Religious Sights Walking Tour, Milan (Self Guided)

Milan may be a world fashion capital and an European financial capital, but religion, and "the church" in particular, remain a major part of Milanese life. Many of the churches that you see today have undergone reconstruction or renovation, as preserving historic and religious heritage is one of the city's priorities. Take this tour to visit some of the most notable places of worship in Italy.
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Religious Sights Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Religious Sights Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Milan (See other walking tours in Milan)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 km
Author: kane
San Fedele

1) San Fedele

The title is a canon of the church Santa Maria della Scala in San Fedele. After a decade near the church was built a great college that until 1763 was the main house of Lombardy of the Jesuits. Here stands the old image once called Madonna of the dancers and singers. The particular advance of the Baroque of the first altar on the right flanked by two angels who gracefully detach from their capitals and columns hold up the slant, giving an impression of fragility and lightness.
Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral)

2) Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) (must see)

Milan Cathedral, also called Duomo, is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan and the largest church in Italy (third largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world) covering an area of 12,000 sqm and weighing 325,000 tons.

The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Mary Nascent and has been a central part of the city's life since 1386. Its foundation was laid by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, who died in 1402, when only half of the structure was completed, upon which construction came to a standstill for almost 80 years due to the lack of both funds and ideas. It resumed in 1500 and by 1510 the octagonal dome was completed and embellished with four series of 15 statues representing different characters from the Bible. In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte forced completion of the façade which overall took another seven years. In honor of his efforts, a statue of Napoleon was erected at the top of one of the spires. Later, Duomo also saw his crowning ceremony.

Only in the 20th century was the Duomo fully completed. Inaugurated on January 6, 1965, the completion of the last gate marked the very end of the centuries-long process. A visit to the roof and the Paleo Christian baptistery beneath the west end are part of the Duomo attraction. The rooftop offers a closer look at the intricate details of the spires and the gargoyles which adorn it. You have to climb a huge 201 stairs to reach the top. However, those who wish to avoid the stairs can use an elevator. The view from the top, about 70 meters high, is spectacular with myriads of statues, pinnacles, tracery and flying buttresses. Climbing all the way up through winding narrow passageways is rewarded with a wonderful and breathtaking panorama of the city!

Why You Should Visit:
The Duomo is Milan's one and only must-see sight – its exterior a vast riot of ornate religious sculpture, its interior sublimely huge.

Buy the online skip-the-line tickets that include the church entry and access to the elevator to view the rooftop.
The experience of the surrounding piazza is at its finest at night when the whole facade is lit by white lights.

Opening Hours:
[Cathedral] Daily: 8am-7pm (last ticket: 6pm; last entry: 6:10pm)
[Rooftops] Daily: 9am-7pm (last ticket: 6pm; last entry: 6:10pm)
Santa Maria presso San Satiro

3) Santa Maria presso San Satiro (must see)

Commonly known as San Satiro, this Italian Renaissance structure (1476-1482) just south of the Duomo in Milan houses the early-medieval shrine to Satyrus, brother of Saint Ambrose. The church is known for its false apse, an early example of trompe l'œil, attributed to Donato Bramante.

Dating back to the 800s, the structure was renovated in the second half of the 1400s by Donato Bramante, after Duke Gian Galeazzo Sforza commissioned a new church for his city. The Duke wanted to build a huge church but the location available to him was very small due to the busy street. The choir, the space behind the altar, had to be reduced, making the church awkwardly short.

Many famous architects and painters participated in designing a church in such a way that it would fit on a tiny plot. In order to solve this problem, Bramante devised an ingenious solution by painting an optical illusion. Though architectural optical illusion was popular in the late Renaissance and Baroque, Bramante gave it an entirely new dimension. If you stand at the entrance of the edifice you will have an impression of a much deeper space giving the illusion of the altar far behind than is physically possible. Special lightings inside the church were used to help create this effect. The illusion, however, quickly disappears when you step aside from the main axis of the church. The magic reappears when you step back.

Why You Should Visit:
There aren't many places like this in Milan: small, half-hidden, and ready to reveal themselves only to those who know how to discover them.
Entry is free and photos are allowed, so you can easily have a look at the views of its interior. The perspective effect at the end is simply stunning.

As in other churches in town, volunteers will offer you a short explanation about the history and art of the building, so be sure to take advantage.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-12pm / 2:30-6pm; Sun: 2-5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Sant'Alessandro in Zebedia

4) Sant'Alessandro in Zebedia

The Church of Sant'Alessandro in Zebedia, built in 1589, is a Baroque style church with two lateral bell towers. One functions as a clock whilst the other has been a belfry since 1643. The church comprises of a principal building on the Greek cross plan with a central dome.

Built by Barnabite monks in the 9th century, the church has a centralized plan with a cupola that serves as a presbytery. The interior is decorated with precious paintings in the Lombard tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries. Federico Borromeo laid the foundation stone in 1602. The design was done by Lorenzo Birago and the church was built on an area where there was once an antique oratory dedicated to Saint Pancras. Saint Zebedia prison was also present there in which, it is thought, martyr Alessandro was held.

There is a lobby with wooden insets in front of the entrance of the church. It leads to the church through one of the two existing doors: three naves separated by large pillars and buttress. The central area is lined with benches for the faithful. Baptismal font is also present along with a harmonium and a beautiful, sacred image of the Virgin Mary.

Platform is embedded with precious stones. The whole altar structure is in green marble and covered with precious gems. The walls of the presbytery are decorated by six paintings which date back to 1687 and show scenes from the Saint's life. There are thirteen confessionals present in this monumental church, two of which are made of walnut and have marble insets.

Milanese families donated generously to the building of the church and obtained patronage of many chapels. The remains of Saint Alexander are also preserved in this chapel.

It is a peaceful and relaxing place which takes one away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Your visit to this church will take you to a journey of heavenly bliss.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Santa Maria Presso San Celso

5) Santa Maria Presso San Celso

In order to house a miraculous image of the Madonna, Gian Giacomo Dolcebuono and Giovanni Battagio started the construction of a church in 1493. Octagonal dome was built first which was covered externally by a tambour with a veranda. Twelve brickwork statues made by Agostino De Fondulis and designed in Lombard style were used to decorate the arcades.

A compound with nave and two aisles was added to the original structure in 1506. The structure is covered by a colossal barrel tomb. A square entrance in classical style was added in the 16th century. Galeazzo Alessi designed the massive façade in the late 16th century. Statues and reliefs made by Stoldo Lorenzi and Annibale Fontana are used for decorating the church. In the left transept, a respected marble statue of the Assunta by Annibale Fontana (1586) with two angels by Giulio Cesare Procaccini, is housed within the altar.

A Romanesque Church of San Celso dedicated to the martyr Saint Celsus, is situated next to Santa Maria. The bell tower erected in the church is from the 11th century. A rose window in the frontage and animal figures on the Romanesque style entrance add to the magnificence of the church.

Santa Maria Church conceals its charm behind sober facade and reveals its treasures only to the attentive visitors.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio

6) Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio (must see)

Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio is primarily a 12th-century church standing on the remains of a much older church. Founded in the 4th century and situated in Milan, it was the main centre for many pilgrims who used to travel to Rome or to the Holy Land. The tomb of Three Magi or Three Kings is present in this church. The name refers to Eustorgius, the elected 9th Bishop of Milan in 343 who translated the supposed relics of the Magi to the city from Constantinople in 344.

St Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, ordered the construction of the first church here to house the remains of the Three Magi which he brought back with her from the Holy Land. Frederic Barbarossa stole them in 1162. He then shifted the relics of the Magi to Cologne. In 1903, the pieces of bones and garments were sent back to Sant'Eustorgio. These are now stored in the altar near the empty Three Kings stone coffins. Even today the bell tower is prevailed by a star instead of the traditional cross in the memory of the Three Kings.

Portinari Chapel is the most remarkable part of the church. In Lombardy, it presents the most important examples of Renaissance art. It has mural paintings done on plaster by Vincenzo Foppa and a marble grave by Giovanni di Balduccio.

A separate doorway leads through to the cloister to Paleo Christian burial site, once outside the city walls. The graves date back to the early 4th century and belonged to those martyred for their faith. Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio is an absolute masterpiece of Romanesque architecture.

To understand the history of this church, start your visit with its museum which requires a ticket, but do yourself a favor and go – you'll see one of the most beautiful chapels around among other treasures.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 7:30am-12pm / 3:30-6:30pm; Sun: 8:45am-1pm / 3:30-6:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
San Vincenzo in Prato

7) San Vincenzo in Prato

San Vincenzo in Prato is a church established by the Lombard king Desiderius in 770. Originally this church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. When the relics of St. Vincent were found in an urn in the crypt, it was rededicated to him. The name in Prato is derived from its location in the "Prata" area owned by bishop Odelpertus.

The basilica of San Vincenzo in Prato is the only one in the city of Milan that has entirely maintained its original Palaeo-Christian appearance. It is situated on the ruins of a Roman temple.

A Benedictine convent was added to the church in 806. At the end of the 9th century and in the early 10th century, the deteriorating church was rebuilt keeping its old appearance. The baptistery on the exterior has an octagonal structure. It dates back to the 9th century while a column-shaped front dates back to even earlier years. The convent was finished in 1520 and in 1598 the church was restored and turned over to a rural community.

The basilica is made in brickwork, the interior is on a nave and two aisles with wooden spans ceiling. The columns belong to different ages. A large apse exists at the end of the elevated choir. A nave and two aisles divided by ten small columns with sculpted capitals also exists under the presbytery.

San Vincenzo in Prato offers a variety of styles and striking details that are well worth getting to know. Its monumental richness is appreciated and enjoyed daily by many Milanese and tourists alike.
Sight description based on wikipedia
San Cristoforo sul Naviglio

8) San Cristoforo sul Naviglio (must see)

San Cristoforo sul Naviglio is a church complex in Milan comprising two churches. Standing along the left bank of the canal in a suburban area, these constructions are still identifiable. The left one is the most ancient, which is known to be a Romanesque reconstruction of a far more ancient edifice (probably in turn located on the site of a Roman temple). The Romanesque edifice was again rebuilt in the 13th century when the Naviglio Grande was excavated. In the mid-14th century, it received the Gothic portal and rose window.

The more recent church, which currently is united to the other and gives the appearance of a single edifice, was constructed along the naviglio (navigational canal) bank in the 15th century, and then called Ducal Chapel. It was commissioned by Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti in order to provide a holy edifice and dedicated to St Christopher, the protector of ill people. The intercession of St Christopher was said to have ended the onslaught of the plague during 1399, that had killed some 20,000 Milanese. The façade sports the Visconti coat of arms, while the older church has the heraldic symbols of Cardinal Pietro Filargo, then bishop of Milan and later pope as Alexander V.

Ducal Chapel is one of the best examples of Gothic Lombard style displayed both inside and outside. It is decorated with paintings from the 15th and early 16th centuries, and is dedicated to the patrons of the House of Visconti – Saints John the Baptist and James, and Blessed Christina. In 1405, the counter front elevation of the Ducal Chapel was decorated with a Madonna Enthroned and Saints and a Crucifixion.

The current bell tower is a 15th-century enlargement of the original one, with conical cusp and mullioned windows. The interior, turned into two naves in 1625 with the demolition of the wall separating the two churches, has a wooden ceiling in the left nave with fragments of frescoes by Bergognone on the wall. The apse houses frescoes of Bernardino Luini's school, portraying the Father with Angels and the symbols of the Evangelists, and Saints. The right nave has two spans with Gothic frescoes on the walls. There is also a notable wooden statue (14th century) representing St. Christopher and the Child.

San Cristoforo sul Naviglio is an architectural wealth. Visitors all over the world come to view these architectural masterpieces and monuments.

Before or after your visit, make sure to explore the Navigli district – a fabulous Bohemian suburb with boutiques, bookshops, restaurants, cafes & bars. A wonderful place to stroll around to enjoy people watching, eating gelatos' or dropping into one of the waterfront canal bars for tasting the 'aperitivo' buffets or having a local beer in the early evenings.
There are plenty of boat tours available located on the canal frontage Alzaia Naviglio Grande. The canals were used in the medieval days to transport goods & are a huge part of Milan's heritage.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-12pm; 3:30-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Milan, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Milan

Create Your Own Walk in Milan

Creating your own self-guided walk in Milan is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
West Centro Walking Tour

West Centro Walking Tour

Milan is a city steeped in history, but also a strategic economic center for Italy, as well as an international fashion hub. Thousands of tourists are attracted to the city's striking historic sites, as well as designer shops and other great places to explore. Take this tour and visit the main sites in Milan's Centro Storico.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 km
Core of Centro Storico Walking Tour

Core of Centro Storico Walking Tour

Milan is a city that boasts both historic and modern architecture. It is also a strategic economic center for Italy and is home to the country's stock exchange. Thousands of tourists are attracted to the city's striking historic sites like the La Scala opera house and the famous Duomo, as well as designer shops and other great places to explore.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 km
Shopping Streets and Spots

Shopping Streets and Spots

Milan is a world-renown fashion and design capital. Here, you can find most of the world's top fashion brands, from Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana to Levi's and Diesel. Fashion is the second religion in Milan and this self-guided tour will take you to the worship places of the fashionistas and shopaholics.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 km
Central Milan Souvenir Shopping

Central Milan Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Milan without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Milan, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 km
Centro Museums and Galleries

Centro Museums and Galleries

Milan is not only the business and fashion center of Italy, it also a cultural center. The city of Milan offers numerous cultural activities, as well as countless art galleries and museums that exhibit some of the world's most famous and imposing artworks and artifacts. Most of these cultural centers are located in the very heart of Milan and within a pleasant walk.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 km
City Orientation Walking Tour

City Orientation Walking Tour

Throughout its 2,000+ year-long history Milan has accumulated an impressive collection of architectural monuments, thanks to some of the best artists and architects this world had ever seen who blessed the city with their presence. Masterpieces like the Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, housing Leonardo da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper,” vividly...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Milan's Best Aperitivo Venues

Milan's Best Aperitivo Venues

Apéritifs usually are alcoholic drinks that are normally served before a meal. But in Milan the Aperitivo can actually become a fun, cheap (but not unchic) dinner with friends or (in a romantic venue) with a date. The all-you-can-eat formula allows you to buy just one drink and serve yourself with...
Sweet Shops of Milan

Sweet Shops of Milan

This guide will undoubtably make your trip to Milan a sweet one. Most locations are in the city centre, whilst others are set in older headquarters, that boast incredible landmarks and hidden beauties. Milan is habitually associated to fashion and business but has some exquisite examples of art...
16 Best Pastry Shops in Milan Italy

16 Best Pastry Shops in Milan Italy

Are you looking to satisfy your sweet tooth with genuine, locally-made Italian pastries and drink real “espresso”? This guide covers the best pastry shops/cafes in Milan, the capital of fashion and excellent northern Italian food. Places where one can drink coffee or tea and eat some of the...
Milan's Fashion Restaurants & Bars

Milan's Fashion Restaurants & Bars

Milan is a city well known for luxurious fashion and shopping. With this guide your designer experience doesn't have to end at the stores and boutiques. Almost every major Italian fashion house (as well as a few foreign ones) has entered the food, beverage, or hospitality businesses in Milan,...
12 Cafes To Visit in Milan

12 Cafes To Visit in Milan

The industrial capital of Italy and one of the world's fashion and business centers, today's Milan is teeming with chaotic urban rush on a daily basis. Although it can't compete with Rome in terms of history, art and architecture, there are hidden gems in Milan well worth searching...
Souvenir Shopping Guide: 16 Italian Goods Worth Buying in Milan

Souvenir Shopping Guide: 16 Italian Goods Worth Buying in Milan

Needless to say much about Milan and the things the city is famous for. From fashion and luxury to football and Berlusconi, the list is long. Still, some of the distinctively Milanese items may pass unnoticed to the eye of a stranger, if not caringly pointed in the right direction by a knowledgeable...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Milan for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Milan has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Milan's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Milan Pass and Milano Card.

A city pass combines all or multiple Milan's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Milan hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: TownHouse Galleria, Room Mate Giulia, Maison Milano | UNA Esperienze.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Milan, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Milan typically costs from around US$25 up to US$80 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Milan from the open top of the bus, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get off at any of the stops along the three interconnecting routes (your ticket is valid for all three).

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour – this usually lasts 3 hours and allows visitors to get a real sense of the city. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have done by walking.

- Pedal your way around Milan on a bike tour (3 to 3.5 hours) visiting the city's most spectacular sights, stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Enjoy a day of art, food, wine and sightseeing on a 3-hour tour of Milan following in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci! A great combination of the Renaissance, appetizers, and wines to help one unwind in a true Milanese style at one of the city's most fascinating spots.

- Take a walk deeper “under the skin” of Italy’s fashion capital. Skip lines to Milan's Duomo and Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” to save more time for visiting other iconic local attractions and experiencing the true spirit of Milan.

- Spend 3 hours sightseeing the center of Milan led by a knowledgeable local guide, exploring the city's most notable attractions like the Duomo, Piazza de’ Mercanti, the Loggia, via Dante, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the Scala Theatre and many other prominent locations.

- Enjoy exclusive access “behind the scenes” of the Milanese Fashion District on the one and only Milano fashion tour visiting a number of the city's top ateliers and fashion stores. The tour guides have worked there for years themselves, so they know the fashion industry inside out to ensure you see only the best boutiques.

Day Trips

If you have a day to spare whilst in Milan, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Venice, the Cinque Terre, a combo of Genoa and Portofino, Lake Como, or Lake Maggiore. For as little as circa US$80 to US$150 per person you will get a chance to discover the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites including breathtaking Venice, small piece of paradise in the form of five little villages hanging from cliffs over the sea, glamorous coastal towns of the Italian Riviera, and the scenic Italian Lake District. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight at your hotel or a designated place in Milan, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach, minibus, boat or a private vehicle (whichever is applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.