“I could happily live as a guest of heaven on top of the Milan Duomo”

Hermann Melville

 

The city of Milano is also fascinating from above: its belfries, lofty towers, skyscrapers, evocative brick roofs, floral terraces and modern glass and steel penthouses create a wonderful scenario. On the one side, you can glimpse the mountains, the Alps, in the distance, on the other, the eye can see as far as Parco Sud and the Po Valley.

Without forgetting of course that Milano skyline boasts Italy’s tallest skyscraper, in the City Life district, and that the Duomo is the only Gothic church in the world where you can actually walk on the rooftops.

Follow us on our itinerary to discover the best places from which to observe the city from above and where you can reach out to touch the sky with your fingertips.

1. Duomo Terraces

Address: Piazza del Duomo

 

One of the most unforgettable experiences for anyone passing through Milano is undoubtedly a trip up to the Duomo terraces. You can climb up either by stairs (251 steps to reach the first level) or by elevator. It's the world’s largest walkable roof of a Gothic cathedral with its 8000 m2 of terraces.

An evocative forest of spires, sculptures and walkways represent the entire world: from elements of nature such as fruits and leaves to historical figures such as the boxer Primo Carnera or the conductor Arturo Toscanini. In the 1930s it even housed a bar!

 

Whilst strolling around take a close look at the details carved in the marble and then glance beyond the spires: breath-taking views open up before your eyes. On one side you can see the Alps and skyscrapers and, on the other, Palazzo Reale, the Museo del Novecento and the entire city spread out below your eyes.

 

Don’t forget your camera or mobile phone to capture the unique view from the 70-metre belvedere!

Lastly, look up in awe at the Madonnina, the undisputed symbol of Milano, which gleams from the privileged position of the Duomo’s main spire at a height of 108.5 metres.

2. Highline Galleria

Address: Via Silvio Pellico 2

 

Giuseppe Mengoni, the architect who built the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, had always dreamt of offering Milanese and visitors from all over the world a place where to admire the city from above, with the architectural details of the majestic Dome and the Gallery, the imposing Duomo and, for romantics, sunset over the rooftops.

 

Now all this is possible thanks to the Highline Galleria. The original design of the external structures from Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala has been completed and visitors can admire the landscape strolling along with their stop-off terraces.

 

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is 196 metres long and 14.5 metres wide. The rooftop passage runs along the ridges of the roof for 250 metres.

Access is via two fast elevators located inside the courtyard of Via Silvio Pellico 2, adjacent to Piazza Duomo.

 

INTERESTING FACT: the Gallery, unique in its kind, later inspired the Eiffel Tower in1889 (the year of the inauguration of the Expo in France) and the Crystal Palace in London in 1851 (the year of the inauguration of the Expo in the UK).

3. Museo del Novecento

Address: Piazza del Duomo 8

 

The Fontana room of the Museo del Novecento ( (Twentieth-Century Art museum) is the ideal setting for that great Instagram shot that’ll amaze everyone: it offers a breath-taking view of the Duomo and the piazza through the immense wall-to-ceiling glass windows.

 

Take a pause and capture this view, under the light of the neon tubes by Lucio Fontana that adorns the ceiling.

It’s even better at sunset when the marble of the Duomo changes colour depending on the light. The yellow and pink reflections made by the falling sun make the experience even more unforgettable!

4. Torre Branca

Address: Parco Sempione - Viale Luigi Camoens 2

 

The Torre Branca, in Parco Sempione, is 108.6 metres high, slightly exceeding the top spire of the Duomo.

 

Designed as a lictorian tower in the fascist era, and created by the architect Gio Ponti, it was constructed in just 68 days using special steel pipes.
It was reopened for public visits after the restoration carried out by the Distilleria Fratelli Branca, from which it took the name it bears today. 

 

The lift inside the tower takes you up to the belvedere in just under a minute. From there you can enjoy a spectacular view of the park and the entire city, as far as the Alps. The top-to-bottom view of the sculptures positioned above the nearby Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace) is a different experience than seeing them from the ground!

5. Pirelli Skyscraper

Address: Via Fabio Filzi 22

 

The ‘Pirellone’, as it is commonly known to the Milanese, is 127 metres high. It’ the seat of the Regional Concil of Lombardy.

This historic skyscraper, designed by Gio Ponti, looms above the front of the Central Station and welcomes travellers arriving in the city.

It was the first building to exceed the height of the Duomo’s Madonnina statue, which traditionally always had to remain the highest point in the city. For this reason, another gold Madonnina statue was placed on the Pirellone roof, a miniature copy of the ‘sister’ (85 cm compared to the 4.16 metre original). In subsequent years all the skyscrapers that exceeded this height underwent the same procedure.

 

The view from the Belvedere’s 31st floor is stunning and gives an unusual view over the network of train tracks that lead to and from the station.

The Belvedere is open for special events: see updates on the official website.

 

INTERESTING FACT: a pair of peregrine falcons have been nesting on the Pirellone’s roof since 2017. Discovered during the renovation works, the birds Giò and Giulia (named after the architect who designed the palace and his wife) live in an artificial purpose-built nest and, in spring 2019, the family was extended when chicks Leo and Lisa were born. Two webcams have been installed to enable viewers to follow the life of these birds of prey 24/7.  Take a look here.

6. Palazzo Lombardia

Address: Palazzo della Regione Lombardia

 

The Palace, headquarters of the Lombardy Regional Government, is a masterpiece of modern architecture that has dramatically changed the skyline of Milan. A futuristic complex of buildings it stands a total of 161,30 metres tall and it stood as Milan's tallest building until the construction of the nearby Unicredit Tower. This record was yet again beaten by the "Dritto" skyscraper (so-called for its shape straight, the highest in Italy) erected in the City Life district.

 

The unique outline of the building creates a covered square called Piazza Città di Lombardia which, with an area of 4000 m2, is considered to be the largest covered piazza in Europe.

 

At 150 m the panoramic viewpoint is located on the 39th floor and it is Milan's tallest observation deck open to the public (check Regione Lombardia website for all scheduled tours): an experience not to be missed!

 

Window decals illustrate the most important monuments to help visitors locate them in the vast expanse of the city.

7. Monte Stella or Montagnetta di San Siro

Entrances: via Cimabue, via Sant'Elia, via Terzaghi, via Isernia

 

If you don’t really have a head for heights but you like taking a walk in a city park then maybe the Monte Stella, better known as "San Siro Mountain, ) coud be a good option. Built after World War II with the rubble from the bombings, it is 50 metres high, the same height as the hill in the Alfa Romeo Park in the nearby Portello district. A cycle and pedestrian walkway link up the two hills.

 

From here you can enjoy a privileged view of the footbal stadium. If you like sports you can climb teh hill when even top athletic and triathlon sportspersons train.

8. Torre di Fondazione Prada

Address: Largo Isarco 2

 

Fondazione Prada has become one of the most go-to cultural venues in the city thanks to its unique architecture, a renovated historic distillery that has become the avant-garde centre of contemporary art.

 

Aside from the evocative Bar Luce - designed by Wes Anderson and an ideal place for instagramers and influencers in search of the perfect shot - it also has the Hunted House, a striking four-storey building entirely gilded with gold leaf. The contemporary Tower provides a panoramic view with a new perspective over the city.

The south side of the Tower has a diagonal wedge structure fitted with a panoramic lift; it is really well worth taking a ride to enjoy a close look of its interior furnishing with its backlit pink onyx coating that resembles bubble gum and the beautiful view.

 

Exploring the rooms of the Tower where the permanent collection is kept - including Carsten Höller famous ‘circus’ inspired crop of upside-down magic mushrooms or the cubes by the British artist Damien Hirst, you’ll eventually arrive at the panoramic terrace on the 6th floor where the city skyline becomes a work of art in itself.

9. Castello Sforzesco Battlements

Address: Piazza Castello

 

The Sforza Castle has always been the centre of Milan’s life since its construction. The view from its ancient walls takes you back into history and gives a different and fascinating view of the large courtyards, the surrounding park and the city.

 

Don’t miss a tour of the battlements, the ancient walkways along the massive walls used to defended it from attacks. Furthermore, the defensive architecture of the Castle was designed by Leonardo da Vinci!

 

All information can be found on the official website.

10. Ulrico Hoepli Planetarium

Address: Corso Venezia 57

 

The last stage of our itinerary is a bit different from the previous ones: it’s not us who goes up to the sky, but it’s the sky that comes down to us. Or, at least, into the Planetarium dome, one of the most fascinating places in Milano.

 

Inaugurated in 1930, it’s the largest of its kind in Italy and takes its name from the device installed therein - the planetarium - which is an extremely-realistic projection system that reproduces the starry sky and all the astronomical phenomena observable from any place on earth in the past, present and future. It is placed in the centre of a room surmounted by a hemispherical dome which acts as a projection screen.

 

The profile of the carved panels at the base of the internal surface of the dome reproduces the silhouettes of the buildings on the horizon of Milan as they appeared in the 1930s from the gardens of Porta Venezia. Today the city skyline has most definitely altered but seeing that profile on the wall is like taking an unforgettable leap back in time.

 

Book your place for one of the many events at the Planetarium to immerse yourself in the starry sky above... sitting comfortably in the centre of Milan!

 

INTERESTING FACT: in 1969 the screening of the moon landing was broadcast at the Planetarium.