Palazzina Appiani is a Neoclassical jewel, located within the city's largest park - Parco Sempione - next to the Civic Arena and Moscova area. It was designed by Luigi Canonica as the official gallery for the French emperor's family. Since 2015 it is entrusted to FAI (National Trust for Italy) on a loan-for-use basis by the Municipality of Milano.
In 1796, French troops led by Napoleon invaded Milano, marking the start of a short but intense period in the political and civil history of the city that saw it at the centre of grandiose plans intended to endow it with a cultured metropolitan dimension worthy of a capital city. The architecture, too, was called upon to meet this requirement for transformative change, with projects that would celebrate the magnificence of Napoleonic power. The planning of the extensive area around the Sforza Castle became emblematic of this overhaul: the area was conceived as a great place-of-arms, complete with its own triumphal arch – the Arch of Peace – and an arena for public spectacles, designed in 1805 by Luigi Canonica on the model of the ancient Roman circuses.
The Civic Arena is one of the few remaining pieces of architecture still bearing witness to the ambitious scale of the plans laid out by Napoleon, who wanted to include an official gallery for his public appearances. A loggia was thus designed, featuring monumental classical forms and facing out onto the amphitheatre. It was contained within a building characterised by simple, compact lines, with a colonnaded, Neoclassical facade overlooking the park. Internally, the Hall of honour (Salone d’onore) is embellished by marble and crystal, and plays host to a continuous frieze that evokes the triumphal processions depicted in the bas-reliefs of Imperial Rome, painted in the style of the Neoclassical painter Andrea Appiani, from whom the Palazzina takes its name.
Palazzina Appiani can be visited with guided tour organized by FAI (National Trust for Italy) during weekend and on occasion of special events.