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Creating the Renaissance court

With the Visconti rule the Palazzo acquired an impressive dimension and magnificence that pre-empted the Renaissance courts. The renowned artist Giotto was also summoned to court.

The first restructuring project

In 1535 the new Spanish governors took up residence in the Palazzo Ducale where they commenced major renovation and expansion works amongst which the construction of the first theatre in Milan within the palazzo (1594), which survived until 1776, when its demolition, and the simultaneous construction of the current famous Teatro alla Scala, was ordered.

The renovation of the furnishings and Piermarini’s project

The Austrians, who took over the city government from the Spanish in the second half of the eighteenth century, structured the internal and external renovation of the palazzo, in the existing forms that we admire today.

The fittings were totally renovated, the courtyard was made less gloomy and the Church of San Gottardo with its bell tower was incorporated as the Regia Ducale Cappella (Royal Ducal Chapel). On the main floor the Salone dei Festini and the Salone dei Udienze were renovated and then unified in the imposing Sala delle Cariatidi; a Salle à manger was created for lunches and gala dinners in the French style of the era and is now used as an exhibition hall.

In 1769 Firmian, the governor general of Austrian Lombardy, summoned the architect Vanvitelli - Italian painter and architect of Dutch origin, author of the Reggia di Caserta - to create a palazzo in Milan worthy of the prestige of the Habsburgs. Vanvitelli planned to demolish the entire building and to construct a new palace but the authorities in Vienna did not approve of this onerous financial commitment and so asked his pupil Giuseppe Piermarini to create a more economical solution. With Piermarini’s work every architectural trace of Lombard art was eradicated and the Palazzo acquired a neo-classical appearance: his work was completed in eight years, from 1770 to 1778, and the Palazzo became a Royal Palace.

Piermarini transformed the Palazzo into a neoclassical Royal Palace by demolishing the palace’s entrance wing, downsizing the great courtyard to an open piazza and rebuilding the façade. In this new guise the Royal Palace now faced Piazza Duomo with the delimitation of the existing Piazzetta Reale. He created the monumental sweeping staircase leading to the main floor and added a number of splendid rooms with the help of the greatest artists, painters and decorators in Milan at that time: Martino Knoller, Traballesi, Giocondo Albertolli and Giuseppe Maggiolini.

The Hayday

During the Napoleonic era the Palazzo reached the pinnacle of its glory thanks to the embellishments by Appiani and the construction work by Canonica and Tazzini.

The Austrians returned to Milan after the Congress of Vienna and continued the adornment of Palazzo Reale thanks to the craftsmanship of Francesco Hayez and Pelagio Palagi.

The Restorations

The twenty-year restoration project began in ... and, in the capable hands of the architect... it restored the rooms from the neoclassical period and the twelve rooms of the old Appartamento di Riserva (suite for distinguished guests), thanks to the commitment from the city of Milan, Fondazione Cariplo and the collaboration of the Superintendence for Architectural Heritage and Landscape of Milan


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