Il Duomo – Milan, Lombardy, Italy
The Country’s Masterpiece Gothic Confection
For sheer size and shock value, few buildings surpass Milan’s Duomo. It is the world’s largest Gothic cathedral (the only larger cathedral in any style is St. Peter’s in Rome), begun in 1386 under the Viscontis and not completed until 100 years ago.
Its 135 marble spires and 2,245 marble statues could keep you busy looking at it for days, though well- heeled Milanese women, Zegna-suited gents, and too-cool teens pass through the spacious piazza without giving this mad wedding-cake confection so much as a fare-thee-well.
An elevator to the roof offers the chance to stroll amid the fanciful forest of white marble pinnacles (which take on a rose tinge if the light is right) and to study the flying buttresses up close. There are stunning views over Italy’s most frenetic city, while a glimpse of the Swiss Alps 50 miles away can be had when the notorious Milanese fog and pollution aren’t obliterating the view.
The interior is spartan and almost always virtually empty despite the potential seating for 40,000—whom were they expecting? Shelley swore this was the best place anywhere to read Dante as it remains naturally cool even during the hottest of afternoons. True, if you can ignore the gruesome statue of St. Bartolomeo who, flayed alive, is depicted holding his own skin.