What to See
Duomo & Piazza Duomo
Renzo ascended one of these paths to the high ground, whence he beheld, as if rising from a desert, and not in the midst of a city, the noble structure of the cathedral, and he forgot all his misfortunes in contemplating, even at a distance, this eighth wonder of the world, of which he had heard so much from his infancy. (Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed I Promessi Sposi).
What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems ...a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath! (Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad).
This Gothic church made of white marble represents the essence of Milan. It is currently the fourth largest cathedral in the world and the largest in the territory of Italy. Started in 1386, the Duomo was completed only 5 centuries later. The best time to visit the cathedral is in bright sunshine, when the windows create a kaleidoscope of colors through the cavernous interior.
If you want to see Milan from above don't miss the chance to walk up to the roof! There, you will be able to enjoy the spectacular views of the city and its surroundings between Gothic spires, pinnacles and statues. One statue in particular is noteworthy: a figure of Mary made in golden copper stands 109m (358ft) above the city. It is the symbol of Milan and the Oh mia bela Madunina celebrates its popularity.
The Duomo is located in a square which takes the cathedral's name: Piazza del Duomo. In addition to the majestic church, the square hosts other wonderful sights: an enormous statue of King Vittorio Emanuele II, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele with its top-quality bars and shops and the Palazzo Reale, a beautiful 18th-century building which is currently an art exhibition center. Being the location of many cultural, musical and sport events, Piazza Duomo is the social and cultural heart of Milan and an important meeting point for both locals and visitors.
Santa Maria delle Grazie & The Cenacolo by Leonardo da Vinci
The Santa Maria delle Grazie church is probably most famous for the painting that lies within its walls, Da Vinci's Last Supper (Il Cenacolo), a masterpiece which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Dated between 1494 and 1498, the Cenacolo is one of the world's most celebrated works. The painting depicts the dramatic moment of Christ's revelation of his betrayal. The 12 apostles are grouped into threes, Christ at the center, Judas to the right, his hand frozen on the bag of silver on the table. Over the centuries, the painting has survived numerous damaging restorations and even a bomb that struck the church during World War II. The Last Supper can be viewed by appointment only. Reservations to see this legendary painting are limited and sell out quickly, sometimes months in advance.
This impressive castle, along with the Duomo cathedral, represents one of Milan's main landmarks. Surrounded by a moat, the castle was founded in the 1300s and it mainly represented the power of the foreign dominators (when Lombardy was part of the Habsburg empire). Only at the beginning of the 20th century did the Castle assume its current role, becoming a place of culture and hosting numerous Lombardy art collections. The castle takes its name Castello Sforzesco from Francesco Sforza who, in the 1450s, rebuilt the castle entirely, after several demolitions. During the regency of Ludovico il Moro, several important artists worked at the castle's decoration. Among them was Leonardo da Vinci, who first worked there as a military and civil engineer and only later as an artist.
The castle houses several of the city's museums and art gallery collections. Home to the museums of applied arts, ancient art, Renaissance art (including the Pietà Rondanini, the last work by Michelangelo and paintings by Mantegna, Antonello Da Messina and Leonardo Da Vinci), historical musical instruments, prehistory, Egyptian art and fine arts.