Renaissance Milan - Cultural ambition and the House of Sforza



28 Nov 2018 - 2 Dec 2018
Duration: 4 nights
Ref: 18REMI
With: Dr Paula Nuttall


Single Supplement: £340
Deposit: £200

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In the late 14th and 15th centuries Milan’s power and prestige as a princely state ensured it a distinguished role as an artistic centre. The transfer of authority from the Visconti to the Sforza dukes in 1450 was mirrored by changes in Milanese artistic orientation, originally turned northwards towards the courts of France, but increasingly influenced by the Florentine Renaissance. We shall trace these developments in the medieval Castello Sforzesco, rebuilt by the Sforza Dukes in the renaissance style, in the Portinari Chapel commissioned by the Sforza’s Florentine bankers, and at the Certosa di Pavia, the most spectacular princely mausoluem in Italy, whose construction and lavish decoration spans the entire late medieval and early Renaissance period.

At the end of the 15th century, Milan entered its Renaissance heyday under Lodovico Sforza ‘il Moro’, whose court artists included the perspectivist and architect Bramante, and Leonardo da Vinci. We shall study them at the church of S. Maria delle Grazie, which houses Leonardo’s Last Supper. Additionally, a visit to the Brera Gallery, which contains masterpieces by (among others) Mantegna, Bellini and Raphael, enables us to set the art of Renaissance Milan within the wider context of Italian painting.


Dr Paula Nuttall is an authority on Italian and Netherlandish Renaissance art and is Director of the V&A’s Mediaeval & Renaissance Year Course. Her books From Flanders to Florence (Yale, 2004) and Face to Face: Flanders, Florence, and Renaissance Painting (Cali. Univ. Press, 2014) are essential reading.

DAY 1:

Late morning flight from London Heathrow to Milan Linate. Coach transfer to the historic centre for an introductory walk, taking in Piazza Mercanti, the city’s medieval heart, and two masterpieces of religious architecture, Bramante’s jewel-like San Satiro, and the flamboyant and monumental Duomo.

DAY 2:

Explore the Castello Sforzesco, built by Milan’s Sforza lords as a stronghold against external (and internal) enemies. Leonardo da Vinci helped design the castle’s fortifications and decorated its most celebrated room, the Sala delle Asse. After lunch, view Leonardo’s unparalleled Last Supper before continuing to the church of San Maurizio, which is adorned with 16th-century frescoes.

DAY 3:

A half-day excursion to the Certosa di Pavia, Italy’s most spectacular monastic complex. Admire paintings by Guercino and Perugino, the tombs of Ludovico Sforza and Gian Galeazzo Visconti, and the harmonious architecture, which successfully balances Gothic and Renaissance styles. Return to Milan for an afternoon free for independent exploration.

DAY 4:

In the morning, visit the Brera Gallery, one of Italy’s premier collections, revitalised under its new British-Canadian director. The Brera features works by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio and Rubens, among a host of other major artists of the Renaissance and Baroque. In the afternoon, see two breathtaking chapels: the elegant, restrained Cappella Trivulzio, designed by Bramantino, and the magical Cappella Portinari, where the architecture of Michelozzo seems to blend with Vincenzo Foppa’s frescoes.

DAY 5:

Morning visit to the Museo Poldi-Pezzoli, which contains an outstanding collection of Flemish masters, including Lucas Cranach and Pieter Breughel the Younger, alongside native Italian glories by Pollaiolo, Botticelli, and Piero della Francesca. The museum also contains a trove of porcelain, glassware, tapestries and armour. Continue to the airport for a mid-afternoon flight to London Heathrow, arriving at c. 4.45pm.

Please note that at this stage the programme is still provisional. Although we aim at the greatest degree of accuracy from the outset, some details, especially the order of visits, may be subject to change.


Specific fitness requirements for this Study Tour:

This tour involves a lot of walking, mostly on pavements, but sometimes on uneven ground and up and down steps. Museum and church visits require prolonged periods of standing without the possibility of a rest. Coach journeys generally do not exceed one hour.

Please note that all our Study Tours involve a significant amount of standing and walking, often across uneven ground, over cobbled streets, or up and down steps and inclines. While we do not have an upper age limit for participants, we require you to have a level of fitness which does not spoil other participents' enjoyment of the holiday and you should be able to walk at a reasonable pace and / or stand for at least thirty minutes without aid or requiring a rest.

If you are in any doubt as to whether a particular tour is suitable for you, please ring us to check before placing your booking.


Twin/double share: £1880 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £340
Tour without flights cost: £1740
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Scheduled return flights (Economy class) with British Airways between London Heathrow and Milan Linate
  • Transfers and excursions in Italy by private coach
  • Four nights in the four-star Hotel Rosa Grand
  • Three dinners
  • Guided visits to monuments and museums listed in the programme
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters
  • Small group between 12 and 22 participants


  • One dinner and five lunches
  • Transport between home and London Heathrow
  • Travel insurance. We strongly advise you to be covered by adequate travel insurance.

Hotel Rosa Grand****

The only hotel on Piazza Fontana, the stylish Rosa Grand is just a short stroll from some of Milan’s most impressive artistic and architectural treasures. Ideally located in the historic centre, it’s just minutes from the gothic spires of Milan’s famous Duomo cathedral and many of the city’s modern attractions.


  • Pillow menu
  • WiFi
  • Smart Television
  • Espresso coffee machine and kettle facilities
  • Minibar
  • Safe