The cemetery is hard to miss due to its looming cathedral entrance and stone walls surrounding the nearly 250,000 square meter site. It was opened in 1866 as a "resting place for Milan's most important men" and has since expanded to include anyone willing to pay what I imagine must be a hefty price for a plot of land.
The entrance to the cemetery takes you through the Famedio, a massive, cathedral-esque structure. The exterior is made of marble and built in the late medieval style, while the inside is decorated with lavish Byzantine blues and golds. The city's most honored and well known citizens lie within the walls of the Famedio, while lesser known graves occupy the expanse of land behind the building.
I think the interior must be so bright and shiny to make up for the overall gloominess of the cemetery itself. After admiring the dome, I made my way down one of the long hallways, where nameplates and statues line the walls. Eventually the walls disappeared, replaced by pillars and massive tombs commemorating Milan's most famous writers, artists, and politicians.
My first visit to the cemetery occurred by accident. I noticed the massive dome of the Famedio while wandering around one day and decided to take a look. It was a rather unfortunate day to be walking around a cemetery; the sun was hidden behind dark grey clouds, a brisk wind was causing tree branches to creak eerily, and as I found myself further and further into the shadowy depths of tombs and graves, it began to rain. Telling myself I didn't want to get wet, I abruptly left, but in all honestly, I was completely freaked out. I returned on a much sunnier day, though I still couldn't shake the general uneasiness I felt as I meandered through statues and tombs.
Every statue is different. Some are religious figures, poised to ward off evil and protect the inhabitants of the graves. Some are likenesses of the deceased, and others portray the surviving family members, keeping watch over their lost loved ones. They're all beautiful in their own strange ways... though some are just downright creepy.
The crypts are remarkable as well. Some are built for individuals, but most house entire families. Each one is a unique, miniature example of some form of architecture: gothic, renaissance, medieval, modern... there's even an Egyptian pyramid.
The cemetery is the #5 Milan attraction on TripAdvisor. This either means that Milan sucks for sightseeing if a cemetery is in the top ten, or that it's a pretty damn interesting cemetery. In my opinion, it's a little of both. Either way, it's a rather remarkable place and I highly suggest a visit if you ever pass through Milan.