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Milan – World of Leonardo da Vinci

Statue of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci came to Milan around 1482, hired by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, to do engineering projects and build a bronze equestrian statue. During his seventeen years in the city, Leonardo also staged court pageants, played musical instruments, designed a dome for the cathedral, and in between all this, he painted the Last Supper. Leonardo also kept detailed notebooks, where he observed nature, studied the human body, drew maps, designed weapons and flying machines.


The Last Supper (Cenacolo Vinciano) – Da Vinci created one of his most enduring artworks, the Last Supper, in the monastery dining hall for the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. And unlike other da Vinci paintings which ended up in museums outside of Italy, when you come to Milan with kids, it’s a unique experience to see the painting in its original setting.

      Tip: You'll need to book a ticket reservation (months in advance!) to see the Last Supper, but kids under six are free. Click here to buy your tickets online: Cencolo Vinciano
last supper da vinci

In the Last Supper mural, da Vinci portrays a scene of Christ at a long table, surrounded by his twelve disciples. Having announced that one of them will betray him, the disciples show different reactions; Judas sitting on his left, clutches his bag of silver.  Seeing the painting in person, it has incredible depth and perspective, and feels as if the disciples are live people in the room with you.


Tip: Tickets are for a specific time slot, and be sure to arrive on time (if you're late they won't let you in). To preserve the fragile painting, visitors are limited to fifteen minutes for viewing.


After you've seen the painting, walk around the outside of the church, which is decorated with the Sforza coat of arms. Turn left on Via Caradosso, and step through the doorway to a peaceful and quiet cloister. In the center is a charming fountain with four bronze frogs, and a good view of the red and white church dome.

Da Vinci model
  National Museum of Science and Technology (Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Technologia) – Just a few blocks from the Last Supper, this museum shows the genius of Leonardo as architect, inventor, mapmaker, engineer, war machine designer, superb observer of nature.
    In the Leonardo Gallery are models made from his drawings of a flying machine, paddle boat, air screw, pontoon bridge, hydraulic saw, revolving crane, printing press, the ideal city with canals and multi-story buildings, plus maps of waterways, studies of geology, and astronomy. Models and descriptions are in English, and accompanied by descriptions in Leonardo's own words from his notebooks.
Ceiling Sforza Castle
  Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) – Leonardo da Vinci lived in the Sforza Castle for a number of years, and decorated rooms in the castle. In the Museum of Ancient Art (Museo d'Arte Antica), check out the Sala delle Asse (Room of Wooden Panels) with the ceiling painted by Leonardo. Even in a crumbly state, the ceiling is a mysterious labyrinth of green leafy branches, twined with a maze of golden ropes. In the center of the ceiling is the coat of arms of the Sforza, the snake/dragon and imperial eagle.
  Pinacoteca & Biblioteca Ambrosiana – The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana has a marvelous Leonardo painting from around 1485, Portrait of a Musician. Kids can get up close to the painting, and the face is so lifelike, it seems as if you're looking at a living person from five hundred years ago!
      In the Biblioteca (library), often on display are original da Vinci drawings from his notebooks, such as water pumps, a flying machine, portraits of people, war machines and samples of his backward writing. It's incredible to see the originals!
      Tip: The Pinacoteca and Biblioteca are best with older kids, and no strollers in the museum and library.
  Leonardo’s Horse (Piazzale dello Sport) – Over a period of sixteen years, Leonardo designed a huge bronze equestrian statue for Ludovico Sforza. He observed horses and made detailed drawings, before constructing a 24 ft clay model, which stood in the piazza at Sforza Castle. Unfortunately, before the statue could be cast in bronze, Leonardo and the duke left the city, and the clay model was destroyed by the French.
Leonardo's horse
    Today, visit a bronze replica of Leonardo's horse at the Ippodrome di San Siro.The 24 ft bronze horse is magnificent – a majestic pose with legs lifted, eyes and ears pointing forward.
    Next to the horse statue is a small fun fair with bouncy houses and play area for little kids.
      Take the metro to the Lotto stop, then walk about 15 min. down Viale Caprilli to the Piazzale dello Sport, and you'll see the horse in an open courtyard.  It's free, but closed on Mondays.

Navigli In Milan, from the medieval era onward, canals were used to transport goods, as moats for defense, and to irrigate fields. Part of Leonardo's work for Sforza was to improve the Naviglio Grande (Grand Canal) and locks. Da Vinci was fascinated by the flow of water, studied boats on the river, made drawings of hydraulic equipment and a dredging machine.


Most of the canals of Milan have been filled in, but if you happen to be in the Navigli area, it's fun to walk along the existing canals, and imagine the busy waterways of Renaissance Milan.

      From Piazza XXIV Maggio – Porta Ticinese (once part of the medieval city walls, now a 19th century gate), go west to the canal, then walk south on Alzaia Navigli Pavese or Via Cardinale Ascanio Sforza. Go down the canal as far as you like; at Via Carlo Darwin is a lock.
    Tip: Read our blog post "Leonardo da Vinci's Inventions."
kids books da vinci milan italy
who was leonardo da vinci
Who Was Leonardo Da Vinci?
Roberta Edwards, True Kelley

Illustrated biography of the guy who did it all - he was a painter, inventor, engineer, pageant director, sculptor, musician. He observed nature, studied the human body, drew maps and designed weapons. (Chapter book)


Leonardo da Vinci
Diane Stanley

Engaging biography of Leonardo da Vinci – his fascination with nature as a child, busy years working for the Duke of Milan, painting the Last Supper, organizing pageants, designing costumes, and constructing"the Great Horse." Rich, detailed illustrations. (Picture book)

Also, chapter book: Who Was Leonardo da Vinci?


milan italy biography kids Leonardo da Vinci
i am leonardo da vinci  
I am Leonardo da Vinci
Brad Meltzer, Christopher Eliopoulos

Leonardo da Vinci wanted to create the perfect smile on the Mona Lisa, to find out how do birds fly or clouds form, design a bridge, study teeth and draw the human body, invent a tank, submarine, parachute, and discover why the sky is blue.
“I wanted to learn about everything!”
(Picture book)


Leonardo's Horse
Jean Fritz, Hudson Talbott

The whole story of da Vinci's monumental equestrian statute, from Leonardo's designs and the giant clay model, to centuries later, the man who wanted to replicate the statue and finally cast it in bronze (the horse you'll see today in Milan). (Picture book)


Leonardo's Horse da vinci childrens books milan
Leonardo's Shadow last supper milan kids books  
Leonardo's Shadow
Christopher Grey

Leonardo da Vinci is painting the Last Supper, but it's going very slowly, and the Duke wants it finished before the Pope arrives in Milan. A suspenseful story of Leonardo, the man, the artist, the inventor, amidst the turbulent life and times of 15th century Milan. (Chapter book)


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