When the term extravagant is an understatement, you know you’re in for something special. Milan’s great Gothic cathedral (‘duomo’ in Italian), which majestically towers over the bustling Piazza del Duomo, holds more than 600 years of history within its pink-hued Candoglia marble walls. Spread out over 10,186 square metres, it’s also the fifth largest church in the world.
From the piazza, the exterior is both imposing and intricate. The cathedral boasts a remarkable 3,400 carved statues and 135 spires and pinnacles, the highest of which features the gilded Madonnina, who’s been looking out over the people of Milan as their symbol and patroness since 1774. Venturing inside will leave you no less dazzled, with a sprawling circular and tiered altar, 52 soaring pillars (one for each week of the calendar year) a sundial and mesmerising stained-glass windows that seem to stretch all the way up to heaven.
When you’re ready to experience the best views in the house, take the stairs (or ride the lift) up to the cathedral’s terrace, where spectacular vistas of Milan and beyond await. With good visibility, you can see as far as the Alps. History and architecture buffs may want to book a guided tour in advance so you don’t miss any of the cathedral’s intricate details and fascinating stories.
The cathedral is open to visitors every day from 8am to 7pm. The terrace doesn’t open until 9am. To get to Milan Cathedral, take the Yellow Underground (M3) train from Central Station to Duomo, or, if you’re travelling by tram, take tram number 15 and get off at the Piazza Fontana stop. While visiting the cathedral, be sure to explore the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II just off Piazza del Duomo – it’s an impressive glass-domed shopping arcade whose grandeur may, like the Duomo, take your breath away.