The history of Milan in five objects
September 22, 2021
Trivulzio Diatreta Cup
The Trivulzio Diatreta Cup, discovered inside a sarcophagus in the 17th century, is a wonderful example of workmanship from the 4th century AD. Made from thick glass that has been cut away to form a decorative geometric pattern enclosing the inner glass cup which reveals an inscription below the rim, ‘Bibe vivas multis annis’ (‘Drink! May you live many years’). At the time the cup was made, Milan had become the capital of the West Roman Empire, so it represents the importance of the city in politics and trade.
Civico Museo, Archeologico, Corso Magenta 15, 20123
Portrait of Francesco Sforza
Bonifacio Bembo’s portrait of Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan from 1450 to 1466, can be found at the Pinacoteca di Brera. Unlike the heroic image he cast, this portrait shows him as a polite and princely figure. Sforza conquered Milan in 1450, swiftly making it one of the leading centres of the Italian Renaissance and a powerful city state. After years of war against Venice and Florence, Milan finally found peace, industry grew and the city we see today began to emerge. The Sforza family played a key role in 15th and 16th-century politics and the dynasty he founded ruled for almost a century.
Pinacoteca di Brera, Via Brera 28, 20121
Signed Verdi music for Nabucco
The Teatro alla Scala museum showcases some of the greatest composers, singers and ballet dancers of all time. Among the collection you will find signed sheet music for Verdi’s Nabucco, which acts as both a powerful reminder of how Milan became the leading operatic centre of the world, but also of how Verdi’s music expressed the Italians’ passion for independence unification, known as the Resurgence. Verdi’s successful career began at Teatro alla Scala and he debuted here with Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio in 1839, before the world discovered Nabucco three years later.
Museo Teatrale alla Scala, Largo Antonio Ghiringhelli 1, 20121
Giuseppe Garibaldi was known for cutting an eccentric pose with his distinctive poncho and sombrero. Today, the poncho can be found at the Museum of the Risorgimento, housed in the 18th-century Milanese Palazzo Moriggia. His love of the garment came from fighting in Latin America for over 12 years during the first half of the 19th century, and he continued to wear one when he returned to Italy in 1848. Garibaldi and his men, the Red Shirts, played a vital role in unifying Italy. He put together an army in 1860 and they marched into the southern part of the peninsula, overthrowing the Bourbon monarchy and uniting Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II.
Museo del Risorgimento, Via Borgonuovo 23, 20121
Dome of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the oldest shopping arcade in Italy, where you’ll find major fashion brands including Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. It was designed by Italian architect Giuseppe Mengoni and has been described as a powerful symbol of the turbulent period of Italian unification. It’s also a reminder of how Milan became the fashion capital of the world. It hosted its first Fashion Week in 1958, quickly followed by Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani and Gianfranco Ferré setting up their fashion houses in Milan. The rest, as they say, is history.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Piazza del Duomo, 20123
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