As with all incredible wonders, there are stunning moments and bits of blase. I felt both, on a recent visit to the Duomo di Milano.
When you’re in Milan, take the metro to Piazza del Duomo. As you walk up the steps you’ll see it before you reach the top of the stairway. My first thought upon seeing the Duomo was, “Holy shit!” It’s unbelievably wonderful.
The duomo is the center of a buzz of activity: tourists with their cameras and umbrellas, musicians busking in the shadow of the duomo, businessmen and women hurrying by, oblivious to the beauty around them – and of course those nasty pigeons that seem to flock around every major monument.
The Duomo was conceived to be the largest church in the world, and took centuries to complete. There are over 135 spires, 95 gargoyles, and 3,159 statues illustrating stories from the Bible, the construction of the Duomo, and the history of Milan. You could study this church for a lifetime. If you’re like me, your eyes will never rest for more than thirty seconds on any one detail; instead, darting from one scene to the next, trying (unsuccessfully) to make sense of it all.
The inside? Meh. I’ve been inside a lot of churches in Italy (churches being one of my favorite forms of architectural and artistic expression), and the inside of the duomo is dark and danky – depressing really – quite a contradiction to the outside. There are a couple of tables set up as stand in altars for those who wish to light a candle, and scaffolding everywhere. There is a lift parked inside (the place is massive), and the glass pyramid gift shop just seems weird and distracting. I read that there are some important works of art inside, but I wasn’t motivated to seek them out.
I am not a huge fan of religious art, therefore I rarely go around trying to see all the things that are supposed to be so fab…because in Italy, everything is fab! I just go for what I like and I don’t like dark, so I was done with the inside the minute I stepped in, but forced myself to walk through. One regret, I wish I’d taken the lift to the top. I went to lunch instead. LOL
After a quick walk around the entire interior perimeter, I couldn’t wait to get back into the Italian sunlight and the drama in the piazza – one of the best people watching spots in the world, dominated by one of the most impressive and grandest churches in the world.
Tips for visiting the Duomo:
There is a strictly enforced dress code. No tank tops, shorts, short skirts, or dresses. I saw a young guy in a tank top turned away, and I was stopped for an inspection of my hemline (that was a first!).
Entrance is free for individuals, but there is a fee for groups.
Though there are a gazillion people and you think you’ll wait in line forever, it moves very quickly.
If you want to take photographs inside, pay 2 euros for a wristband.
You can also visit the rooftop and walk amongst the spires. There’s a small fee of 13 euros if you take the elevator, and 7 euros if you chose to walk the 250 steps to the top.
All materials copyright Penny Sadler 2013. All rights reserved.