Piazza del Duomo is the main square of Milan, and its true commercial center for over seven centuries. The square is the vital center of the city, the meeting point of the Milanese to celebrate important events and, together with the adjacent Cathedral of Milan, a desired destination for tourists from all over the world.
The birth of the square can be traced back to Azzone Visconti, Lord of Milan from 1329 until his death, who, in order to create a useful space for mercantile activities, created the Arengo Square between the Churches of Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Tecla.
Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the first Duke of Milan, further enlarged the square, ordering the demolition of the bishop’s house in 1385 and the Baptistery of San Giovanni alle Fonti in 1387.
In 1458, with the blessing of Pope Pius II, Francesco Sforza, the fourth Duke of Milan, obtained permission to demolish the Basilica of Santa Tecla to create a large square worthy of the Duomo, which, at that time, was under construction.
In 1548, the architect Vincenzo Seregni created a new project for the Piazza del Duomo, but due to lack of funds, the only work that was carried out was the demolition of the new Church of Santa Tecla, built in 1481.
During the Napoleonic era, the square was once again enlarged. The project tried to diminish the role of the Duomo in favor of civil buildings. Also in this case, due to lack of money, the project was postponed.
Between 1814 and 1859, during the period of the Restoration, a new project was commissioned by the Emperor Ferdinando I to the architect Giulio Beccaria, but the project was implemented only by a small extent.
The square owes its current appearance to the renovations carried out by the architect Giuseppe Mengoni, which, between 1865 and 1873, considerably widened the former churchyard of the cathedral.
Between 1865 and 1867, Mengoni built the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery and the two Palazzi dei Portici, the palaces that mark the southern and northern boundaries of the square.
After Mengoni’s suspect death on December 30, 1877, his project and the hopes of bringing it to completion also died.
In 1896, the equestrian statue of King Victor Emmanuel II was inaugurated in the centre of the square. In 1928, the architect Piero Portaluppi built the new churchyard and replaced the paving of the square. In 1936, the Arengario Palace was built.
The square, considering also the space enclosed by the surrounding buildings, has an area of about 17,000 square meters, being one of the largest squares in Italy.
Dominated by the imposing Gothic facade of the Duomo, and decorated in the center by the equestrian monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the square is surrounded by various buildings from different periods.
Piazza del Duomo is bordered to the east by the Cathedral of Milan, to the north by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Palazzo dei Portici Settentrionali, to the west by the Carminati Palace, and to the south by the Palazzo dei Portici Meridionali, Palazzo dell’Arengario and the Royal Palace of Milan.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest Metro station is Duomo, on the Metro Line M1, which has many exits to the square. You can also reach the square by tram (Lines 12, 16 and 19) or by bus (Line NM1), getting off at the station with the same name, Duomo, located nearby.