Why You Should See It: Duomo di Milano Milan, Italy

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh is the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip. She is also a great photographer and traveler. She recently visited Milan, Italy and I asked her to write a guest post. I hope her excellent guest post inspires you to climb up to the roof of the Duomo.

- Jen Pollack Bianco

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Go up to the roof to realize how huge the cathedral actually is (behold tiny people figures on piazza)

The most impressive thing about the Milan Cathedral is how much time and effort were spent on its construction. Thousands of artists, builders, craftsmen and 78 different architects from all over Europe worked on the project for 500 years!

The result is thoroughly impressive. The fifth-largest Christian church in the world, the Duomo is decorated with over 4000 statues, gargoyles, and figures (it is the most decorated building in the world) and the size of a city block on the inside.

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Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II

The Duomo’s building, topped with a spire statue of the Madonna, was the tallest in Milan for almost two centuries. And its construction even changed the appearance of the city. In order to build this impressive Flamboyant Gothic church, marble was brought from the quarries of Candoglia. The canals built for marble delivery turned Milan into a small Venice, and they still can be seen in the Navigli area of the city.

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Ubiquitous Italian Pigeons on Piazza del Duomo

Unfortunately the kind of marble used on the Duomo is very fragile and needs to be replaced every 50-100 years. This expensive reality has provided continuous work for the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano, the organization that has been responsible for the cathedral’s construction and maintenance since 1387.

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Interior of Duomo di Milano

The interior of the cathedral is not as impressive as the exterior, but it’s also well worth visiting. Some believers think the most precious thing in cathedral is The Holy Nail relic, with which, per the legend, Christ was crucified. It is placed over the altar and is illuminated with red lightbulb.

There is a sundial on the floor near the main entrance that was once used to regulate clocks in the whole city. It was placed in Milan Duomo by astronomers from the Accademia di Brera.

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Artsy Windows of Duomo are Illuminated from Inside   

The archaeological area displays the remains of the early Christian baptisteries of S. Giovanni alle Fonti and S.Stefano and the remains of the basilica of S. Tecla, which dates back to 355 A.D.

Milan’s magnificent Duomo was the first cathedral in the world to illuminate its windows from within so that, at night, the sacred images can be admired from the outside.

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Sky and Spirals: First Thing You See After Climbing The Dark Spiral Staircase

The roof climb is another visitor’s must-do. The views of the city are incredible and the opportunity to see 135 spires rising above the cathedral, like a marble forest, is worth the climb alone!

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“The Marble Forest”

There is a gilded statue of Madonnina, the Virgin Mary, at the top of the highest spire Milan Cathedral. Traditionally, no building in Milan can be higher than the Madonnina. The Duomo was the tallest building in Milan until the middle of 1950s, when the higher Pirelli Building was built. So to keep up with tradition, a smaller replica of the Madonnina was placed atop of it.

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Gilded Statue of Madonnina as Seen From Cathedral’s Roof

The best way to explore Duomo is a combined Duomo Pass, admission  includes Terraces (by elevator for A pass or on foot for B pass), Duomo, Museum, Church of St.Gottardo in Corte and Archaeological Area.
 The line is smaller near closing time on Sundays, and I’d suggest to purchase B Pass to avoid the queue at the elevator. The climb isn’t that hard (about 200 steps) and there is something utterly satisfying about going all the way up and then being rewarded with a fabulous view!

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 The view of the Milan from the Terraces of Duomo

Duomo di Milano

OPENING HOURS

Every day: 8.00 am – 7.00 pm. Last ticket at 6.00 am. Last admission 6.10 pm

TICKETS

DUOMO PASS Duomo Pass A € 15.00 Duomo Pass B € 11.00

Make sure you’re properly dressed before entering the Duomo (no shorts, no short skirts or dresses, no tank tops).

Night Photography in Stockholm and Finnish Lapland (and Photo Tips)

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Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in Finnish Lapland, as photographed on my Canon 5D MK III

One of the reasons I chose to go with Photo Enrichment Adventures to Lapland and Stockholm was for another chance to photograph the Aurora Borealis. After aurora hunting in Iceland in October, I got hooked on the phenomenon and know I’ll be seeking out more opportunities to see the Northern Lights.

Photo Enrichment specializes in small group cultural tours with an emphasis on photography. I enjoy night photography but it’s definitely not my forte, and welcomed the chance up up my night photography game. Shooting after dark involves long shutter speeds and that means a tripod is required.

I brought tripod set-ups for both my DSLR, a Canon 5D MK III as well as a far more compact version for my iPhone 6s.

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Stockholm’s Parliament building illuminated at night 

Situated between the head of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is hella windy at night and the night I spent shooting after dark in Stockholm was by far the coldest.

The most important gear in addition to a tripod is the right gloves. My hands tend to get extremely cold and I’ve been shooting with mittens over texting gloves, trying to find the correct pair or combo since I visited Iceland last fall.

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iPhone 6s Slow Shutter Shot of Stockholm at night

Since I know I will be doing more night photography in cold conditions, I’ve now purchased a pair of heated gloves. After a lot of research I figured out that the gloves for hunters and snipers have the same features photographers need, including a free trigger finger. The Heat 3 Smart Gloves came highly rated but with a steep price tag, so I opted for the slightly less expensive Swany Arctic Toaster Mittens.

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Stockholm at night, a Canon 5 D MK III shot

The Aurora Borealis only showed up one night during my stay in Finnish Lapland, and earlier than expected, so I only photographed them using my Canon DSLR setup.

The other nights I tried shooting with both my Canon and my iPhone 6s, using the Slow Shutter app, and overall I was impressed with the resulting images from my iPhone. The photos from Stockholm blew out some of the details in the highlights that my Canon was able to capture, but I am still happy with the images.

The Slow Shutter app also has an intervalometer feature built in so you can set exposure times and shutter speeds. Slow Shutter’s intervalometer was more intuitive than the stand alone remote timer I used from Canon.

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Cabins in Kukkolankoski, Finland (iPhone image above)

Slow Shutter produced images that were a bit noisy, but editing them and blending together a few of my favorite edits using the Image Blender app makes the noise less noticeable. They don’t have the same sharpness as the shots from my Canon DSLR but they certainly captured the mood!

I plan on doing more night photography in the coming months so that my comfort level and skill improves.

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Cabins in Kukkolankoski photographed with my Canon 5D MK III

The other piece of gear which is so essential for cold weather shooting is extremely low tech: large Ziploc storage bags. After shooting in extremely cold conditions, you take out your battery and SD and CF cards and place your DSLR and lenses in these to prevent condensation when they warm up to room temperature. Very useful!

For more tips on photographing in extreme conditions, check out Dan Carr’s excellent post on Cold Weather Photography and Extreme Conditions.

Exploring Lapland: Dogsledding in Kivalot, Finland

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The view from my dog sled

One of the highlights of my recent Arctic Adventure with Photo Enrichment Adventures was the afternoon we spent dog sledding in Finnish Lapland.

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Huskies are ready to roll

We drove about an hour from our cottages in Kukolankoski to the hilly area of Kivalot where we were greeted by the howls and whimpers of thirty Siberian huskies ready to roll. There we met Ulla and Paula, a mother/daughter team of mushers with over 30 years of dog sledding experience. Ulla is a serious competitive dog sledder, but her B-team of dogs is at the ready to entertain tourists with scenic dog sled tours.

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Off duty dogs

Huskies have a human like howl that made it a bit difficult to hear the instructions of how to drive the dog sleds, which are crafted by hand by Ulla. We split into teams and had an awesome chance to take in some of the local scenery by sled (or sledge, as they call it in Lapland).

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Left: Paula and Sitka, the puppy Right: Paula with one of her prize huskies

While the person riding in the sled had an awesome perspective to take photographs and video, this experience was about much more than photos. The howling huskies became quiet the second they hit the trail. It was a really fun way to explore the countryside.

Dog sledding video shot on my iPhone 6s

The sounds of the paws against the snow, the cushy ride afforded by the fluffy layer of snow. The sensation is a bit like cross-country skiing, but more fun because of the six wagging tails in front of you.

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The view from the dog sledge

Dog sledding was a great way to experience the beauty of the Lapland wilderness and bond with nature.

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Sam and a brown and blue-eyed Siberian beauty

Dog sleds are driven by fully manual transmission, and there were a few memorable mishaps. I got flipped in the sled while riding around a corner. But it only added to the experience, and the snow guaranteed a soft landing.

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Sitka the future sled dog hopeful.

I’m not sure which I preferred– riding in the sled or driving it. Both were fantastic. We even had a touch of snow to add to the winter wonderland atmosphere. Everyone on the trip thought this was an absolute highlight and was a bit bummed when our ride ended.

Ulla and Paula invited us into a tipi-like tent for some coffee and introduced us to Sitka, a five-week old husky puppy who is a future competitive sled dog hopeful.

It’s experiences like dog sledding in Lapland that made me glad I took a tour. Our group loved discussing this experience and having it together made it all the better. Much thanks to Ralph Velasco and Alessandro Maccari of Photo Enrichment Adventures for putting together this amazing trip.

Photo Enrichment Adventures

1643 North Alpine Road, #190
Rockford, IL 61107

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Exploring Stockholm, Sweden: a Photo Essay

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The view from Södermalm

I recently returned from an Arctic Adventure to Swedish and Finnish Lapland with Photo Enrichment Adventures. My first stop was Stockholm, Sweden, where I spent a few days getting over jet lag and exploring the “Capital of Scandinavia.”

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Love locks- they’re not just for Paris

Some of my favorite things about Stockholm were exploring the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. I enjoyed the charming cafes and interesting old streets in the area.
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Swedish still life in Södermalm

Södermalm was my favorite area of Stockholm, with it’s trendy restaurants, cafes and creative vibe.

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Taking a boat tour is a classic way to see Stockholm

If you’re into boats, don’t miss the Vasa Museum, one of the best experiences you’ll ever have with a sunken ship. I did not get to visit the Abba Museum, but I’m big on saving something for the next trip.

Swedish Zen at the Miss Clara Hotel

I stayed at the Miss Clara Hotel the first few nights. Located in a gorgeous 1910 Art Nouveau building that used to house a girls school, the vibe was modern and quiet, and had a lovely sauna in the basement.

Window shopping in Gamla Stan (old town)

Stockholm is chilly in the spring, with it’s waterfront location bringing winds off the Baltic sea.

A cute Stockholm native

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a Swedish Frenchie in old town

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Salmon, salmon and more salmon

I got to try a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord with all the trimmings at the Grand Hotel. Lingonberry jam, smoked fish, and the house 1874 Grand Aquavit to wash it down.

Skål! I’m a fan of the Aquavit

Flavored with caraway, anise and fennel, the aquavit reminded me of the Brennivín I tasted in Iceland.

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Stockholm at night

I did some night shooting in Stockholm in preparation for heading to Lapland and chasing the Aurora Borealis. I was colder during the night shoot in Stockholm than anytime during the lapland part of my trip, due to winds. But I do like I the images I got of the city at night.

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie in gorgeous Stockholm window light

The light in Stockholm was beautiful at times and flat at others. But the window light was so delicious I couldn’t resist taking a selfie on my iPhone 6s.

Exploring New Zealand: Queenstown Photo Tour with Paradise Pictures

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Trees in Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy New Zealand

If one of your travel goals it to take better pictures, I highly recommend taking a photo tour with a local photographer whatever your destination. I booked a photo tour of Queenstown on my recent trip to New Zealand’s South Island with local photographer, Laurence Belcher, of Paradise Pictures.

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Sculpture by a local artist in Glenorcy, New Zealand

Laurence lives in Glenorchy and is a really cool Kiwi who knows New Zealand’s South Island exceptionally well. He enjoys showing visitors the local area and the people. Laurence has even published a gorgeous photo book of the area called Views From the Head of the Lake.

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A moss covered fence post in Glenorchy

Laurence worked for years in the hospitality business and is a great local source for wisdom and insight. He’s also got a traveler’s wanderlust and spirit– he often explores the country in a camper van with his wife. Travelers always make the best tour guides. They aren’t as focused on landmarks as they are on sharing the spirit of a place.

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A view of the Dart river in Glenorchy

Photographers are generally a cool lot, and Laurence is happy to give you as much or as little help as you need with your camera. Shooting with other photographers, especially those who are really strong in an area where you could use some help, is a really good way to up your photo game. I have been trying to up my landscape game and Laurence is a master of landscapes.

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Clouds and the Dart river

Laurence gave me some great tips for composing better landscapes. He also pushed me to try new things, like balancing my DSLR on my hand a low angles for more dynamic shots. It’s a technique I have not yet perfected but have continued to experiment with since my photo tour was over.

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Lake Wakatipu does not have a bad angle

My Canon DSLR got damaged during my trip and Laurence went out of his way to try and help me fix the issue. That was beyond the call of duty of a guide and very much appreciated. It was a good reminder to always have a backup camera (I had a Fuji and my iPhone 6s).

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Colors and clouds on Lake Wakatipu

Local photographers know the best spots for pictures and also can give you wisdom and insight you might not get from a historical or more traditional travel guide. Laurence showed me Mrs. Woolly’s General Store, which was a gem of a find. Mrs. Woolly’s has interesting local products as well as delicious coffee. Laurence is a foodie and also had great restaurant tips. He was the one that suggested we take a scenic flight to Milford Sound with Heli Glenorchy.

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I photographed this smoked garlic using the Foodie app

If you’re headed to New Zealand’s South Island and want to up your photography game, I highly recommend giving Laurence a call and arranging a photo tour. My husband, who has never taken a photography class, enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Laurence Belcher

Paradise Pictures

Phone: +64 3 409 0998 Mobile: +64 21 685 552
Freephone: 0800 2 FOCUS
Email: hello@paradisepictures.co.nz

Address: PO BOX 1980, Queenstown, NZ

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A Picture Per Day

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