It’s our first full rainy weekend in Milan, so we decided to visit the Duomo and see the Cathedral and the adjacent museum. Other than the scary top with its wet stone steps, I’d say it was a good way to spend a rainy day!
We should have known better, but upon arriving at the Duomo by metro, we discovered that every tourist in town had our same idea and appeared to be in line to see the Cathedral (also known as the Duomo). Hustlers were selling umbrellas instead of the little cotton bracelets that are hawked in warmer weather, and no models were posing with the Duomo as a beautiful backdrop.
Smart move of the day: Buy the Fast Track A ticket to the right of the Duomo, for 25 euros each, and spring for the audio guide for 6 euros more. https://www.duomomilano.it/en/infopage/fast-track/3e9752c4-058d-4d03-8c58-b7858c6b77ba/
With that ticket, you get 72 hours to visit 5 features: ride the elevator to the top of the Duomo to see the Terraces; visit the Cathedral (which you easily access after you descend from the Terraces, rather than wait in the long line outside, which on a day like today, was a line of about 90 minutes’ wait); explore the Archeological Museum (accessed inside the Cathedral, which shows ruins from before the Cathedral was built); tour the Museum of the Duomo (featuring art, sculptures, close-ups of the gargoyles and little statues surrounding the Duomo, and other cool things); and visit the San Gottardo church (accessed within the Museum). You can only visit each place one time, but with the multi-day pass, you can spread it out over several days if you want. Naturally, we didn’t do that- we took several hours to see it all and returned to our apartment a little worn out from all the walking we did.
The ride to the top of the Duomo was in a rather small elevator, and once you get to the ‘top’, you have stairs to climb. It’s a bit narrow for folks going up and down at the same time.
Head up one set of stairs and you are on a level that allows you to look out over the town, down into the Duomo’s piazza, and of course to see up close the gargoyles, statues and incredible buttresses that make up the top of the Duomo.
With the audio guide, you can take a deep dive into how the Duomo was made, who pays for the upkeep, the materials used, and particular statues that merit special attention.
Then up a second set of stairs we went, to the REAL top, and there are a lot of friends of mine who would not be able to make this part. I wasn’t comfortable either. Remember, it’s drizzling and we are on stone/marble stairs and rooftops, all with a precarious slope. The Duomo is constantly being repaired, so scaffolding is visible everywhere, with certain places blocked off. We were able to see the Madonnina from several angles- she’s the gold-plated iconic statue at the top of the Milan Cathedral that tells the world you are in Milan! There’s a replica of La Madonnina in the Museum which helped me get the scale and perspective of the rooftop marvel.
After we visited the Terraces, we descended down to the Cathedral and took our time listening to the audio guide and viewing the stained glass windows and many treasures within the church. The most cherished relic stored in the church is a nail that is claimed to be one of the nails in the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus- it has been in the possession of Milan’s church for hundreds and hundreds of years. There’s a red light that shows where it is high above the ground. On a special day in September, the archbishop of Milan takes a pulley contraption up to the place where the nail is located, and he brings it down. It is said that the pulley contraption was designed by Leonardo da Vinci! Legend has it that the nail was brought to Milan from Constantinople’s wife for safekeeping because at the time Milan was the base of the Roman Catholic church. Isn’t that interesting? To read more, go here:http://www.duomomilano.it
And to watch the ceremony, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgQ62Xvy75s&feature=youtu.be
Given Kevin’s interest in science, it won’t surprise you to know that another feature within the Duomo we spent a lot of time observing is the Sundial, built in 1786. The aim of the Duomo’s Sundial was to accurately determine the moment of passage of the sun on the meridian of Milan at noon.
Taken from the Milan tourism website: http://www.turismo.milano.it
“The sundial appears on the floor as a long horizontal brass line which runs through the space from south to north, interrupted at the edges by the signs of the zodiac, depicted on marble tiles. Through a small circular hole, located in the vault of the southern aisle at a height of 23.8 meters, the rays of the sun enter the Duomo and, enlarged, pinpoint on the floor of the church the moment of noon in Milan, just when their center crosses the brass line. The same rays also pass next to the various signs of the zodiac in which the sun is at that time of year, moving gradually from day to day, from one sign to another, from the summer solstice to the winter, and vice versa. ”
How cool is that? We don’t have any good photos of this because it was dark due to the rain outside.
We walked next door to the Museum of the Duomo, which was spruced up and expanded just before the World Expo in the mid-2010’s, and worth a visit if you like to go behind the scenes of the building of the Duomo. You can also see various treasured pieces of the church that only come out for special occasions. You could spend HOURS listening to the audio guide explaining the significance and origin of various pieces. I must admit to skipping through some of the descriptions of the statues by the end, because we were getting hungry and tired. We ended our tour by visiting the San Gottardo church, which you can see from the top of the Duomo- it’s a simple, but beautiful church, with a very old fresco on one of the walls.
All in all, this was a good way to spend the day. Upon our return to the apartment, we ate a nice dinner accompanied by more of the fresh porcini mushrooms I described in my previous blog. We have just enough porcini for one more meal after this- tomorrow morning, it will be an omelet with ricotta and porcini mushrooms! To top it off, I’m going to finally open up my container of grits I lovingly brought from home. The only thing that would make the meal perfect is if Kevin could make his delicious biscuits. We need to find some buttermilk before we can really make a true southern breakfast. For another day!