In addition to fine artwork, great libraries are the mark of high society – so in the early 17th century Cardinal Federico Borromeo founded the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan (the Ambrosiana library and picture gallery, in English).
Cardinal Borromeo stocked his library with more than 15,000 manuscripts and 30,000 books that he and his employees had picked up all over Europe. The contents of the library included ancient Greek and Roman works, as well as some from the middle east. The first reading room of the Ambrosiana library was opened to the public in 1609.
Celebrity visitors to the Ambrosiana library included the poet Lord Byron and the novelist Mary Shelley, who came to see famous manuscripts like Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus, the love letters of Lucrezia Borgia, and works of Petrarch.
Along with the documents contained in the collection of the Ambrosiana library, there are more than 12,000 pieces of artwork by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Raphael. The Ambrosiana library and picture gallery also contains some odd attractions, too, such as a lock of Lucrezia Borgia's hair and a pair of Napleon's gloves.
The Ambrosiana Library and picture gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-6pm, and a ticket to see the collection is €15.