No trip to Milan is complete without visiting the (second) largest church in Italy: The Milan Cathedral.

Gothic gargoyles. Stunning spires. Majestic Madonnina, who has the best view of the city.

The Milan Cathedral didn’t mess around when it came to architecture.

And if you’re planning to visit, knowing a couple of handy facts about this fancy spot will make the experience way more enjoyable and totally worth it.

Consider this a mini-course in Milan Cathedral 101.

Read on if you want to find out what makes it so darn special.

It took 500+ years to build the Milan Cathedral

Construction on the Milan Cathedral began in 1386 when the ruler Gian Galeazzo Visconti came into power –– he had big, beautiful visions of the cathedral. That, and he was pretty focused on modernizing the city and expanding the Visconti territory by constructing a massive duomo.

Over the years, construction continued to get held up but thousands of artists and the rulers in between were determined to complete it! It took up until the 19th century for the final stages of construction to be completed, at the nudging of Napoleon while he was ruling.

… And it’s still not completed! Cleanings, updates, and ongoing restorations are still taking place till today. In 1965, a new door went up! We bet Visconti never expected construction on this masterpiece to extend this far.

MIlan Cathedral view of Piazza Duomo

Milan Cathedral under construction and subway stop

It could have been totally terracotta

Can you imagine how different the Milan Cathedral would have looked if pretty pink marble was swapped out for toasty terracotta? In its initial stages, it was constructed in terracotta stone… Until gorgeously pink-hued white Candoglian marble from Lake Maggiore was presented as an option.

Needless to say –– that amped up the wow factor significantly, but it did require a lotta legwork. In order to haul all that marble from quarries in Candoglia, the city actually dug special canals all the way through southern Milan to the site. In fact, you can still see them today –– now, they’re filled with lovely markets, bars, and shops.

Does your Milan trip include heading to Cinque Terre? We’ll show you the best spots and help you create even more remember-forever moments. View all our Cinque Terre tours.

It has more statues than any other building in the world

Just how many statues are too many statues? For the architects of the Milan Cathedral, the limit didn’t exist. There are 3400 statues, over 100 gargoyles and an additional 700 figures spread throughout this incredible monument. Given that it can fit up to 40,000 people –– this isn’t a shabby way to fill up space.

And to crown them all, there’s the magnificently golden Madonnina, a tribute to the Virgin Mary that was built in 1774. She’s perched on top of the tallest spire of the cathedral (it’s 354 feet tall) and has always been viewed as a symbol of the city. The Milanese secretly hope she’s watching over them at all times, too.

You can hang with La Madonnina on its panoramic rooftop…

Speaking of what’s perched on top of the Milan Cathedral –– you can take the stairs or a paid lift to the rooftop terrace for a crazy cool opportunity to get lost in a forest of spires, statues and gargoyles overlooking the city.

You’ll get a pretty sweet view of snow-topped mountains in the alps, gorgeous geometry of the piazza below, 360° scenes of the whole city of Milan and get up close with Madonnina. If you see the details of this building so that you’ll never forget ‘em, there’s no better way to get up close and personal than this.


Milan Cathedral buttresses and statues

Milan Cathedral and the Madonnina

… But don’t think about topping her.

Tradition in the city dictates that la Madonnina must always be the highest human-made object in Milan. They revere and stick to this religiously. In fact, when Pirelli’s skyscraper in the 2000s went above the height of Duomo, they had to create a replica of la Madonnina and put it on top of theirs! Sneaky move, but not without a stern talking-to.

And before you visit the Milan Cathedral –– keep these tips handy:


Milan Cathedral from above and street view

Now that we’ve got you covered on Milan’s dazzling duomo… 

Let’s talk about the rest of your Italy trip!

We’ve got Florence tours and Cinque Terre tours to help you have the Italian trip you’re hoping for. Spending time with local experts in the city is always worth it! 

You’ll be able to choose from a handful of our curated experiences and experience these cities (their incredible sights, food and more) the way you would with an Italian friend.

Because museums and monuments are better with more intel…

And our team lets you skip the line to the good stuff, always!

View all Florence tours and Cinque Terre tours.


Thanks for reading and happiest of travel, friends.

Write us at ciao{@}italianfix.com and tell us where you’re travelling next. We would love to help!

Milan cathedral statues at sunset

Milan Cathedral at night

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