4 Fascinating Places to See In Milan
Milan is Italy’s most expensive and richest city, being home to fashion, design and finance. Labels such as Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino have their flagship stores and headquarters here. Names such as Pirelli Tyres and Alfa Romeo are also from Milan. I visited in 2018 and immediately loved it here; it’s easy to get around and the people are friendly. With so many historic and interesting places to visit, where to start?, I hear you ask. So I’m recommending 4 fascinating places you should see in Milan.
1. Cathedral of Milan
The first stop in Milan has to be the beautiful Duomo (cathedral) of Milan. It’s Milan’s iconic landmark and the most recognisable monument in this city. You may not know that this is the biggest church in Italy.
History of the Duomo
It took 600 years to build this magnificent monument, with construction beginning in the 1300s. Dozens of architects and engineers from all over Europe were involved throughout the years. The plans and the builders changed along the way, resulting in a blend of different styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Italian and French. It really is a combined European effort. Lots of problems occurred, as you can imagine, and work ceased for a very long time. It looked like it would never be finished. Finally, after 6 centuries it was officially completed in 1965, when the last piece was built.
I think it looks a little bit like a tiara, don’t you agree? It has a very impressive facade, with a whopping 135 spires on it. It also has a beautiful marble face, 5 bronze doors, and apparently more statues on it than anything else in the world – 3,400 in fact! That is pretty amazing.
Maintenance and repairs have been difficult over the centuries, due to a lack of funds. Cleaning the marble is a massive task, as you can imagine. Now, anyone can contribute to the cause and have a spire named after them. A nice idea if you have a few spare hundred thousand euros to donate!
Inside it is huge. The church can fit 40,000 people inside. There is a Museum and Baptistery. Monuments and artwork adorn the interior with marble columns, bronze, paintings and frescoes. A large window of stained-glass is definitely a highlight. If you love cathedrals, do yourself a favour and have a look inside.
Interesting fact: Saint Borromeo, the Bishop of Milan in the 1500s, is resting in a solid crystal crypt inside the Duomo.
Important tip: When entering a church, always wear modest clothing that covers shoulders and knees, or you may be refused entry. If it’s summer, I often have a light scarf to drape over my shoulders. This is usually sufficient.
There are terraces on the roof which you can access too. Here you get a magnificent view of Milan and the Alps in the distance on a clear day.
Don’t miss seeing the Duomo, Milan’s biggest tourist attraction. Check opening times on the Duomo’s website for tours that are available, as they vary from Summer to Winter.
Don’t miss out on the amazing city of Genoa in Northern Italy too.
2. Gallery Vittorio Emanuele II
This Gallery is an upmarket shopping complex, Italy’s oldest mall and one of the oldest in the world. This famous landmark is part of the Duomo’s Piazza. It is named after the first King of Italy and was built during his reign in the 1800s. The large glass and iron dome architecture was unprecedented at the time.
But tragedy struck this lovely arcade when the day before it was finished, the architect who designed it fell from the top of the archway and died.
Interesting trivia: On the mosaic floor inside the galleria there is a picture of a bull and apparently it’s good luck to step on the bull’s genitals with your heel! Consequently, the floor in that spot needs constant repairs. Hilarious!
3. Sant’Ambrogio Basilica
I’ve included this church because it is so old and anything so ancient fascinates me. It’s very long history dates from the year 379, yes the 4th century. It is architecturally Romanesque and is named after the Archbishop of Milan at the time, called Aurelius Ambrogio. He is the city’s Patron Saint and a local public holiday is celebrated each year in his honour. So the people of Milan believe the church to be spiritually important.
The Basilica was remodelled and meticulously maintained over the centuries and still has some original aspects.
There is an impressive, huge open courtyard with a portico around the front. Inside there are frescoes painted on the walls, mosaics and other sacred artefacts.
Interesting fact: The Bishop’s bones are kept in a crypt in a silver urn under the gold altar (which is real gold, by the way).
4. Sforzesco Castle
This medieval-renaissance fortress and castle was originally built in the 1300s. After being destroyed, it was later rebuilt by the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, whom the building is named after, in the 1400s. It was his palatial home and remained in the Sforza dynasty for many years. The family governed the city which grew and thrived under their rule for about a century.
It’s one of the most important buildings in Milan and has been a fortress, a military base and a private home. Da Vinci was commissioned to work on several of the rooms.
There are 4 towers at the corners of the building and it covers an area of almost 26 hectares.
Today, it is part of Milan’s Sempione Park and now houses several Museums and art collections, including works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo for public viewing.
Make sure you check the website for times and tickets for the various museums before you go.
Don’t miss the fabulous Vigoleno Castle in Italy also.
More of Milan
You should consider visiting some other cool places in Milan, such as:
- Central Train Station which is the largest station in Europe, built in 1931;
- San Siro Stadium, the largest stadium in Italy;
- Sempione Park, 116 acres of green tranquility with plenty to see and do, and
- Teatro alla Scala Opera House, dating from 1778 with a long illustrious history of performers from around the world.
Interesting facts about Milan
- Arguably it is the fashion and design capital of the world – definitely the centre of Italian fashion;
- It is the second biggest city in Italy after Rome;
- 8 Million people visit Milan each year, and
- it is the location of ‘The Last Supper’, da Vinci’s most famous work.
I’m disappointed that I didn’t have more time to enjoy this fabulous Italian city.
Be sure to check out Lake Como in Italy, which is about 90 minutes drive from Milan.
Slideshow of Milan
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