Top 3 pieces of religious architecture in Milan

If you’re organising a trip to Milan, I dare say you have things like hitting the designer stores in mind – this city is, after all, one of Europe’s fashion capitals. But did you know that it’s also home to some absolutely incredible religious architecture? This makes a little church-based sightseeing a must.

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For those of you whose interests tend more towards traditional cultural attractions than shopping, I’m sure this fact will have already caught your attention. The shopaholics among you, however, might not at first see the appeal of discovering ecclesiastical buildings, but trust me – these form some of the city’s most spectacular and compelling sights.

To make covering all the attractions that interest you a bit easier, it’s a good idea to organise to hire a car at Milan airport. This way, you’ll have maximum freedom to visit attractions both within and outside the city without having to build your itinerary around public transport.

Turning our attention back to religious architecture, though, here are three sites I think you really shouldn’t miss.

Without doubt, the top religious building in Milan is the spectacular Duomo di Milano, a Gothic masterpiece located in the Piazza del Duomo. Open daily from 07:00 to 19:00 local time, the cathedral is free to explore – but you’ll need to be prepared to pay a small fee for the best bits, which include going up to the roof and exploring the baptisteries of Santo Stefano and San Giovanni.

This colossal building spans 11,700 sq m, but for me the most impressive thing about it isn’t its size, but rather its artistry. The whole building is made from a beautiful pink-tinged white marble, decorated with stunning statues, sculptures and paintings. Highlights include the gilded statue of Madonnina, the ornate grand doors and the stained glass windows.

It’s also well worth visiting the Tesoro del Duomo, which is a real treasure trove of a collection of religious art – ‘tesoro’, in fact, translates as ‘treasure’. Don’t miss the chance to climb to the top of the building, from where you’ll get glorious views not only across the city, but over the bustling piazza below.

Next on my list is Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, which is on the Corso Magenta. Boasting ancient origins, this building once housed the most important female convent in the entire Benedictine order; today, it is where you will find the Archaeological Museum of Milan.

It’s generally believed that the building was the work of Gian Giacomo Dulcebuono, who was an architect and sculptor. Looking at the building from the outside, you might not know it was anything particularly special, since its appearance is relatively plain. Inside, however, it’s a totally different story, with this place being famous for its ornate gold decorations.

Last on my list – though by no means the only other good example of religious architecture in the city – is the Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore. This early Christian basilica can be found at Corso di Porta Ticinese, where it stands as a wonderful piece of living heritage.

Dating all the way back to the 5th century, the building has – as you would expect – undergone several restorations in its lifetime, including a particularly large one in 1573, when the cupola collapsed. And thanks to this care and attention, it’s still as spectacular as ever and, as an added bonus, it’s free to enter.

While you’re here, make sure you don’t miss the famous mosaic of Christ among the apostles, which was created in the 4th century and can be seen in the Chapel of Saint Aquilinus. As a quick parting tip, you can’t visit the cathedral when mass is taking place – so that’s something to be aware of when planning when to visit each attraction.

A photographer’s guide to Venice

Taking pictures is a quintessential part of any holiday and I think you should always try to get a few shots of wherever you go. However, if you have a particular passion for photography – whether you’re a professional snapper or an avid amateur – I recommend you take a break to a city that contains a wealth of beautiful sights and period architecture. One such destination is Venice.

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With the Italian city commonly regarded as being one of the most romantic places to be found in Europe, if not the world, I’m quite confident that you’ll find plenty of great spots in which to take some snaps.

However, the city’s significant size – its population consists of some 280,000 people who are spread out across more than 100 islands – means you should be prepared to put in some hard work to uncover the best places for capturing fantastic photos.

Once you’ve taken care of the essentials, such as booking a flight from Britain to Venice and sorting out accommodation, as well as – of course – ensuring that you pack all the photographic equipment you need (such as lenses, memory cards and tripods), here’s some of the best places to visit with your camera in hand.

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco (or St Mark’s Square, as it translates in English) is, without a doubt, one of Venice’s most stunning attractions. Indeed, Napoleon is widely believed to have referred to the 13th-century public square as ‘the drawing room of Europe’, such is its beauty.

Come here and you’ll not only get to look at the pretty Euganean trachyte flagstones that line the square, but will also get to take in views of some of the Venice’s most famous landmarks – including the Doge’s Palace and the Campanile – and indulge in a bit of people-watching from one of the many cafes that line the square.

As you might imagine, Piazza San Marco can get very crowded with tourists – especially if you come during the peak summer holiday season – so, if you want to get some really good shots, you should head here in the early morning just as the sun is rising. Doing so allows you to soak up the square before it becomes filled with noisy holidaymakers, so you’ll be able to snap locals going about their day-to-day lives.

Grand Canal

Venice is famous for its intricate network of waterways, though there aren’t any which are large or as well known as the Grand Canal. Meandering down this stretch of water, whether in your own private gondola or on a water taxi (which is the city’s main form of public transport) enables you to capture shots of buildings from a very different perspective compared to what you would get on dry land.

I advise you travel down the canal in the evening, as the setting sun casts interesting shadows against the city’s many bridges. Among the most fascinating crossings that go over the canal is the Scalzi Bridge, with any pictures of this landmark sure to be a highlight of your holiday photo album.

Burano

As I mentioned before, Venice is split across more than 100 isles thus creating lots of opportunities to capture fantastic photos. However, I think the tiny island of Burano is an especially good place for keen photographers to get some shots. This part of the city is famous for its brightly-coloured homes – which you’ll find are coated in blue, pink and other vivid shades – while the Galuppi Square is a great place for some people-spotting.

The weekly market held every Wednesday is another great location to take some pictures. With traditional Venetian masks and freshly-caught seafood among the items available to purchase here, there’s plenty of scope to take some colourful photos.