Milan Cathedral (Duomo)#3 in Best Things To Do in Milan
If you only have time to see one sight in Milan, the Duomo should be it. Milan's Duomo is considered the largest and most unique Gothic complex in all of Italy, having taken about a half a millennium to build. And once you've spent some time at the Duomo, it's easy to see why it's considered a masterpiece. The Duomo displays an inordinate amount of impressive architectural details both in and outside of its walls. The exterior is dotted with thousands of intricately-carved statues (2,300 to be exact) depicting both religious figures and stories from the Bible, including Jesus' crucifixion. And its interiors are even more intricate. Inside you'll find a thousand more statues, sky-high marble columns, gilded ceilings, striking stained glass windows and loads of paintings scattered throughout. The detail even goes all the way down to the floors, where you'll find geometric-patterned marble lined throughout.
But let's not forget the top. Another thing that makes the Duomo so unique is its accessible roof. From here, travelers can admire the Duomo's elaborate buttresses, pinnacles and spires up close, all the while enjoying views of the piazza below. And make sure to get an eyeful of the Madonna, found on the highest spire. During World War II, to distract from bombers, the church had the gold statue covered so it wouldn't be easily spotted in the air.
Travelers say the crowds and the lines that this church attracts are worth it to behold its beauty. Visitors say to fully grasp its grandeur, you need to visit every part of the cathedral, both inside and out as well as the top. Doing anything less would cheapen your experience. Some suggested going the extra mile and picking up an audio guide on-site to better understand the history of the Duomo's many details. To avoid sharing the space with loads of tourists (and you will), it's best to plan an early morning visit.
You will find the Duomo in the city center, right off the Duomo metro stop. The church is free to visit but has smallish fees. Admission to the St. Charles Crypt is 3 euros (about $3.60) and to access the roof it's an extra 9 euros (about $10.75). If you don't want to climb the stairs to the roof, you can pay 13 euros (or $15.60) to access the elevator. The Duomo is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (last admission is at 6 p.m.). The crypt, roof, on-site museum and other interest areas within the church have their own hours. For more information, you can visit this website.
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#1 Castello Sforzesco
The former fortress and residence of Milan's most powerful rulers is now a campus for some of the city's best cultural institutions. Castello Sforzesco, found less than a mile northwest of the Duomo, features a plethora of museums and galleries focusing on art and history. There's the Pinacoteca, or Picture Gallery, the Raccolta di Mobili, Furniture Collection, Museo delle Arti Decorative, the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Museo Egizio, Egyptian Museum and so much more. There's also the Oreficerie, which houses one of the largest collections of musical instruments in Europe. If you're short on time, travelers say you should visit the Museo della Pieta Rondanini, which houses Michelangelo's last masterpiece, the Pietà Rondanini.
Even if you don't have time to visit any museums or exhibitions, travelers say the Castello Sforzesco is still worth a detour for the site's beautiful architecture and lush grounds. The Castello Sforzesco is connected to the Parco Sempione, which features walking paths, a small pond, cafes and its own points of interest, including the Porta Sempione, which bears a striking resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries gardens in Paris. Should you wish to visit any of the castle's cultural hot spots, recent visitors advise coming early to avoid potential crowds. And if you're looking to save some dough, visit the Castello Sforzesco Tuesday after 2 p.m. or the last hour before closing Wednesday through Sunday to enjoy free admission.
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