On our latest trip to Milan, we knew we could not miss visiting the Duomo. The Duomo is a massive Gothic cathedral located in the center of the city. With its intricate white marble exterior, it’s one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in all of Italy.
When we arrived at the Duomo, we were awestruck by its size. It’s hard to believe that this cathedral was built over 600 years ago and took hundreds of years to complete.
So if you are planning a trip to Milan, this article will help you navigate and plan your trip.
What To Expect When Visiting The Duomo in Milan
The Duomo is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (last admission is 6:45 p.m.).
To enter the cathedral, shoulders and knees must be covered. If they are not you can purchase a poncho-looking cover for you to wear during your visit.
Buying Tickets On Your Own
The best way to avoid the long lines at the ticket office is to buy your tickets online in advance. You can do this on the Duomo website.
When you look at the ticket options, things can get confusing with prices ranging from
€7 – €20.
All of the tickets will get you into the Duomo, Duomo Museum, and the Church of San Gottardo.
We highly recommend a ticket that includes the rooftops and the archeological area. This will cost €15 to take the stairs or €20 to take the lift.
One other option is the €10 rooftop access that is on Thursdays from 6-10 pm to see the sunset from the roof, an amazing experience.
Taking a Private Tour
At this point, we have seen a lot of cathedrals all around the world. But sometimes where we do not really know what we are looking for, a visit entails walking around admiring the grandeur of the building, noticing a few details, and then leaving.
When visiting the Milan Duomo, we decided to go on a private tour with LivTours.
We took the private Duomo Tour with Terrace Access, but they also have an all-day tour that includes visiting The Last Supper.
This made our experience completely different.
Our guide was about to point out details we would have never noticed (like the boxer statues on the roof for example) and gave us history and insight into many aspects of the Duomo.
Leaving the tour we had learned so much about the construction of the Duomo, not just the actual building of the cathedral but also the process and how politics, culture, historical figures, and the reformation had an effect on it.
There really is no substitute for a tour guide who has taken the time to study and has a passion for history.
Our Tour of the Duomo
We visited the Duomo in the summer so we arrived when it opened to avoid the heat.
Starting at the elevator we went to the top first before the sun was any stronger.
Going to the top of the Duomo really is essential.
While we first thought it was more about the view of the surrounding areas, we more enjoyed seeing the 100s of statues, spires, and gargoyles, with so many details impossible to see without getting a closer look from the roof.
As we walked along the roof, our tour guide shared historical information about the Duomo. Like the fact that it took 600 years to complete with 78 architects.
We learned that the canals we see in Milan were actually made to bring the marble to the Duomo and that that marble was given for free.
The letters placed on the marble, RUF, continue today as slang, meaning for free in Milan.
Could you imagine working on a building and not seeing it complete? I imagined the workers starting to build the Duomo. They didn’t know it, but it would not be for many generations after them till the Duomo would be completed.
The Interior of the Duomo
After admiring the statues on the roof as well as the view, we made our way down the staircase to the interior.
The Duomo is massive, the 5th largest in the world.
We quickly found ourselves at the base of one of the highlights of the interior, the statue of St Bartholomew.
The Apostle of Christ was skinned alive and Marco d’Agrate has portrayed him that way, draped in his own skin.
Close by are 3 large stained glass windows, one showing the story of the old testament, one showing the story of Christ, and the third showing what is foreseen as the apocalypse.
After walking around briefly, we say down and the tour guide began to show us dozens of things that would have not even noticed without her.
One we found very interesting was above the main altar, a small red light bulb. This marks the spot where one of the supposed nails from the Crucifixion of Christ has been placed. Every year “The Holy Nail” is retrieved by having the bishop ascend in a basket that looks like a cloud to retrieve it. It is then available for the public to see during the Rite of the Nivola.
On the way out we noticed the sundial which is still accurate today, just hard to see with all the artificial light in the Duomo.
Our last stop was beneath the square in the archeological ruins. Here you see parts of the walls of the old church and the baptistry.
Overall, visiting the Duomo in Milan was one of the highlights of our trip and one of the best visits to a cathedral anywhere. This is mostly due to our tour guide who not only gave us a great tour, but also perfect dinner recommendations as well!