“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. 251 steps to reach the first level, or a quick ride in the elevator, lead to 8000m2 of terraces, the world’s largest walkable roof of a Gothic cathedral.

An evocative forest of spires, sculptures and walkways represent the entire world: from elements of nature such as fruits and leaves to historical characters 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 that surrounds you 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, as the original design of the external structures from Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala has been completed and visitors can stroll along walkways with their stop-off terraces specially built to admire the landscape.

 

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is 196 metres long and 14.5 metres wide, and 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 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.

 

Pause a moment from visiting the Museum collections to capture this view, under the light of the immense neon created 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 and 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 period, and created by the architect Gio Ponti, it was constructed in just 68 days using special steel pipes.
Following the restructuring carried out by the Distilleria Fratelli Branca, from which it took the name it bears today, it was reopened for public visits.

 

The lift inside the tower takes you up to the belvedere in just under a minute, from which 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 is a different experience than seeing them from the ground!

5. Pirelli Skyscraper

Address: Via Fabio Filzi 22

 

Headquarters of the Lombardy Region since 2011, the ‘Pirellone’, as it is commonly known to the Milanese, is 127 metres high. 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 statute, 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: since 2017 a pair of peregrine falcons have made the roof of the Pirellone their home. 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: Piazza Città di Lombardia

 

The new Palazzo della Regione Lombardia is a masterpiece of modern architecture that has dramatically changed the skyline of Milano: a futuristic complex of buildings, headquarters of the Lombardy government. Standing at 161.30 metres high, for a certain period of time it was the tallest building in Milano. This record was beaten when the nearby Unicredit tower was constructed and, yet again, when the "Dritto" skyscraper (so-called for its shape, the highest in Italy) was constructed in the City Life district.

 

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

 

The 150 metre-high Belvedere on the 39th floor is Milano’s peak viewing point open to the public: an experience not to be missed!

Important monuments are illustrated on the glass windows to help visitors locate them in the vast expanse of the city. Dates for free entry are available on the Regione website.

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 (the so-called "San Siro mountain") may be more for you. Built after the war with the rubble from the bombings, it is 50 metres high, the same height as the hill in the Alfa Romeo Park at Portello, and is connected to Monte Stella by a cycle and pedestrian walkway.

 

From here you can enjoy a privileged view of the San Siro Meazza Stadium and the city and, if you like sports, as you climb the hill you can work out on the paths as even top athletic and triathlon sportspersons train here! 

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 a mecca 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. Then the contemporary Tower inside the museum grounds 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; well worth taking a ride in both for a close look of its interior furnishing with its backlit pink onyx coating that resembles bubble gum, and for the panorama.

 

Exploring the rooms of the Tower where the Foundation’s 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 Castello Sforzesco has always been the centre of Milano’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.

 

So don’t miss a tour of the battlements, the ancient walkways along the massive walls used by the guards who defended the castle from attacks. Well worth remembering is that most of the ancient defence systems were designed by Leonardo da Vinci!

 

All you need are some comfortable shoes and a yearning to explore a view from above that is different from all the others!

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 Milano as they appeared in the 1930s from the gardens of Porta Venezia, when the building was constructed. 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 ... whilst sitting comfortably in the centre of Milano!

 

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