A duomo is the generic term for an Italian cathedral church and one of the most famous buildings in Italy is the Duomo di Milano, or the Milan Cathedral. Construction on the Duomo began in 1386, but it wasn’t officially “completed” until 1965.
There were a few different ticket offices in which you could purchase your admission, but I actually have a tip for you all! The line by the bathrooms to the right of the Duomo (if you are facing it from the square) is usually long since it’s at the most visible ticket booth and where most visitors end up queueing. If you go around to the left of the Duomo, behind the gift shop, there is another ticket booth that has a much shorter line since it is a little more tucked away.
Instead of buying only admission to the Duomo, I opted for the Duomo Pass B, which includes admission to the cathedral, the Duomo Museum, the archaeological area, and the terraces by foot. A Duomo Pass B ticket costs €11 (~$11.95 USD) while a Duomo Pass A ticket, which includes everything in the Duomo Pass B but allows you to reach the terraces by elevator, costs €15 (~$16.29 USD). A general ticket for the cathedral and the museum is only €2 (~$2.17 USD), but I really suggest paying more to reach the terraces.
I feel like the inside is what you would expect it to be, with large columns, huge stained-glass windows, and statues all over the place. There is also the crypt of San Carlo Borromeo, a cardinal and archbishop of Milan in the 1500s who was then canonized due to his role in the Counter-Reformation. Because the building was constructed over six centuries, some people with a keener eye for architecture can notice differences in styles and execution in the cathedral’s design. There are apparently intense reactions on both sides of the scale of favor and disfavor, but I don’t have too much to add to the debate other than to shrug and say that I thought the inside of the cathedral looked nice, but wasn’t incredibly memorable.
The pass that I had included a trip down to the archaeological area, which is accessible near the entrance of the cathedral. Here, you can explore part of the remains of the Baptistry of San Giovanni alle Fonti, built from 378 to 397 and rediscovered in 1889. The baptistry has an octagonal shape and an octagonal pool in the middle used for baptismal rites. According to the Duomo website, the shape signifies the eighth days (the seven days of creation plus an eighth day of eternity) and the eight evangelical beatitudes.
I wanted to save the roof for last, so I went to the Duomo Museum nearby instead. The museum houses architectural models, tapestries, paintings, stained glass, sculptures, and more and spans the 15th to 20th centuries. Some of the displays have a direct link to the Duomo, but many were just collected from various workshops throughout Italy. The walk through the museum isn’t too long, but there actually is a significant amount to see. After making my way to the exit, I headed back towards the farther side of the cathedral to trek up the stairs onto the terrace.
Unlike many other historical buildings in Europe, the Duomo actually does have an elevator. Since I already walked up the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Couer in Paris, I figured I would just continue this streak of taking the stairs. I can’t find an exact count of how many steps you have to climb to get to the top, but what I have seen ranges from approximately 170 to 250. It’s worth it to go though as the views from above are great and you get a closer look at the details of the cathedral’s Italian Gothic statues and spires.
Once you are on the terrace, there are actually a few more stairs to climb to get to the uppermost section of the cathedral. There’s some random art at the top, but you can also get a better (well, better compared to ground view) look of the Madonnina statue that tops the Duomo’s main spire. The original Madonnina, which was raised in 1774, was made by beating copper plates onto a wooden model and then gilding pure gold leaf over it.
Again, the views up there are pretty spectacular.
When you are done, you go down the other side of the cathedral and actually have to pass through the inside of the church to exit.
Nearby is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, but I didn’t have time to explore that too. I needed to buy a ticket to the World Expo.
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