If its magnificent Duomo is the heart of Milan, then the Piazza which faces this church certainly is the town’s main gathering place and foremost tourist attraction. Always filled with throngs of people, the cathedral’s rectangular square has several sights worthy of note besides its famous church (we’ll learn more about the Duomo in a future blog).
The piazza was created in the 14th century and developed over the years as construction on the Duomo progressed. Most of the buildings and monuments you see date to the 19th century. Our rented apartment was across the street from the Piazza, so we visited it often and frequently walked through it on the way to restaurants or to see an attraction. It was always busy.
Here’s some of the highlights you’ll see if you visit Piazza del Duomo:
Monument to King Victor Emannuel II
He was King of Sardinia before becoming the King of a united Italy in 1861 (the first time the country was united since the sixth century). He seemed to have been popular with the people and you’ll find monuments to him scattered around Italy, including this finely mustached version in this piazza. The monument is certainly popular with the pigeons, who frequent it in large numbers.
Victor on his mount is looking directly at the:
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
One of the oldest shopping malls in Italy and one of the oldest malls in the world, it’s a lovely structure with an ornate steel and glass canopy roof that keeps out the elements while letting lovely daylight illuminate it. The four story structure is also named after King Victor Emannuel II. All the top consumer brands are found in the shops within the Galleria, and the labels are appropriate for this fashion conscious city.
The newest structure on the piazza, it was built as a government facility during the fascist era of Mussolini (who used to deliver speeches to the masses from its balcony). It’s now home to the Museo del Novecento, a museum filled with 20th century art.
Palazzo Reale di Milano
The former Royal Palace of Milan was home to the Milanese government for many centuries. The building was severely damaged by an English bombing raid in World War II. The Palace is largely rebuilt, and today it serves multiple functions, including being home to the Duomo Museum and rotating exhibitions of art.
Visiting the Piazza is free, although admission is charged for entry to most of its buildings including the Duomo. The piazza is very busy and crowded, and is a draw to pick-pockets, so use appropriate precautions when you visit. Also, there will be many hucksters aggressively trying to sell you trinkets you’ll likely have no interest in — just ignore them and they’ll go away.
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