Milan’s Duomo is one of Italy’s most striking attractions. Huge and pinnacled and gleaming white, it dominates the heart of Milan.
The Duomo, Milan’s cathedral, is one of the largest churches in the world; a surprisingly elegant mass of marble boasting 135 spires and 3,400 statues. Commissioned in 1386, by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the Duomo was not finished until the early 1800s. The building began life as a Gothic cathedral, but over the centuries the designs went through several modifications, and the finished Duomo is a strange mixture of styles.
The interior is lofty and somewhat gloomy in comparison with the bright exterior. Its vast spaces are dominated by huge stained-glass windows. The Duomo has four aisles, and ranks of confessional boxes, labelled with opening times and the name of the father confessor. Some are more popular than others, to judge by the queues.
Just inside the entrance is a staircase down to the remains of the baptistery (battistero), where you can see what is left of the earlier church. There is a small admission charge; buy a ticket at the kiosk inside the Duomo. There’s not a great deal to see; the ruins of octagonal walls, and some black and white tiled flooring.
One of the very best experiences Milan has to offer is a trip to the Duomo’s roof. You can take the lift, or labour up the steps to the marble terraces, amidst white pinnacles and statues. The view is fantastic, stretching over the city to the Alps, and the atmosphere is incomparable. The entrance is round the side of the Duomo; follow the signs for the roof (Salita alle terrazze). Tickets cost 3.50 (stairs) or 5 (lift).
Perched high above Milan, a gilded statue of the Madonna watches over the city. Dating back to 1774, the statue is called the Madonnina, or the little Madonna, despite being 4 metres tall.
The Duomo is at the centre of Milan in Piazza del Duomo, and at walking distance from many of the town’s other tourist attractions. The Metro station named Duomo (Metro lines 1 and 3) is right in front of the cathedral. The Duomo is free to enter – as with all Italian churches, remember it is a place of worship and dress appropriately (i.e. nothing too skimpy, no bare shoulders).
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