lomellina. Some say it’s part of the reason why the death toll from Covid-19 is so high in Lombardy. The air was truly thick and unhealthy. We were staying In Pavia with friends, and the smog was still evident. Vigevano was a day trip, but I’d love to stay there for a few days.


  2. *smile* The rest of Italy was always a ball, especially Venice, but Milan was work. I managed to get married in my final year in Medical School in Sydney – a family tragedy later I ended up by default in plastics, whether you believe it or not !! My in-laws owned the largest such concern in Australia. Since I had put myself thru’ medicine doing PR, marketing and such, I was actually far happier in this tho’ methinks , at the time, there were no other females around the world in just that sphere 🙂 !!! Milan was both for the purchase of materials and machinery and the Italian CEOs were utterly charming 🙂 ! Not like Ford Detroit where I was mot allowed onto the assembly-line floor ! Smog ? I do not think I was cluey enough to even notice . . .

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  3. I remember readong this post during the heat of summer and being vicariously transported to tall arches and deep spaces… and some wishful thinking about time to explore and dine and take in some knowledge and culture other than that I was born to. Fantastic photos, it’s wonderful you have them to refer to but even better to have been there and be able to walk around in your memories.

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    1. the painting is of Beatrice d’Este, by Leonardo da Vinci. Beatrice was probably about 16 in this painting. She had a rather short life, but is considered one of the most beautiful and well educated renaissance princesses. I am a little obsessed with Beatrice. Yes, it would be so nice to be able to return one day Liz.


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