Monday and a holiday – not the ideal conditions for museum or gallery visits. But I am happy to be in the city after the Christmas holidays and the skiing days – happy to spend a day in Milan devoted to art. First of all the capital of Lombardy is a fashion and design hotspot. But those without a large shopping budget or a desire for something else than shopping can relax – Milan has much more to offer than just designer shops and fashion outlets. Besides the perfect shopping day – a day filled with exquisite art experiences is a great alternative. For this Monday I choose three stations: the dome with its terrace, the Naviglio Grande canal, part of the original medieval transportation system (bringing the marble to the dome) and an exhibition at the Palazzo Reale: Andy Warhol.
Milan cathedral, Duomo di Milano – My visit
Many of my visits in Milan have started at Duomo. Not different at Twelfth Day, epifania or befana. I want to visit the Duomo inside and walk up to its terrace on the roof.
Despite the ongoing ceremony tourists surge into the Duomo. The congregation in front of the altar seems tiny in the dark and huge church building.
Slowly frankincense crawls up my nose. I escape outside to continue my visit on the roof. The 250 steps are not slippery (even though wet) and I only have to deal with the opposing traffic of visitors coming down, but the stairs are wide enough. I arrive at the lower circuit.
Some facts about the Milan cathedral
Milan’s cathedral is the third largest church worldwide. Hence its windows are amongst the largest in the world, too.
The cathedral has been consecrated in 1572 by Charles Borromeo to the name Santa Maria Nascente (Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary). Its construction had begun in the 14th century, whereas the impressive facade has been completed only Napoleon. The bronze doors originate partly from the 20th century. The chiselled marble facade with its 4,000 statues on the roof top is always repaired somewhere. I climb the last step and stand on the roof terrace.
The gracile statues are the size of a person and seem to look down on the city scrutinizing or blessing it.
They rise so numerous on the huge cathedral as if the city needed them for supervision, appeasement or blessings depending on what was needed by the people in the constant flow onto cathedral square. I am just lucky with the view – the wonderful panoramic Alps are clearly visible on the horizon. Unicredit Headquarter’s needle towers lonely in the sky. There is only one building potentially raising discontent with its marble scrutinizers. I wish ugly buildings would be ugly less ostentatiously.
For lunch break I head to today’s second station: Naviglio Grande – the Great channel, one of the still existing medieval channels of Milan. The city used to have a whole network of such channels serving as an important means of transportation for goods. During the construction of the cathedral the marble has been transported from the (still used for repair works) quarry in Candoglia, Ossola valley, via Toce river, Lake Maggiore, Ticino river and from there via the channels into the centre of Milan.
The navigli area in Milan today has developed into a quarter with a thriving nightlife, restaurants and the best flea markets in town. While I stroll along Naviglio Grande a boat appears, a huge Italian flag in the back …
For lunch I simply choose a pizzeria and suddenly find myself in the midst of a Neapolitan enclave with Vesuvio, Totò, SSC Neapel and Maradona. Buon appetito!
I am back on cathedral square in the afternoon. In front of Palazzo Reale a noticeable queue has formed. Its is “only” for the Jackson Pollock exhibition. The American artist are strongly present this season. For Andy Warhol I do not have to wait long. After three hours with my audio guide, numerous Italian families in the museum I feel the afternoon was a good one. Tired and happy I am ready to enter the rural spheres again.
Tips and Apps – Art in Milan on a Monday
- My tip for the cathedral’s rooftop terrace: Buy a ticket at the (often overlooked) booth left of the exit of Duomo (Duomo is behind you, 7 Euro with 250 steps, 12 Euro with the elevator), thus avoiding the queue at the entrance to the roof, which is located on the cathedral side facing Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II.
- Website Palazzo Reale (ital. with links to the current exhibitions “mostre in corso”)
- Public transport in Milan (website ital., website eng.) (you find the scheme as pdf at the bottom of the page)
- Navigli App (free, only Italian) for iPhone & iPad and for Android – Check out the event calendar under “Vivere”
- App of Milan museums (free) for iTunes and Android
- Galeries and Museums open on Mondays: Palazzo Reale (Art), Pinacoteca & Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Manuscripts, paintings i.e. Caravaggio), Botanic Garden (Orto Botanico), a few galleries with contemporary art – check StART Milano website which galleries are open Mondays!