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The Piazza del Duomo has been the beating heart of Milan since the city was settled by the Romans in 220 b.c. and known as Mediolanum. This vast traffic-free piazza sees local life passing to and fro daily, added to by the bustle of tourists peering up at the majestic Duomo while dodging pigeons and street sellers pushing cheap souvenirs. From here a tangle of narrow streets branch off in all directions through the city’s centro storico (historic center). The square took on its present form following the Unification of Italy in 1861, when the medieval buildings were replaced by splendid Neo-Classical buildings designed by Giuseppe Mengoni (1829–1877), also architect of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

The piazza is home to the superb Museo del Duomo, the temporary art exhibitions of the Palazzo Reale (www.palazzorealemilano.it; [tel] 02-0202), and the 20th-century Italian art in the Museo del Novecento.