The best time to cycle around the centre of Milan, and feel as though you own the city, is most definitely on Sunday mornings.

And, if you want to combine exercise with culture, we can offer you a great itinerary around the city that follows in Leonardo’s footsteps.

Leonardo da Vinci spent almost twenty-five years of his life in Milan, initially at the Sforza court (1482-1499) and, starting from 1508, at the service of his patron Louis XII, the French king.

Indeed, many of his most famous works are from this Milanese period comprising: the ‘Vergine delle Rocce’ (Virgin of the Rocks) - for whose background, according to some, Leonardo would have drawn inspiration from the Tre Corni dell’Adda , rock structure in the river Adda - ‘Il ritratto di musico’ (The Portrait of a Musician) and, of course, his renowned masterpiece ‘L’Ultima Cena’ (Last Supper) in the refectory of the Dominican convent of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church.

If you want to visit the Last Supper, please don't forget to book your visit in advance

But let's jump on the saddle now and follow the Milanese footsteps of this quintessential Renaissance man and one of the most eclectic geniuses in the history of mankind. Leonardo never ceased to amaze with his extraordinarily futuristic inventions, his incomparable paintings and his plethora of fascinating observations on natural phenomena, art and science that made him a true precursor in the most diverse fields of the arts and sciences.

1° stop - Piazza della Scala and the Monument to Leonardo

Let's start our journey from the marble Monument in tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, created by the sculptor Pietro Magni in 1872.

Here, the artist appears atop a pedestal surrounded by 4 pupils: Cesare da Sesto, Marco d’Oggiono, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio and Andrea Salaino.

The Milanese have playfully nicknamed the statue ‘a liter in quater’, which in the local dialect literally means ‘a litre split four ways’, because the figure of Leonardo brings to mind a bottle of wine surrounded by four glasses.

2° stop - Palazzo Reale

If we cycle from Piazza della Scala through via Marino and via San Raffaele we get to Piazza del Duomo and the majestic Palazzo Reale where Leonardo, the great artist, had his residence and workshop.

From here he could follow works at the adjacent construction site of the new cathedral, the Duomo, for which he made diverse technical drawings and a model of the dome lantern.

In fact, like his other contemporary architects and illustrious engineers, Leonardo found himself involved in a discussion concerning the solution to the architectural problem of the cathedral's dome lantern.

If you would like to enjoy a virtual tour of the Duomo please click here

3° stop - La Pinacoteca Ambrosiana - The Ambrosiana Picture Gallery

From Piazza del Duomo we cycle through passaggio Duomo, along Via Victor Hugo then Via Spadari and Via Cesare da Cantù to reach Piazza Pio XI and the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana which houses the extraordinary Codex Atlanticus, the largest and most important collection of Leonardo da Vinci's drawings in the world.

The Codex is testimony to Leonardo’s lifelong learning and greatness outside the fields with which he is conventionally associated, from painting to inventions. The exceptional collection of Leonardo's writings and drawings covers the entire life of the Renaissance genius and testifies to his enormous contribution to engineering, architecture, hydraulics, mechanics, town planning, military studies and, in general, to scientific-technological culture.

The Codex Atlanticus consists of 1119 pages that have been ‘unbound’ and displayed in rotation for viewing in the 22 display cases set up in the Sala Federiciana.

The Pinacoteca also hosts the ‘Ritratto di musico’ (Portrait of a Musician), the only painting on wood by Leonardo that remains in Milan.

4° stop - Casa degli Atellani

Now we turn right into Via Cesare Cantù and bear left into Via Armorari and Piazza Edison. Then we cycle along Via della Posta, via Santa Maria Fulcorina and via Santa Maria alla Porta to arrive in Corso Magenta.

The Casa degli Atellani is at number 65/67, a fifteenth-century building where Leonardo resided for the duration of the period whilst he was creating the Last Supper.

Inside the palazzo’s garden, restored by the architect Portaluppi in neo-baroque style, the so-called Vineyard of Leonardo da Vinci has been replanted in collaboration with the Università degli studi di Milano. It was donated to the artist by the Duke of Milan as compensation for his works. DNA analysis of the remains of the roots found during the excavation indicates that the vine variety has been identified as Malvasia di Candia.

5° stop - Cenacolo Vinciano - the Last Supper

We ride along Corso Magenta and turn right into Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie to reach the Museo del Cenacolo Vinciano (Museum of the Last Supper), which hosts the famous mural, a masterpiece by Leonardo.

After having completed meticulous preparatory studies, Leonardo worked for four consecutive years in the former Renaissance refectory of the convent adjacent to Santa Maria delle Grazie

He constructed the Cenacolo Vinciano with mixed tempura on a dry sealed plaster.

The influential work was part of the renovation of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, under the patronage of Ludovico il Moro, starting in 1492.

 

6° stop - Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia - Museum of Science and Technology

From Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie, we take a left turn into via Bernardino Zenale and then bear left again into via San Vittore. You can’t miss the Museo della Scienza e della tecnologia at n.21 which is located in the beautiful Olivetan Monastery. In addition to purely artistic works, Leonardo also applied his genius to important studies and feats of engineering.

Of particular interest amongst the museum sections is the one dedicated to Leonardo the scientist, technician and inventor: some models of the marvellous ‘machines’ conceived by Leonardo da Vinci during the fifteenth century have been reinterpreted and recreated from his detailed drawings.

7° stop - Il Castello Sforzesco - La Sala delle Asse

We continue along via San Vittore and turn right first onto Via Matteo Bandello and then onto Corso Magenta. Then we bear left onto via Caradosso and take the second exit at the roundabout in Piazza Virgilio onto via Boccaccio. After crossing piazzale Cadorna and a short stretch of Foro Bonaparte (on the cycle path) we reach the Castello.

When Leonardo arrived in Milan in 1482, the Castello was the seat of the ducal court. This Renaissance genius proceeded to observe it and, subsequentially, designed the towers. In collaboration with his contemporaries, he frescoed various rooms of the palace and designed the famous, yet never constructed, equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza. He built fascinatingly complex machines that were intended to amaze the guests at the court.

The Sala delle Asse formed part of the Duke's personal apartments and was the most important of the rooms in the Sforza court, used as a reception hall by Ludovico il Moro. Still today, it preserves remains of the pictorial decoration attributable to Leonardo. The paintings, rediscovered and restored during the renovation of the Castello, depict a decorative arboreal pavilion formed by the intertwining of 16 mulberry trees, a plant beloved by Ludovico il Moro, and a golden rope, tangled and knotted several times. The plants intertwine to form the pergola of the vault.

The most important outcome of the mid-1950’s restoration is represented by the discovery of the so-called Monochrome drawing depicting a large root that splits the rock and strongly changes the perception of the room. Painted on the firebox opening, it had already been found by Beltrami who, however, had considered it to be dated from the seventeenth century. Conversely, in 1954, it was finally recognised as a work by Leonardo.