Even after 5 years in Italy – and more than half of that in Milan – I had never heard of Vigevano until a Milanese friend asked if I wanted to swing by her boyfriend’s house – in a beautiful nearby town, she promised. Because he’d been out with us in Milan so often, I’d assumed her significant other was from a Milanese suburb like Milano Due (Milan Two) or Milano Tre (Milan Three). Instead, that day I was introduced to a stunning architectural jewel of a town.
Here are 5 reasons you, too, should consider a side trip from Milan to Vigevano:
Vigevano is Definitely Off the Beaten Track
If you enjoy discovering Italian towns with lots of atmosphere, lots of Italians, and few tourists, this is one. In fact its main square (see point 3, below) is often referred to as one of the most beautiful and least known squares from the Italian Renaissance.
Vigevano is a Great Day Trip from Milan
At only 35 km away, Vigevano makes a great day trip from Milan. Hop on the train and you’re there in 30 minutes. Spend most of a day, and you’re back in Milan for dinner.
Vigevano has Beautiful architecture
The main square, called Piazza Ducale (the rectangle in the aerial photo), and the tower by Bramante are architectural gems built during the Renaissance. Leonardo Da Vinci was a guest at Vigevano and worked with Bramante, leaving his mark on the town as well. Vigevano’s castle, the Castello Sforzesco (also in photo above), is one of Europe’s largest. If the name of the castle rings a bell, note that Milan’s castle is also called the Sforzesco castle – built (or more accurately, rebuilt) by the same family, the Sforzas.
Vigevano has Fabulous Shoes
I admit I have a weakness for shoes in Italy. I often arrive with just the ones on my feet, and leave with quite a few pairs. Vigevano is a major center of shoe production in Italy, and the shoe industry overtook the town after World War II, causing its population to ‘explode’ from 17,000 in 1861 to over 65,000 today, and resulting in not-so-positive articles about Vigevano’s capitalist “shoe fetish”, like this one (in Italian). For anyone with an interest in the history of shoe construction, functionality, and design, visit the town’s shoe museum, which also displays shoes worn by famous historical Italians such as Beatrice D’Este, and has a section on historical shoe styles worldwide.
Go to Vigevano for Risotto!
Italy is Europe’s top producer of rice, and much of it comes from the area around Vigevano. Enough said.
Vigevano square photo by Chris Thomas; shoes photo by Jeff Safi; aerial photo from www.pavia.lombardiainrete.it
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