Milan’s famed Duomo, also known as Santa Maria Nascente (Saint Mary of the Nativity), is that jagged, Gothic behemoth that defines the city’s traditional skyline.
Milan’s cathedral is the second largest church on the Italian peninsula, second only to St. Peter’s Basilica. If you’re being technical about it, the Duomo is the largest church in Italy since St. Peter’s is in Vatican City. But most guides will simply say that the Duomo is the second largest church in Italy.
It took more than 500 years to complete the construction of the Duomo. More than 78 architects and engineers worked on the project from its groundbreaking in 1386 to its completion in 1965.
The best part about visiting the Milano Duomo is, in my opinion, being able to go up to the roof. Here, you can get close to some of the cathedral’s 135 spires and get a glimpse of the restoration work being done on the church’s trademark pink and white Candoglia marble.
The roof of the Milan Duomo also affords visitors a spectacular view of Milan’s cityscape, which is a jumble of old towers and new skyscrapers (notably the Unicredit building). On a clear day, you can even see the Alps.
Top Tours of the Milano Duomo
- Milan Duomo Rooftop with a Private Guide. Let an expert guide you through the Duomo’s history and architecture. This 2-hour visit includes time on the rooftop and in the church.
- Fast Track Milan Cathedral Tour. This 1.5-hour visit to the Duomo and its rooftop also includes access to San Gottardo and the Duomo Museum plus a discount at the bookshop.
Tips For Visiting the Duomo in Milan
When to Go
- Get there early…or late…but mostly early. Tourist entry begins at 8 a.m. each day. The church stays open until 8 p.m. But if you want to visit the terraces (the roof), the last admission is at 7 p.m.
- Go on a weekday if you can. We were there over the weekend, which was typical of most tourists according to one of our taxi drivers. “Most people think they can do Milan in a weekend, so they all come on Saturday and leave on Sunday. Weekdays are much more tranquil.”
What to Wear
- Follow the dress code for churches. That mostly means no short shorts or short skirts and no tank tops.
- Wear rubber-soled shoes or shoes with some sort of tread if you plan to visit the roof. I was fine in my flat-bottomed leather boots, but the tiles on the roof can be slippery.
How to Save Money
- Save money by taking the stairs instead of the elevator to the roof. The climb is challenging, sure. But this isn’t the Empire State Building.
- The Duomo Pass (the cumulative ticket that gives entry to the church, the terraces, the archeological area, and the Duomo museum) is free for disabled travelers and their companions and for children 6 years and younger.