Traces of the Duchy of Milan
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A leap into the 13th - 16th centuries in the Duchy of Milan

Visconti Castle of Cusago
View of the castle in 1980 (by Paolo Monti, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
(Andrea Albini, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Inside of the castle - photo shooting 1980 (by Paolo Monti, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Visconti family coat of arms
Sforza family coat of arms (by Sodacan, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Heritage place of interest.

View of the castle in 1980 (by Paolo Monti, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Among the countless Visconti-Sforza castles scattered throughout Lombardy, Piedmont and beyond, the one closest to Milan is the castle of Cusago. It was built at the end of the 14th century, on the remains of a Lombard fortification, by Bernabò Visconti, lord of Milan, who made it a country residence for hunting and recreation. Bernabò’s successors, including Filippo Maria Visconti and the Sforza family, also used the castle as a hunting lodge as the area was rich in woods, waterways and wildlife. 

The lords of the cities in medieval times enjoyed hunting. This activity was considered a recreation for the rich, and at the same time, a sport in which to spend time and forge friendships and alliances. As previously mentioned, these places teemed with game, offering a perfect place for hunting in the middle of uninhabited territory outside Milan.

Here in Cusago, there was a small settlement consisting of a few peasant cottages and loggias that gravitated around the castle’s orders.

Filippo Maria Visconti had the ‘Naviglietto’ built from Cusago, a canal used to transport the entire court to the other ducal residences of Vigevano and Abbiategrasso. Similarly, Ludovico il Moro (known as the “Moor”) also loved the countryside around Cusago, which became a favourite haunt of the Milanese court. The latter carried out significant renovations, enriching it with corner loggia and embellishing it with friezes, frescoes and decorations. With the Moor, the castle became an authentic Renaissance palace, lordly enough to host Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg within its refined walls towards the end of the 15th century. The Sforza Lord stayed in the castle with Beatrice d’Este, his beloved, to whom he donated it in 1494. The duke considered this palace as an extension of his powers in Milan, and from Cusago, he gave orders for the administration of the Duchy. 

When the Sforza family fell from power, the castle passed first to one of the Moro’s mistresses, Lucia Marliani, and then to the Casati Stampa family, who held it until the early 1970s. From 1946 to the end of the 1980s, it was inhabited by the local people (Cusaghesi) and the Milanese who had lost their homes during the Second World War, becoming a large farmstead for residential use. The castle has a rectangular floor plan and a central tower that the architect Luca Beltrami used as a model, together with that of the palace of Vigevano, to reconstruct the tower of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. 

The Casati Stampa family later had two turrets built that recall the style of those on the Milanese palace on Soncino Street. On the right side, the castle has a covered loggia, typical of a holiday residence, which has been walled up until now. Still, a restoration project is working to restore its former glory. The large, pointed arch windows with terracotta window sills are framed by decorated lime frames at the corners. On the exterior façades, decorations with rhomboid motifs can be seen, at the time interrupted by a polychrome band. In the halls, a stone fireplace, two frescoed coats of arms of the Casati Stampa family and a coffered ceiling bearing Sforza friezes, including the motto ‘Merito et Tempore’ (by merit and with time) remain. Unfortunately, the castle cannot be visited today as it is undergoing restoration, but it is possible to admire it from the outside and imagine it in its renaissance splendour.


1. The red church of Monzoro

2. Visconti Castle of Cusago

3. Big Mill - Forest of Cusago

4. “Naviglietto” and “cavetta” park

5. “Ponte gobbo” (Hump bridge)