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Monday, July 27, 2009

Day Trip: The Roof Of Il Duomo di Milano

Milan's cathedral, senza scaffolding. For 5 euro you can sit on the peak of the triangular roof.

For 5 Euro one can gain access to the roof of il Duomo di Milano, Milan's famous cathedral. Begun in 1385, but not completed until 1805 when Napolean Bonaparte ordered that the facade be finished, this is the fourth-largest cathedral in the world, and arguably one of the most beautiful. It's been hidden under scaffolding and wraps for some years as repairs and renovation and cleaning have taken place, but finally, it has been unveiled and it is ready to explore, inside, outside, and up on the roof.

Rows of spires and buttresses cover the roof.
A few days ago I climbed the 170 stairs up to the roof. It was the hottest day in some days in Milan, 34 degrees C, (mid 90s), but the cool stone, the shade offered by the hundreds of spires, and the breezes blowing through them kept the heat manageable. The tight staircase in the stone tower (watch for people coming in the other direction), leaves one standing on the north side of the lower level of the roof. As far as I can recall, there are very few additional safety barriers added, or necessary, as the construction and design of the roof offers its own barricades and railings.

Up here, it's all about the details, details, details.


















And the view down into the piazza isn't bad either...

Up top, one can focus on the details, the interplay of the spires, the repetition of the design, the complexity of the details, all that is invisible from the ground. Walk along a natural walkway beneath a row of buttresses, this brings you to the southwest corner. Here, another short flight of 40 stairs or so takes you to the very peak of the roof. Steep inclines on either side slope down to the edge of the roof, but the tall wall of spires all around provides natural protection.

We're not really that high up at the peak of the roof, but it's possible to feel like you're on top of it all.

There's not much to do up there, except to just 'be', and people seem to do that for a very long time. I found myself a shady spot on one slope, took my shoes off (so much easier to walk on the slippery marble roof with bare feet rather than heels), sat myself down, and I pretended I was a very content pigeon, for quite some time.



See that building across the way in the photo below? The one with the greenery and the umbrellas? That's the rooftop terrace of the Rinascente department store. That terrace is my other favorite rooftop in Milan, as well as my favorite secret spot. The combination of these two activities, rooftop and Rinascente, makes for an enjoyable, simple, and inexpensive afternoon in Milan. Let's climb down from the cathedral roof now, and let's go to the rooftop of Rinascente.




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