Things We Are Not Taller Than: Milan, Italy

Country 11: Italy | This post is both part of my 30×30 series (read more here!) and part of my travel traditions series (read more here.).

“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


The wildly ornate Duomo di Milano, or Milan Cathedral, is in the heart of the city. And, fitting for a city known for its history of fashion and design, it’s a wildly ornate, stunningly intricate confection of stone that took six centuries to build.

Yes, you read that right. Six centuries.

The foundations were laid in 1386 and the last gate opened in 1965. 600 years is obviously a long time, and you can see the evolution of design and architecture right within the building itself. Gothic, Renaissance, and Roman styles either merge or compete (depending on the purity of your artistic point of view). And each new artistic era added something new to the structure. Just consider that as of the late 1700s, none of the pinnacles and spires for which the building is now famous were present!

We came on a blisteringly bright day in Milan, and luckily so! The blue sky allowed us to see the cathedral’s crown jewel, the Madoninna, which is usually shrouded in mist. The cathedral’s other ornaments include 3400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and over 700 figures in marble relief depicting scenes from the Bible and Europe’s history. I was absolutely fascinated by these little details and could have spent the entire afternoon cataloging them in photos.

When planning your visit to the Duomo, make sure you book a fast track in advance to beat the line. You can also do a guided tour of the roof, which gets you up close to a lot of the stunning sculpture work, as well as offering a fantastic view over the city. The cathedral is open daily, from 8:00-19:00.