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.
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!
Located 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.
The 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.
Vigevano’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.
Another 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 meters. Just to give you an idea, we are talking about twice the size of Buckingham Palace!
Not 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.
The 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.
I hope you’ll get a chance to visit this super pretty town, it’s surely worth the detour from Milan!