Mark Twain sure knew what he was talking about when he described Milan’s Duomo as “grand and vast – yet delicate”.
The American author went on to add: “What a wonder it is”
There’s no doubt the Duomo di Milano is a substantial building. Able to hold 40,000 people and standing 108 metres high, it is the biggest church in Italy and the fifth largest in the world. (St Peter’s Basilica is bigger, but is in the State of Vatican City)
The Gothic Duomo took almost six centuries to build in a number of contrasting styles. Because of this, the building is regarded as a testament to many changing styles of art and culture.
Centre of the city
The Duomo sits squarely in the centre of Milan, with city streets either radiating from it, or circling it.
Our guide told us that the site of the Duomo was the most central location in Mediolanum, the ancient settlement established about 600BC that later became the capital of the Western Roman Empire.
It was originally the location of a church and later a cathedral that was ravaged by fire.
The brick and marble Duomo has 3,400 statues, 55 stained glass windows, beautiful altars and paintings.
There is also an early Christian baptistery, dating back to Roman times.
We took the elevator to the roof, where we were able to see the many spires and sculptures – and we climbed the 50 steps to the highest terraces.
There, amid the marble and lacy ironwork,we were amazed by an unexpected feature of the Duomo’s roof – 135 gargoyles that serve both as decorations of sort and very effective drainpipes.
The view across Milan was also stunning, including a wonderful look over the busy forecourt at the city’s grand shopping area, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
The Duomo di Milano is a wonderful attraction and we thoroughly recommend a visit.
Milan is located in Italy’s northern Lombardy region, about 572 miles or five-and-a-half-hours from Rome.
It is regarded as a global capital of fashion and design and is also a financial hub known for high-end dining and shopping.