Milan tourist attractions
Look on any travel website for things to do in Milan and inevitably Milan Cathedral (or il Duomo MIlan, in Italian) will appear. This architectural gem is a vision of beauty, with 135 spires, over 3,000 elaborate statues and glittering marble. Your brain struggles to comprehend the sheer size, scale and dedication to a project which took over 600 years to complete!! This incredible structure wows you with its beauty, its pearly, pink facade reminiscent of a decadent wedding cake.
Alas, the magic ends when you try to visit the 5th largest church in the world. Visiting Milan Cathedral is like volunteering to be a test subject for medieval torture techniques. Here are three reasons you might want to avoid Milan Cathedral and spend your time in Milan visiting other attractions.
Three reasons to avoid Milan Cathedral
Buying tickets to Milan cathedral is chaotic at best. Entering the ticket hall to the right of the cathedral, (assuming you are facing the building) you face total disarray. It is hard to tell where the lines begin, as souvenir stands and countless groups litter the hall. There are no clear signs advising you what to do, where to go, or what tickets to buy.
We think (please do not hold me to this) that you are supposed to take a number (if you can find one, which we could not) and wait for it to be called if you want ticket advice.
Alternatively, you can head to the self service kiosks to the left of the ticket hall. These seem equally unfathomable to most of the confused looking visitors. It is unclear that you need two tickets for the rooftop and interior. One for Milan Cathedral and one for the cathedral rooftops. Furthermore, we could find no option to purchase a combined ticket. Holy cow!!
We bought tickets to the ‘Terrazza’, assuming wrongly that it would include entrance to the Cathedral, and only discovered our error after an hour of queuing.
No entry without pre-paid tickets
Sadly, we were not the only people caught out. Many people queued for an hour to get to the ticket check point (from where the wait is at least a further hour) only to discover that entry without a pre-paid ticket was not possible. Admittedly, the small signs by the entrance do indicate that you need to buy tickets beforehand, but these signs are conveniently hiding behind endless lines of tourists. Staff make no effort to offer any guidance to people joining the lines and there are no larger billboards offering advice.
Painfully long entry lines
Once you purchase your ticket, be sure to get into the right queue. Note, the queue to the left is for the rooftops, whilst the queue to the right is for the cathedral. Strictly speaking, it may not be to the right when you enter, as our line was so long, it snaked around the entire front of the building. Only at the entry, is there a small sign, (not even A4 size) indicating that this queue is for the cathedral only. WTF?!
When I queried why there was no entrance to the rooftop from the cathedral, the response was that the two are not joined. So, apparently the rooftops of Milan Cathedral are not joined to the Cathedral itself!
Of course, the ticket does not indicate this, and the aforementioned lack of larger signs does not help. The signage is woefully inadequate at best!
It took over 3 hours from ticket hall to the rooftops of Milan’s cathedral. Even without our error, it took almost two hours to reach the rooftops. We then would have to queue for a further two hour to visit the Cathedral. It seems that the architect of the visitor experience to Milan cathedral either does not give a shit, or is totally thick!
The rudest staff
The staff at Milan Cathedral would make even the snootiest Parisian look like a friendly pussy-cat! One group, caught unawares by the need to pre-purchase, were turned away with a disdainful shrug of the shoulders. To add salt to their wounds, they were not allowed to wait to enter until one of their party returned with tickets. Instead, they received a cavalier hand gesture prompting them to return to the back of the queue!
Upon discovering our own error, I suggested that perhaps the signs needed improving, or that a combined ticket to reduce queuing time might be a good idea. Evidently, the staff at Milan Cathedral do not encourage or appreciate feedback. Apparently, I was ‘stupid for coming to Milan Cathedral on such a busy day.’ Wow, that sure is one way to make an impression!
Just ONE reason to visit
Now, here is the thing. Whilst this attraction might lack any semblance of organisation, to miss it would be a tragedy! On a clear day, the views are stupendous.
From snow covered mountain peaks in the distance, to the bustling Piazza below, thronging with stalls, and shoppers, the panorama is hard to beat. When you emerge from the narrow staircase, into the dazzling sunshine, to see innumerable spires, gargoyles and angels, you will almost forget you nearly got frost-bite during your wait. Your eyes light up, you try to capture every incredible vista on camera and you gaze out in awe at the rooftops and spires. It is a stunning sight to behold. So, whilst there are three pretty major reasons to avoid Milan Cathedral like the plague, you may find the Doumo’s allure too great.
Have you visited Milan Cathedral?
Perhaps you have visited Milan Cathedral. If so, I would love to hear your experience. If you have any tips for beating the queues, that would be a huge bonus. Maybe you visited at a different time of year, when it was less manic. If so, please let us know. This attraction is a breathtaking reminder of the capabilities of mankind, and it would be shame to miss it. I sure as hell, am in no rush to repeat my experience however.
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