I know the Italian masters of Renascence are usually related to the city of Florence but, since Leonardo Da Vinci, the greatest multi-talented genius of his time (probably of all times), lived almost two decades in Milan, the city has a great and very rich part of his work, as well as, many master pieces inspired by him.
Da Vinci went from Florence to work for the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, in 1482. He lived and left his marks on a still existing and very popular Milanese attraction: Catello Sforzesco (http://www.milanocastello.it/intro.html ). It ended out to be a very rich and productive period of his life.
His most famous master piece, along with La Gioconda or Mona Lisa, is Ultima Cena (The Last Supper) which was painted directly on a wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a monastery located just a few block south from the castle. Tickets for visits can, and should, be bought on-line (http://www.milan-museum.com/ ). It is very important to book way in advance in order to get in!
Leonardo often used models for his paintings. My art history professor told me once a curious legend that says that Leonardo, working on The Last Supper, painted Jesus first and then all the apostles, leaving Judas as the last one. The funny part is, he chose a model on a party at the castle; he looked for the most gorgeous man on the room and asked him if he would be his model for Christ; the man accepted. Years later, after travelling around Italy, he were to finish the alfresco and, therefore, looked on the streets for the worst looking man to model for Judas. He found a homeless man on a sidewalk of Milan and offered him some money for the job. Once painting Judas, the model asked Leonardo if he didn’t remember him. It was the same man who had been a model for J.C. years before, that for some of those tricks played by life had lost all he had. So, any similarity between the two characters on the alfresco might be more then just a coincidence. Take a close look!
Milan also has a museum named after the master of Renascence: Museo Nazionale Leonardo Da Vinci (http://www.museoscienza.org/english/museum/ ). It’s a science and technology museum with many studies, prototypes and models built by Da Vinci as an engineer (even though he didn’t have a degree he was very good at it).
Another perfect spot for art lovers is Pinacoteca Brera (http://www.brera.beniculturali.it/ ). This gallery’s collection includes huge names such as Raphael, Caravaggio, Botticelli and many more. This year the Pinacoteca is completing two centuries since it first opened its doors for public visits. After seeing it all take a stroll on the Brera District. A very unique neighborhood that once was house to many artists and intellectuals. It holds cute antique stores and still has a bohemian vibe.
Heading north one will end up on Corso Como, a lovely pedestrian street where is established 10 Corso Como (http://www.10corsocomo.com/ ), a café/store/ hotel/ gallery cool venue, actually, one of the most fashionable places in Milan. The place houses: 3 Rooms Corso Como, a great hotel with only 3 rooms, being one of a kind and designed by different famous architects (there is also a 3 Rooms hotel in Le Marais, Paris, with rooms designed by Azzedine Alaïa); 10 Corso Como store, a multi-brand, fabulous boutique with all the best and hippest labels of the world; a modern bookshop and art gallery; and, 10 Corso Como Café (and Garden Café) which is my favorite Sunday brunch hangout in town. When weather is mild, a table on its garden is the perfect entertainment. Great for people-watching!
For a crises consistent shopping, 10 Corso Como runs its Outlet just 5 minutes away on Via Tiazzoni. Enjoy!