A Bramante courtyard inside a Milan building

When you first turn into Via dei Piatti in Milan, it is difficult to believe that one of these rather characterless post-war buildings actually contains a real gem of Renaissance architecture, which has been attributed to Donato Bramante (1444-1514).

At 4, Via dei Piatti you will find a fine courtyard, which although modified over the centuries, has preserved all its original features and is one of the few structures that still bear witness to the elegant harmony that was characteristic of so many buildings in fifteenth and sixteenth century Milan.

The four sides of the building, enclosing a quadrangle, have a ground-floor arcade of rounded arches. Surmounted by Corinthian capitals, the granite columns themselves bear plaques with blazons and crests. The elegant decoration of the structure is completed with small consoles and traces of fresco comprising grotesques, vertical bands of colour, cartouches and a series of medallions depicting the busts of Roman emperors in profile.

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The original palazzo renovated in the eighteenth century prior to becoming the residence of Cardinal Giuseppe Pozzobonelli, Archbishop of Milan, later passed from the Pozzobonelli to the Isimbardi, another important Milanese family. That restructuring and modification survived right up to 1943; however, when restoring the bomb-damaged palazzo, it was decided to return to a less elaborate style, while still preserving the full magnificence of its internal courtyard.

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It is possible to visit the courtyard during “Open Courtyards” (Cortili Aperti) but if you are lucky, a polite request to the porter may also gain you admission, so next time you are in Milan, seek out this magnificent example of Renaissance architecture – it is something quite beautiful.

(Adapted in part from Secret Milan by Massimo Polidoro)

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