Ambrosiana Library & Picture Gallery (Biblioteca Ambrosiana)

#6 in Best Things To Do in Milan
Ambrosiana Library & Picture Gallery (Biblioteca Ambrosiana) picture
David Bramhall/Flickr

Key Info

Piazza Pio XI, 2


Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
  • 3.5Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

The Biblioteca and Pinacoteca Ambrosiana holds a vast collection of artwork, most of which were donated by a single person. In the early 17th century, Italian cardinal and former archbishop of Milan, Federico Borromeo, gave the Ambrosiana Library, which he also founded, all of the drawings, paintings and statues he had personally collected throughout his life. The art housed in this 24-room gallery features works from masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci ("The Portrait of a Musician"), Caravaggio ("The Basket of Fruit"), Raphael ("The Cartoon for the School of Athens"), Titian ("Adoration of Magi") and Botticelli ("The Madonna del Padiglione"). The Ambrosiana also houses numerous other works spanning from the 17th to the 20th century as well as historical relics, including gloves that Napoleon wore at the historic Battle of Waterloo. You might be wondering, why did Borromeo give up such a valuable collection of art? The answer is both simple and very sincere: Borromeo wanted the public to become further educated about art. It's safe to say that today, he has certainly reached his goal.

Recent visitors leave the Ambrosiana impressed with its offerings, with many expressing feelings of gratitude that they were so close to so many masterpieces. Standout artworks for travelers include Caravaggio's "Basket of Fruit" and Leonardo's Codex Atlanticus, a collection of 1,119 drawings that feature a variety of subject matter, from mechanics to manuscripts. Some travelers complained about the price, while a few others felt like staff were watching their every move while exploring the museum. Regardless, most said if you have time, the Ambrosiana is definitely worth a spot on your Milan itinerary. 

You can visit the gallery Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission costs 15 euros (about $17.75) for adults, 10 euros (about $12) for kids 18 and younger and is free for children 14 and younger accompanied by an adult. To reach the Ambrosiana, hop off at the Cordusio or Duomo metro stops. For more information, visit the website.

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Time to Spend
#1 Castello Sforzesco

The former fortress and residence of Milan's most powerful rulers is now a campus for some of the city's best cultural institutions. Castello Sforzesco, found less than a mile northwest of the Duomo, features a plethora of museums and galleries focusing on art and history. There's the Pinacoteca, or Picture Gallery, the Raccolta di Mobili, Furniture Collection, Museo delle Arti Decorative, the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Museo Egizio, Egyptian Museum and so much more. There's also the Oreficerie, which houses one of the largest collections of musical instruments in Europe. If you're short on time, travelers say you should visit the Museo della Pieta Rondanini, which houses Michelangelo's last masterpiece, the Pietà Rondanini.

Even if you don't have time to visit any museums or exhibitions, travelers say the Castello Sforzesco is still worth a detour for the site's beautiful architecture and lush grounds. The Castello Sforzesco is connected to the Parco Sempione, which features walking paths, a small pond, cafes and its own points of interest, including the Porta Sempione, which bears a striking resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries gardens in Paris. Should you wish to visit any of the castle's cultural hot spots, recent visitors advise coming early to avoid potential crowds. And if you're looking to save some dough, visit the Castello Sforzesco Tuesday after 2 p.m. or the last hour before closing Wednesday through Sunday to enjoy free admission.

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