Vigevano is one of the places that surprised me most in this journey through my home country so far. Sometimes beautiful things are in front of our eyes and we don’t even notice them, as we simply take them for granted.

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Vigevano is a charming town in the heart of Lombardy’s Lomellina valley. Despite being rich in history, culture and traditions, few people know about it and there’s not much information around. I myself have ignored this place for so long, although it’s a mere 5-minute drive from where I live.

You may wonder why. Well, in my case there was this huge desire of exploring the world, the farther the better. More in general, we often tend to stick to the major sites and cities, but to truly experience a country we need to divert from the main tourist path and that’s where I’ll bring you today with this article.

Still not convinced? Check out these 5 great reasons to include Vigevano in your travel itineraries around Italy.

1. Not the usual day trip from Milan

Vigevano can be considered one of the best kept secrets near Milan. It’s beautiful and truly local, with very few tourists around, no selfie stick vendors and zero tacky souvenir shops. And when you do see tourists, they are mostly Italians visiting from the surrounding regions… exactly my idea of off the beaten track place!

Vigevano-sforza-castleLocated just a 30-minute train ride from Milan’s Porta Genova station, Vigevano is a great choice to leave the circus of the city behind for a few hours and experience the best of Italy – culture, food and a very relaxed vibe.

2. Italy’s prettiest piazza

Vigevano’s Piazza Ducale is a jewel of the Italian Renaissance and it’s often said to be Italy’s prettiest piazza – or in the words of Toscanini, a “symphony with four walls”. It was built in the late XV century under Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan at that time, who wanted to create a magnificent forecourt to Castello Sforzesco, his summer residence.

Vigevano-piazza-ducaleThe result was a gorgeous rectangular-shaped piazza surrounded by elegant arcades on three sides and by the town’s Duomo on the fourth side. The best way to admire this stunning open-air living room is to stop at one of its elegant cafes and sip a drink while enjoying the beautiful views around you – even the cobblestones that encircle each lamppost create beautiful designs!

3. Leonardo’s “ideal city”

Leonardo Da Vinci spent quite some time at the court of Ludovico Sforza, who was his patron. Here he devoted himself to the study of town planning and hydraulic systems, designing an “ideal city” that could perfectly integrate beauty and functional purposes.

VigevanoVigevano’s Castle and Piazza Ducale clearly evoke his vision of ideal city, as evidenced in the sketches collected at Leonardiana, a permanent exhibition space devoted to Leonardo’s works.

Vigevano-mulino-di-mora-bassaAnother great example of Leonardo’s studies can be seen just outside the town center, at the XV-century Mora Bassa Mill, that today is home to an exhibition of Leonardo’s machines.

4. One of Europe’s largest fortified complexes

The Sforza Castle is one of the largest fortified complexes in Europe, covering an area of about 70,000 square metersJust to give you an idea, we are talking about twice the size of Buckingham Palace!

Vigevano-sforza-castleNot to miss are the great views at the top of the Bramante Tower, the local landmark and one of the gates to the castle, and a stroll through the impressive Covered Road.

5. The shoe capital of the world

Vigevano has a long tradition of shoemaking, whose origins date back to the Middle Ages. The first modern shoe factories opened in Vigevano in the XIX century and the first “stiletto heels” were produced here in the 1950’s.

Vigevano-shoes-museumThe International Shoe Museum narrates the history of local shoe making and the evolution of shoes through the centuries, from a XV century slipper that likely belonged to Beatrice d’Este, the wife of Ludovico Sforza, to more recent haute couture models.

Highlights include a special collection of shoes worn by Popes and some unique pieces used by celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Scott Fitzgerald.

Vigevano-shoes-museum-marylin-monroeI hope you’ll get a chance to visit this super pretty town, it’s surely worth the detour from Milan!

 

Until then,

 

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17 Comments

Daisy Li 2 January 2019 at 18:38

Gorgeous photos and what a charming town! I visited Italy a few years ago and it remains one of my favorite countries. However, I felt that I spent too much time wandering tourist-prone cities, so coming across this just draws me back to all the missed hidden secrets the country has to offer! Hopefully, I’ll head back soon and cross this off my list 🙂

    Val 6 January 2019 at 17:54

    I think the big popular destinations are a must for a first time traveller to Italy, but then one has to come back and experience the true heart of the country!

Clarice 2 January 2019 at 19:23

To be honest, this is the first time I have heard about Vigevano and it is such a beautiful place. Their piazza looks like the scene from the movie, Tangled. I would love to visit soon and learn more about its history and culture. The architecture is very interesting.

    Val 6 January 2019 at 17:53

    I’ve never heard of the movie Tangled, need to watch it! 🙂

Sarah Puckett 2 January 2019 at 22:33

I’ve never heard of this town! It’ll definitely be on my list for the next time we go to Italy. I had no idea this was the world capital of shoes – bet it’s fun shopping there!

    Val 6 January 2019 at 17:52

    Yep, the shoe industry is (or used to be) a big thing in Vigevano!

Amy Chung 3 January 2019 at 01:17

What a beautiful place. No selfie stick vendors and tacky souvenir shops…. well I’m not going. LOL….. bliss! Piazza Ducale sure is pretty but that’s a pretty big call about it being the prettiest in all of Italy. Mind you I think they are all stunning. I do love that it has a long standing tradition of show making. I would have found that museum completely fascinating.

    Val 6 January 2019 at 17:51

    I get your point, but it’s not me saying this, you often find it written in guides and travel articles 😉

Nicholas 3 January 2019 at 03:40

Count me among those who haven’t heard of Vigevano. Definitely going there when I return to Italy, especially when I need a respite from the crowds, just for the Leonardo exhibits. Do you have a favourite place to have a meal there?

Shreya Saha 3 January 2019 at 13:02

Wow, I did not know that Milan has a lovely and secretly please like this close to it. the secrets of Italy are really interesting, and this is surely one of them that I would love to visit when in Italy. Thanks for sharing a new place wish I was never ever aware of before.

    Val 6 January 2019 at 17:49

    Thank YOU for your kind words! With this blog I’m mostly trying to show Italy beyond the usual big and popular destinations, where visitors can have a super local experience 🙂

Arnav Mathur 3 January 2019 at 14:17

Tbh you got me at the first point the itself 😉
If not anything else, the second point has put this beautiful town on my radar.
I experienced a little of Italy back in May 2018 and I absolutely loved it so definitely going there again. And this time I am going to be checking out Vigevano for sure.

    Val 6 January 2019 at 17:47

    Oooh that’s great! There’s so much more to see and explore besides the most popular places 😉

David 4 January 2019 at 21:41

I hadn’t heard of Vigevano before I read this but you’ve really sold it to me! I have only been to Milan once but I would’ve loved to have visited here instead. The piazza, and all your pictures, look great

    Val 6 January 2019 at 17:46

    It’s so under the radar and I don’t know why, it’s a shame!

Kristin Halls 5 January 2019 at 13:48

I’ve gotta tell my friend about this! She would be all over that shoe museum! Haha

    Val 6 January 2019 at 17:46

    Ahahah, I know, it’s a shoe lover’s paradise!

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Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I'm Valentina, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share my expert knowledge of itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local.

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