Tour Locations | The Mysteries of Milan: From the Duomo to the Royal Palace
Duomo Di Milano
Hello and welcome to Milan. My name’s Deborah Robinson and when I moved from Glasgow to live in Milan back in 1986 it was already renowned for being one of the coolest cities in Europe, as well as Italy’s fashion and design capital. But what many people often don’t know is that this land-locked city once had the country’s most thriving river port. Much of its wealth was made possible by the abundance of water from minor rivers that trickled down from the northern lakes. Water was a sacred element for the Celts and that’s probably one of the reasons why a tribe known as the Celtic Insubres, decided to settle here in the 6th century BC. They called it Medhelan. In their ancient language that meant land in the middle but it also meant sanctuary. Perhaps they even dedicated it to their goddess Belisama. There’s no trace of water in the city nowadays but there are many lesser known corners that still tell interesting stories of the people who’ve lived here. I became a tourist guide in 2010 so that I could share them with our visitors, who, like you, take some time out to go and explore.
Time is something that many of the locals, or the Milanesi, often say they don’t have because they are too busy working hard and making money. That’s why, on first appearances, they often seem too preoccupied for anyone but when you get to know them a bit better nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, it’s a city that welcomes everyone and that’s what makes it so eclectic and entertaining.
You should be facing the majestic Duomo of Milan, the fourth largest cathedral in the world. It was started in 1386 but it would take close on 6 centuries to complete. So that makes it one of the longest construction works of all times. But no single person can take the merit for its building. The entire population took part, both rich and poor alike. Those who worked on it knew they would never see it completed but they joined in nevertheless. It would be an enterprise that would unite everybody because it was going to be their cathedral, a symbol of civic pride.
Look up at the statues on the façade but try not to get a sore neck.
There are more than 3,400 both outside and inside plus 135 spires on the rooftops. But there’s one statue in particular that I always like to point out. Can you see the lady on the left of the balcony halfway up? She’s wearing a crown and in her right hand she’s holding a torch aloft. Doesn’t she remind you of the Statue of Liberty? Well the truth is she was created in 1810 so that’s a long time before the more famous version made its appearance to welcome immigrants to New York. Our Lady Liberty has a different message. She’s an allegory of the New Testament and the statue on the right-hand side of the balcony symbolizes the Old Testament.
Much of the ornamentation on the façade was only put in place in the late 1800s and it gives the Cathedral its gothic appearance. This new architectural style was late in coming to Italy so in the early stages of building stone masons were brought in from Cologne, Prague and Paris to lend their expertise. Well, the local architects didn’t appreciate any criticism of their centuries-old traditions. And because they were very powerful they forced the Duke to bow to their wishes. So he fired his favourite Parisian engineer, who said the whole building risked collapsing. Well this didn’t happen and the result is a truly unique hybrid of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
If you'd like to pop inside to have a look, you're welcome to do so now. Just pause the tour, and when you're done, come back to this spot and press play.
[3 SECONDS PAUSE]
Otherwise, let's begin!
Facing the Duomo, turn to your right and walk towards the street.
While you’re walking let me tell you briefly how VoiceMap works.
It uses your location to play automatically at the right time and place. You’ve also got a map if you want to check out where you are or take a break. If you think I’ve gone silent don’t worry, I’ll always be back at the right time. And if you do wander off track, the app will let you know.