The Duomo di Milano: huge yet lacy

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”


Courtesy Paul Bica, Toronto, Canada, Flickr and Wikimedia

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.

Check this stunning 360 degree panoramic view provided by the Duomo di Milano website.

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.



Italy Milan travel

Favourite attraction: The Duomo of Florence, Italy

The skyline of Florence is completely dominated by the spectacular cathedral dome of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Every photograph or postcard we’d ever seen of this gorgeous Italian city had featured at least part of theimposing orange brick dome.

It was our first stop after checking-in to the Sheraton Florence.

Dwarfing the ancients

At 91 metres, the dome of the Duomo was designed to dwarf even the great buildings of ancient Greece and Rome.

As we climbed the 436 steps to the top, we quickly understood the enormous size of the cathedral, which is roughly as big as a modern football stadium, holding up to 20,000 people and is the tallest building in Florence.

White, green and pink marble


The cathedral is elegantly partnered with the adjoining Campanile, an 85-metre tower built in 1359 and clad in the same white, green and pink Tuscan marble that adorns the Duomo.

We recommend exploring the crypt that contains the remains of the 4th Century church of Santa Reparata, which was demolished in 1296 to make way for the Duomo.

Check the ‘Gates of Paradise’

Near the main entrance, across the Piazza Di San Giovanni, you’ll see another of the oldest buildings in Florence, the Baptistry, perhaps also dating to the 4th Century.


Once inside, look up at the colourful mosaics above the large octagonal font where many famous Florentines, such as Dante, were baptised.

Outside, you’ll marvel at the ornate golden-coloured East Doors, dubbed by Michelangelo as the “Gates of Paradise”.

Tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo

The other major church in Florence’s City Centre East is the Santa Croce, which contains the tombs of many great Florentines including Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Leonardo Bruni.

Santa Croce is also clad in coloured marble

IMG_0268Getting there

Florence, which is often described as the ‘Cradle of the Renaissance’ is the heart of Italy’s Tuscany Region, north of Rome.

Trains run between the two cities from Rome Termini and Tiburtina stations.

Fast train connections cover the trip in about one-and-a-half hours, while slower trains take between two and four hours.

The A1 Autostrada (toll road) connects Rome to Florence, a distance of 180 miles or 250 kilometres.

A trip between the two cities usually takes about two hours and 53 minutes.

Florence can also be reached directly by air.


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