The period of the city-states ended with the rule of the Visconti, in power from 1277 to 1447.
During this long period Milan was the capital of vast Duchy. Gian Galeazzo created a territorial State that extended over all of Lombardy and much of the surrounding regions, granting the capital notable political and cultural freedom and reinforcing its economic power.
The construction of Milan’s Duomo (Cathedral) and Castello (Castle) began in this period (1386).
Curiosity: At the beginning of the first span to the right of the Duomo, a small plaque bears these words: “El principio del domo di Milano fu nel anno 1386” (“The start of the Cathedral of Milan was in the year 1386”).
In 1450, Francesco Sforza, mercenary captain at the service of the Visconti, put down an attempt to restore the power of the city-states, marking the rise of the Sforza Dynasty. A period of rapid growth followed. Milan was the biggest and richest city in Italy, as well as a lively centre of culture and the arts. Its court was one of the most of elegant and refined in Europe, owing much to Bianca Maria, a woman of great intelligence and culture.
The Sforza Castle and Ospedale Maggiore were completed in this period. It was also the time of Leonardo da Vinci, resident of Milan for almost twenty years, where he redesigned the navigli and painted the The Last Supper, and of Bramante, who raised the tribune of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Curiosity: one of the many legends about the origin of panettone tells of its creation in the Court of Ludovico Sforza, where a kitchen boy added eggs, sugar, raisins and candied fruit to the dough prepared by the Court cook (the story doesn’t give us his name) to the enthusiastic acclaim of the Duke. Thus “Pan de Toni” became the name of the traditional Christmas cake.