Certosa di Pavia
Founded by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the first Duke of Milan in the late 14th Century as a Carthusian monastery in the gothic style but taking over a hundred years to complete, the Certosa is an absolute gem and well worth a visit if you are in the area. Built as a symbol of the power of the Duke and set in the green heart of Lombardy midway between Milan and the royal court at Pavia, the Certosa went through various changes of style as its construction spanned the junction of the medieval and Renaissance, finally being completed in the early 16th century.
The church was consecrated in 1497 but the facade went on being developed and ornamented for a further ten years after that. It is stunning and includes work by several notable sculptors including Mantegazzo and Amadeo who finished the project as the third architect to hold the commission after Giovanni Solari and his son Guiniforte.
As well as some stunning stained glass, there are numerous art works from the 15th to 18th centuries, collected by the Carthusian monks. They include important works by Ambrogio Bergognone, the fresco of the incoronation of Mary being especially notable.
Outside, there are cloisters large and small. Although the Certosa was nationalised by the Italian Government in 1866, the Grand Cloister is still occupied by working Cistercian Nuns we were told. The Carthusians were kicked out by Emperor Joseph ll of Austria in 1782 to be followed by Cistercians who were in turn replaced by Carmelites in 1789. For a short time it was occupied by Benedictines. The present incumbents still make a range of traditional products for sale at the gift shop including soaps, honeys, preserves and flavoured liquors.
The area around the Certosa is beautifully tranquil on a summer afternoon, a stroll around the estate perimeter wall takes about an hour on a very level pathway.
It takes just over an hour by public transport to reach Certosa di Pavia from Milan Central Station or about an hour by car. Nearby is a wonderful restaurant, Michelin starred Locanda Vecchia Pavia Al Mulino. We had dinner there and highly recommend it.