Not far from the the bustling main pedestrian street, Via Dante, where tourists make their way from Castello Szforzesco to the Duomo is one of Milan’s true hidden gems, the Biblioteca and Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library and Picture Gallery). It’s a unique place which is part library and part art gallery. Founded in 1609 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo as a place of study and culture, it is one of the first libraries to open to the public.
The library, which is one of the most important in Europe, has over one million printed volumes and forty-thousand manuscripts including Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus which is on display in the Sala Federiciana. The library still functions as a place of research and study. As you walk through the gallery you get a view of the beautiful library and those who are diligently studying rare volumes. If you’re a scholar or student it’s possible to access (once you’ve registered with the librarian) the precious volumes the library houses.
The Pinacoteca was founded in 1618 when Cardinal Borromeo donated his private art collection to the library. Since then the collection has grown to include works by Italian and Dutch masters.
Even if you’re not an art lover or scholar, the Ambrosiana has so much beauty and interesting collections, it’s worth your time. Here is a list of must see items:
Raphael’s Cartoon for the School of Athens
Botticelli’s Madonna of the Pavillion
Da Vinci’s Portrait of a Musician
Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus and various sketches
Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit
Brueghel’s Vase of Flowers
Titian’s Aodration of the Kings
Sala Federiciana – Ancient reading room of the library.