Maybe this is a huge cliché but the place to start is the Duomo! A sublime specimen of Gothic architecture, Milan’s cathedral dominates the city centre with its imposing figure of spires and statues. The church interior is equally impressive with religious and funerary art such as the famous statue of the flayed Saint Bartholomew, the tombs of members of the Visconti Family, the stained glass windows and the crypt where Saint Carlo Borromeo is buried. A visit to the roof terraces is a must as you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city and even the mountains of the North.
The next-door Museum of the Duomo exhibits historical and artistic treasures connected with the history of the Cathedral; paintings (by Tintoretto, Besozzo, Galizia), tapestries (among them the series of the Stories of Moses), sculptures, an impressive wooden model of the Cathedral, the famous Cross of Aribert (a fragment of an 11th c. tomb decoration) are among the stunning artwork you can see in this precious museum.
Also facing the Duomo Square, the majestic Palazzo Reale, the former royal residence, is undeniably the busiest exhibition space in the city. With an exhibition program that embraces all periods and movements of art (Giotto, Boccioni, Symbolism and contemporary video art are the most recent shows organized), Palazzo Reale is the venue you should always keep up with.
The third museum in the same row is the Museo del Novecento which opened in 2010. Housed at the renovated Palazzo dell’Arengario the museum is dedicated to the art of 20th century and hosts a collection which starts from the avant-gardes (Picasso, Braque, Klee, Kandinsky, Modigliani), passing through the Futurists (Boccioni, Balla, Carrà) the 20s & 30s abstract and individual artists such as de Chirico & Melotti, up to the 60s Kinetic Art and Italian Arte Povera (Fabro, Merz, Penone).
On the other side of the Duomo Square, look for the charming Piazza Mercanti where you can visit the Palazzo di Ragione Fotografia; an important exhibition space which frequently presents major photography shows. Just north of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and next to the famous Scala Opera House, Gallerie d’ Italia Piazza Scala houses the remarkable Intesa Sanpaolo Bank’s collection of 19th and 20th century art. Three adjoining historical mansions were redesigned to host artworks by Boccioni, Canova, Burri, Vedova and Fontana.
A few blocks to the west, at the Pio XI square, you will find one of the jewels of Milan Art scene. The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, established in 1618, as part of the Ambrosian Library, is an important cultural institution and an impressive museum to visit. The collection includes paintings by Leonardo, Caravaggio, Botticelli, Titian as well as Raphael’s cartoon for the “School of Athens” fresco. Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus is, among other priceless manuscripts and drawings, exhibited at the Ambrosian Library. The nearby church of San Sepolcro (founded in 1030) is famous for the Romanesque crypt, which has recently re-opened to the public.
Museum of the Duomo Via dell'Arcivescovado 1, Milan (map) -Ticket prices start from € 2.00 (also valid for the Duomo).
Palazzo Reale Piazza del Duomo, 12 (map) - Admission €12 - Open every day
The Museo del Novecento Piazza del Duomo (map) - Admission €5 - Open every day
Palazzo di Ragione Fotografia map) - Admission €12 - Closed on Mondays (
Gallerie d’ Italia Piazza Scala Piazza della Scala 6 (map) - Admission €5 - Closed on Mondays
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana Piazza Pio XI, 2 (map) - Piazza Pio XI 2, Milan - Admission €15 - Closed on Mondays
San Sepolcro Piazza S. Sepolcro