Vigevano

This is an excerpt from the book “Milan and day trips to lakes and art cities

Vigevano
Vigevano

Vigevano: The fine art of shoemaking

Vigevano is located in the hearth of Lombardy’s picturesque Ticino Valley, at the crossroads between waterways and artificial canals that bear witness to the city’s agricultural core. Vigevano’s principal calling, however, is the production of shoes-for every size and price, from the cheapest that end up in flea markets to the custom-made that adorn the most stylish feet in the world. The art of conzare Ie scarpe (shoemaking) in Vigevano can be traced back to a document from 1392 that prohibited the tanning and working of leather on the public square.

The first modern shoe factory was born in Vigevano in 1866, and since the beginning of the twentieth century the city has produced more than one third of the shoes made in Italy. In 1952, when Vigevano hosted the International Shoe Fair, it was manufacturing thirty million pairs of shoes a year. Despite the high value placed on the shoe industry, the basic agricultural soul of the city has been preserved. Just beyond the fortifications are rice fields, windmills, and farms that are active to this day.

To enter the historic center of Vigevano is to be transported to another time. The Piazza Ducale was built between 1492 and 1494 by Ludovico il Moro Sforza, Duke of Milan, and is rightly considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance squares in Italy. A perfect rectangle paved with cobblestones taken from the Ticino riverbed, the piazza was cut to fit into the urban fabric of Vigevano.

On one side of the square stands the seventeenth-century concave facade of the Duomo, designed by the bishop-architect Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz. Some believe the facade was renovated because it is not in alignment with the church but is accentuated by four great arches and perfectly integrated into the square.

The complex of the Palazzo Ducale is imposing, but hidden from sight by houses, even on the side where once a long ramp connected it with the square; only its high tower betrays its presence. Luchino Visconti, the powerful ruler of Vigevano in 1337, began the transformation of the medieval center to make room for a castle. With the help of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, and Ludovico il Moro, the castle became one of the most elaborate residences of the fifteenth century and included stables, the Palazzo delle Dame, and even a falconry. Among the artists and architects who contributed to the project were Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and, arguably the greatest architect of his time, Donato Bramante (1444-1514). The stables appearing in Leonardo’s drawings were designed to hold up to three hundred horses.

Where to stay in Vigevano

There are hotels, apartments, B&Bs and guesthouses available, check it out and make a reservation here.

A visit to Vigevano following the guide.

Boarding the Trenord train at Milan Porta Genova Station.
The Palazzo Ducale in Vigevano, 8 minutes walk from the train station.
The Palazzo Ducale from the bar.
Enrico while having an “aperitivo” sitting at a bar tables in Piazza Ducale.
The Church that closes Piazza Ducale’s small side.
The Visconteo Castle in a sunny winter afternoon.
Enrico and the castle.
The entrance to the covered horse rides designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
The inside of the horse ride.
Enrico and the horse ride.

Where to stay in Vigevano

There are hotels, apartments, B&Bs and guesthouses available, check it out and make a reservation here.