Monday, 23 November 2015

Castle and park

Back to October and Milan (my first post here), this is the Sforza Castle or Castello Sforzesco built by the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, in the 15th century on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. The castle has been extensively rebuilt over the centuries and its walls currently not only surround several great courtyards but also house many museums.

We didn’t see any of the latter I must confess. I’m afraid we are rather easy-going travellers meaning that we very seldom make any definite plans beforehand about what we absolutely have to see. We generally determine which sights to visit only on the spot depending on a number of factors such as the weather, the location, the hour, our mood, etc. This derives from the time when we spent most of our days at an office and were always very tired when travelling.

So no queueing to the Duomos for us. We tend to make believe we can always do that another time in the not too distant future. This attitude – although probably not the wisest for a 60-year-old – has saved me a lot of irritation over our occasional meagre performance in sight-seeing. This time we chose a couple of the less popular churches and the castle as we knew it would swallow a lot of people without any difficulty.

There happened to be a Water Festival going on in the great courtyard of the castle presenting different aspects of water from the construction of the historic canals of Milan and the watering systems in the rice fields on the plains to present-day water purification. In addition, a few well-known designers had been invited to create a water-related installation in the two smaller courtyards.

The above is ‘Clear Sweet Fresh Water’ by Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel. In this work water is nebulised behind a planting of grasses and roses over a pool with a portico at the back. It beautifully conveyed a feeling of relaxation and serenity.

The other of the smaller courtyards was dedicated to the theme of water in everyday life. The central area constituted a work entitled ‘Water Garden’ created by Green Italia Network. It demonstrated how domestic waste water could be utilised for and purified by a garden. The orange pipes indicated the flow of waste water to the garden and the blue ones represented the return flow of purified water suitable to be reused for any other purpose than drinking. The running showers are a detail of the ‘Waterway’ by Piero Lissoni.

The day was very nice and sunny, ideal for us non-performers in holiday-making to take a stroll in the (at least by Milanese standards) rather large Sempione Park spreading to the north of the castle. In the 14th century during the Visconti era, a vast area behind the castle was used as hunting grounds. The last of the Visconti rulers, Filippo Maria, built the first garden in the early 15th century but it was later neglected. Napoleon, of course, had a great vision for the area. History intervened destroying his plans and the present layout of the park was created only in the late 19th century.

There are many sculptures in the park of English landscape style. One in particular made me curious: two times three high walls in black and white mounted on an elevated concrete platform standing between the pond and the Arco della Pace at the far end of the park built by Napoleon. It is ‘Teatro Continuo’, the ‘Continuous Theatre’ designed by Alberto Burri. The public stage was originally erected in the park in 1973 but demolished in 1989. It was reconstructed this spring to celebrate the centenary of the artist, who is also being recognised with a major retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, I noticed.

When visiting Milan do not miss the Sforza Castle and the lovely Sempione Park. A most painless way to collect some sight-seeing points, too, if you happen to be into those.


  1. More fabulous photos. Like you I am definitely not a person to wait in a long queue. It is much better to go with the flow and I agree the Sforza castle was definitely an excellent choice. The courtyards are beautiful . Barbara

    1. Thank you, Barbara. Without the Water Festival we might even have made it to one of the museums there.