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. The Duomo is the second largest church in Italy (second only to Saint Peter’s in size) and it took more than 500 years to complete, with more than 78 architects and engineers heading the project from its groundbreaking in 1386 to its completion in 1965.
The best part about visiting the Milano Duomo is, of course, being able to go up to the roof, where you can get close to some of the cathedral’s 135 spires; see Milan’s cityscape — a jumble of old towers and new skyscrapers (particularly the Unicredit building) — and, on a clear day, the Alps; and get a glimpse of the restoration work being done on the church’s trademark pink and white Candoglia marble.
Tips For Visiting the Duomo in Milan
- 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.
- 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.
- Wear rubber soled shoes or shoes with some sort of tread. I was fine in my flat-bottomed leather boots, but the tiles on the roof can be slippery.
- 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.”