Biblioteca e Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

Duomo & San Babila

Exterior of Biblioteca e Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.

©Stephanie Ong/Lonely Planet

One of Europe’s earliest public libraries (built 1609), the Biblioteca Ambrosiana was more a symbol of intellectual ferment than of quiet scholarship. It houses more than a million volumes and nearly 40,000 manuscripts, including Leonardo da Vinci's priceless collection of drawings, the Codex Atlanticus. An art gallery – the Pinacoteca – was added later. It exhibits Italian paintings from the 14th to the 20th century and famously features Caravaggio's Canestra di frutta (Basket of Fruit), which launched both his career and Italy's ultrarealist traditions.