Just back from Milan and a visit to the magnificent Sforza Castle. It was originally built by the Visconti family in the fourteenth century, but when they fell from power in 1447, the Milanese people declared a republic and tore it down.
Three years later, with the new republic at war with Venice, the great military commander, Francesco Sforza, took power, and rebuilt the castle. The family established a new dynasty, and employed Leonardo da Vinci as an artistic factotum, enabling him to paint The Last Supper in the city.
In the late 15th century, the French invaded Italy, and sparked off decades of war. Louis XII drove out the Sforzas and took over the castle. It was still under French control in 1521 when lightning struck the Filarete Tower (pictured), which was being used as a gunpowder store. The resulting explosion demolished the tower, seriously damaged the castle walls and killed many people.
It was rebuilt by the last of the Sforzas, Francesco II, but by the mid-19th century, the castle had fallen into such a poor state of repair that some people wanted it demolished. Instead a lengthy restoration project ensured that it survived.