Places to See
Going to Milan soon? If you haven’t been to this magnificent city before, you will want to visit these 4 fascinating places which are Milan’s most historic sites. I’ve been to Milan a couple of times and recommend spending a few days here to explore. As well as being a prime tourist destination, it serves as the perfect base to travel around northern Italy.
Cathedral of Milan
The Duomo (cathedral) of Milan is the biggest church in Italy and took 600 years to build. Construction began in the 1300s and 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. 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.
It has 135 spires, a marble face, 5 bronze doors, and apparently more statues on it than anything else in the world. Pretty amazing.
Maintenance and repairs have been difficult over the centuries, due to a lack of funds. Now, anyone can contribute to the cause and have a spire named after them. Not bad if you have a few spare hundred thousand euros to donate.
Inside the church there is a Museum and Baptistery. Monuments and artwork adorn the interior with marble, bronze, and frescoes. There are terraces on the roof which the public can access.
Interesting fact: Saint Borromeo, Bishop of Milan in the 1500s, is resting in a solid crystal crypt.
Check opening times on the Duomo’s website for tours, as they vary from Summer to Winter.
Gallery Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria Vittoria Emanuelle II is an upmarket shopping complex and a famous landmark of the Duomo’s Piazza. It is named after the first King of Italy and built during his reign in the 1800s.
But tragedy struck this lovely arcade when the day before it was finished, the architect fell from the top of the archway and died.
Interesting trivia: On the mosaic floor inside the galleria there is 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.
This church has a very long history dating 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.
The Basilica was remodelled and meticulously maintained over the centuries and has some original aspects.
There is an impressive, huge open courtyard with portico around the front and inside there are frescoes painted on the walls.
Interesting fact: The Bishop’s bones are kept in a crypt under the gold altar (which is real gold, by the way).
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. They governed the city which grew and thrived under their rule for about a century.
One of the most important buildings in Milan, it has been a fortress, a military base and a private home. Da Vinci worked on several of the rooms.
It has 4 towers at the corners and 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.
Check the website for times and tickets for the various museums.
Other places to see in Milan
Other cool places to see in Milan are:
- 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 in this fabulous Italian city.