|Duomo –The Piazza del Duomo is the heart of Milan's historic city center. The cathedral is a vision in pink and white marble, decorated with thousands of statues, animals and gargoyles, and it's the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It was started in 1386, but wasn't completed until the early 19th century, when Napoleon was crowned king of Italy in the cathedral. This is a building kids can relate to, like a giant white gingerbread house, sparkling in the sunlight.|
|Walk on the roof – Before visiting the interior of the church, first go up on the roof of the Duomo. You can ride the elevator or walk to the rooftop (it's 919 stone steps). On the walkways to the roof, keep your eyes peeled for gargoyles. Once on the rooftop, it's a forest of marble spires decorated with leaves, artichokes, corn, monster faces; the highest spire is topped by "Madonnina," a golden statue of Mary. And, in every direction are views of the city below.|
Tip: Go early in the day, as it gets crowded on the narrow walkways on the roof and stairs. Older kids can climb up and down the stairs (stretch their legs); with younger kids, ride the elevator up and walk down.
|Inside the cathedral – The interior is immense, supported by 52 pillars (one of each week of the year; kids can count them). Look down at the marble floor, covered in striking geometric patterns in black, brown and white. At the end of the cathedral is a rose window. Directly above the rose window is a cross, surrounded by a golden halo, a red light in the center. This cross holds a nail from the True Cross. In the chapel to the left of the apse is a lovely statue of Mary, holding a baby Jesus on her hip, angels supporting a crown over her head.|
|Tip: To go inside the cathedral, wear appropriate clothes, no shorts, and shoulders covered (bring a T-shirt along to cover up shoulders).|
|Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – After your visit to the Duomo, go next door to the Galleria for an ice cream. The Galleria, which opened in 1867, was the state-of-the-art covered shopping mall in its day. Don's miss the marvelous mosaics on the floor. The center mosaic is a white cross on red ground, topped with a golden crown, symbolizing the king of a unified Italy. At the corners are four different coats of arms for Rome (wolf), Florence (fleur de lis), Turin (bull), and Milan (red cross on white ground).|
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana & Biblioteca – Cardinal Borromeo collected books and manuscripts, and opened the Biblioteca in 1609, one of the first public libraries in Europe. The Pinacoteca displays paintings from the 15th - 17th century in a palazzo setting.
|The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana has a favorite Leonardo da Vinci painting, Portrait of a Musician. Also in the collection are a painting of the baby Jesus holding a lamb by Bernardino Luini and Portrait of the Duchess of Milan (she's richly dressed and wearing gorgeous pearls). Older kids will enjoy looking at Raphael's detailed full size drawing (cartoon) for his School of Athens fresco. With a touch screen display, each of the figures are identified (Plato has da Vinci's face, Heraclitus has Michangelo's features).|
|In the Biblioteca (library), we saw original da Vinci drawings from his notebooks, such as water pumps, a flying machine, portraits of people, war machines and samples of his backward writing.|
|Tip: The Pinacoteca and Biblioteca are best with older kids. You have to follow a set route through the art museum and library, and there's an aura of "silence." Also, no strollers allowed.|