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|Milan - Royal Palace (Visconti's Ducal Court)|
The building stands in the rectangular square on the southern side of the cathedral; its front is neo-classical and it has two side wings. Its origins are very old and during its history it has witnessed many changes. In the 12th century, the Broletto Vecchio, which was where the Consuls, who governed the Free Commune, had their headquarters, was built in this site. In 1310, the Visconti established themselves there, and in 1330 Azzone transformed the palace into a sumptuous residence, making it the Ducal Court of the Visconti. In 1385 the Visconti went to live in the Castle when the front of the palace was demolished to make room for the cathedral. In the 16th and 17th centuries the building was radically restructured and became the seat of the Spanish governors; in addition, it was the site of the first opera house of Milan. In 1771-1778, when Milan was under Austrian domination, the archduke Ferdinand ordered the architect Giuseppe Piermarini to modify the palace once more, rebuilding the fašade and rearranging the great rooms, according to the needs of the times. Finally, with the Unification of Italy, it became the Royal Palace. Its superb interior with all the statues, frescoes, floors and plasterworks was completely devastated by the 1943 bombardments. Since 1965 the palace belongs to the city of Milan, and is now home to the Museum of Contemporary Art, while the left wing has long housed the Cathedral Museum.
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