The magic of Milan.
I’ve just seen a new Leonardo. With infinite pains, conservators in Milan’s Castello Sforzesco have been removing 17 layers of paint and retouching to reveal… tree roots. The roots were drawn as part of a decorative scheme for Leonardo’s Sforza patrons, who were as happy to use him as an interior designer or party planner as a military engi- neer or artist. They’re not the sort of roots you’d want to have growing beside your house, as they’re destroy- ing an architectural plinth, before soaring upwards into trees that cover the entire ceiling with the intri- cate pattern of their leaves. Moral: the works of man decay, but a family continues through the generations. I saw the work from the conservators’ scaffold, one of the first journalists to have done so.
What a city Milan is. Although Allied bombing caused extensive damage, the core survived. Modern in spirit, it’s as chic as you’d expect from a centre of fashion and studded with treasures. James McDonaugh of Art Tours Ltd guided me expertly around some of them, from Bramante’s illusion- istic church of San Satiro to the astounding Basilicas of San Lorenzo and Sant’Ambrogio. Everything was within walking distance of the Hotel Baglioni, whose risotto alla milanese works a restorative magic on tired feet. My perfect weekend.