Discovering Duomo, San Babila, and the Fashion District:
where history meets design and innovation
Piazza Duomo, Piazza San Babila and the “quadrilatero della moda” are considered to be the most exclusive areas of Milan, being the very heart of the city. From monuments and churches to interesting museum and fancy stores, there you can grasp Milan’s core spirit: let yourself breathe the sense of modernity while enjoying Italy’s timeless culture and art.
Duomo: the origin
The Cathedral of Milan is one of the most famous churches in Italy. It’s of great dimensions and it’s composed of big dark marble blocks with long carved columns that reach the ceiling. Among the most stunning parts are its beautiful stained glass windows. The construction of the building is one of the longest in history: it took place over a period of five centuries, starting in 1386 and ending only in 1965. This incredible project resulted in a unique architectural work, which mixes the famous and well-renown Gothic style with the more traditional Lombard architecture.
The history of Piazza San Babila and its surroundings
The neighborhood of San Babila, which is just a few steps from Piazza Duomo, takes its name from the big “piazza”, right where the Basilica of San Babila stands with its renowned column and lion. The basilica is said to have been the first Catholic church in Milan and its site has a nearly thousand-year history. The square was originally a small churchyard, which was later on enlarged due to an increase in population at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 60s, in what was then Largo San Babila, the construction of the M1 metro line started and the homonymous station was inaugurated to the public in 1964.
In 1997, a very curious and modern fountain was designed and built in the middle of Piazza San Babila by Italian architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni. At first sight, the top of the fountain might appear like a plain concrete pyramid, though it is said to symbolize, together with the streams of water and the bigger pool around it, the region’s complex ecosystem: Lombardia, where Milan is located, is a very rich land in terms of nature and landscape, with planes, mountains, lakes and rivers, all well-represented by San Babila fountain.
Landmarks you can’t miss
1. Of course, everything in the famous Piazza Duomo, which is only a few minutes away from San Babila, is worth a visit. With its rectangular shape, the square has always been the very center of religious and political power throughout the centuries.
- Starting from the Duomo itself, it offers different attractions: the Cathedral, an archeological area, a museum with temporary exhibitions, a very cool rooftop (from where you can see the whole piazza). We recommend to book your tickets in advance since the Duomo is probably Milan’s most visited landmark and lines could be overwhelmingly long. Visit the website to find out about different fares! https://ticket.duomomilano.it/en/
- On the side of the Duomo, you can stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which connects Piazza Duomo with Piazza della Scala and was originally built to match similar galleries that other European cities were showing off in the 1800s. Inside the gallery, tourists may visit different fancy design stores together with high quality restaurants.
- If you’re more into arts and museums, you can’t miss the Museo del Novecento, which is located on the other side of the Piazza. Other than having a wonderful modern art collection, counting on different pieces by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century, the museum offers a very unique architecture and one of the very best view over the Duomo! Click here to get you tickets and to find out more about the museum: https://www.museodelnovecento.org/en/visit. Remember: the museum closes on Mondays.
- Next to Museo del Novecento, you can also schedule a visit to the Palazzo Reale, which usually hosts a great number of arts exhibits and temporary collections. Opening hours varies depending on days and season, therefore we recommend to check for ticket availability in advance on the website https://www.palazzorealemilano.it/en.
2. Being what gives name to the whole area, you definitely need to check out Piazza San Babila with its fountains and Basilica:
- You can visit the church, which is part of the “Comunità Pastorale Santi Profeti”, for free. For more information on opening hours visit the website https://santiprofeti.it/orari-apertura-chiese/ .
- Not far from the piazza, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you’ll find the Church of San Carlo, which was built in neoclassical style and features a magnificent colonnade. With its resemblance to Ancient Roman architecture, this church may appear very old, but it’s actually way more modern compared to the Basilica of San Babila, since it was built in the 1830s. Nevertheless, its majestic bell tower is the tallest in the city. The church offers free admission.
3. Remember, you are in the heart of fashion! Even though the “quadrilatero della moda” is considered to be out of reach for many, you can still walk around and enjoy luxurious designers’ displays and sports car. It’s part of Milan’s experience!
Hey, stop for a treat!
Of all the areas and districts in Milan, Duomo and San Babila is probably the most heterogeneous in terms of bars and restaurants, with many options with very different price ranges. You can fill your belly with a couple of euros, or you can enjoy incredible views while sipping a good cocktail, or you can even plan a tasting experience in some of the best restaurants in the country. It’s all up to you (and your wallet!). Here’s a few suggestions:
- You can start your day off with some good pastries at Cova, an elegant and historic “pasticceria” located right on Via Montenapoleone. For a special treatment, walk all the way up to Marchesi and wait to be seated in one of their cute tables overlooking Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. You might have to wait a few minutes in line, but it’ll be worth it! If you’re in a rush, grab a quick coffee “al bancone”, like a true Milanese!
- You can’t be in the area and not stop for a “panzerotto” at Luini‘s! Originally a southern Italian specialty, the “panzerotto” is a small calzone, made of fried dough and filled with different ingredients. The perfect street food! Speaking of tradition, if you’re a pizza lover you need to check out Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo, which originated in Naples but has now opened a fair number of locations in Milan as well.
- Fancy a glass of wine with a nice charcuterie board? Signorvino is the right place for you! There you can also find traditional pasta dishes and main courses at reasonable prices. Going up with prices, we also recommend Spazio Niko Romito on Piazza Duomo, which offer an exclusive location and a very refined menu.
- Time for aperitivo! Go full-out and reserve a seat on the famous Terrazza Aperol, from which you can overlook the whole Piazza Duomo down below! For a more traditional experience, grab a Negroni or a classic Campari at Camparino in Galleria, which has served aperitivo to Milanese people since 1915.
- As the ultimate gourmet experience, we need to mention Ristorante Cracco, which offers both a premium quality cafe and a sophisticated restaurant, managed by the well-known Italian Chef Carlo Cracco. Treat yourself and book a table to dive yourself in what will probably be a sensational tasting journey.
Where to sleep? With us of course!
With RELSTAY, you can sleep in the very heart of San Babila, in our conveniently located accommodation. Located on Via Mascagni, only a few steps from the Duomo and right next to the M1 red line metro station, we offer a cozy one bedroom apartment with fast and unlimited free WiFi, a well equipped kitchen and a washing machine, which will give you hotel-like comforts in a home-like environment.
The RELSTAY experience is unique and grants high quality standards and amenities. With contactless digital self check-in and check-out and 24/7 real time assistance, you won’t have to worry about anything.
What are you waiting for?
Come and discover San Babila and book a RELSTAY stay!