The palace stands in the rectangular square on the southern side of the cathedral; it is a wide building with a Neoclassical front and two lateral wings. It is of ancient origin and during its long history has undergone many changes. In the 12th century, the Broletto Vecchio, which was where the Consuls who governed the Free Commune had their headquarters, was built on this site.
In 1310, the Viscontis established themselves there, and in 1330 Azzone transformed the palace into a sumptuous residence, making it the Ducal court of the Viscontis. In 1385 the Viscontis 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 Milanese opera house. In 1771-78, when the Milanese state was under Austrian domination, the archduke Ferdi-nand ordered the architect Giuseppe Piermarini to modify the building once more, destroying the facade and rearranging the great rooms, according to the needs of the times. With the Unification of Italy, it became the Royal Palace and later, a Museum with objects from the Milanese Neoclassical period.
The building was destroyed by bombing during the war (1943) and almost all of the collections were lost. It now houses the Civico Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art) which was founded in the 1980’s and its collections include works by Mo-digliani, De Chirico, Sironi, Cana, De Pisis, Morandi and Rosai.