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It’s worth climbing up hundreds of stairs to the top.
If you travel to Tuscany, one of the top tourist attractions is the Duomo Florence. It’s the main church in Florence, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Located in the heart of Florence at Piazza del Duomo, it’s one of the most visited places in Europe. That’s for an excellent reason: these are architectural and artistic wonders. There are several structures in Piazza del Duomo: Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery of St. John, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, and others, including the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral.
The Cathedral is the largest building in medieval Europe and the fourth largest in all of Europe in the present day. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the Historic Center of Florence.
You should absolutely walk around Piazza del Duomo and appreciate the cathedral from the outside. It’s a massive building that you have to see in person. It’s hard to gauge the sheer size of the Duomo Florence from photographs alone. There are so many intricate carvings, statues, and mosaic tiles in shades of white, pink, and green. Walking around Florence is like living in a museum. You need to see everything right up close.
Once you’ve thoroughly explored the exterior of the cathedral from all sides, it’s time to go inside the church. When you travel to Florence, you must climb to the top of the Duomo’s cupola, admiring the interior of the cathedral on your way.
INSIDE THE CATHEDRAL
Visiting the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is completely free. Make sure you respect the rules of attire as this is a place of worship. You must cover your shoulders, knees, and refrain from wearing sandals, hats, and sunglasses. As it’s a free attraction, there can be long lines that grow throughout the day. The lines do move rather quickly, but we recommend arriving early.
We suggest that you purchase a ticket to visit the top of the cupola and upper levels of the Cathedral. With one ticket, you gain access to six attractions: the Cathedral, the Duomo, the Baptistery, the Bell Tower, the Crypt, and the Museum. One ticket is €15 and we recommend buying these in advance on the official website. You must book your entry time for the Duomo ahead of time. There are only a limited amount of spaces for each time slot every day, and they do sell out. Plan in advance to book the best time slot for your schedule.
Even with a limited amount of people allowed at one time, we found that the wait times were still lengthy inside the Duomo. Try to book your visit as early in the day as possible for shorter wait times.
There’s so much history in this church. The cathedral was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, and the first stone of the facade was placed in September of 1296. The Duomo was added in the 15th century by Filippo Brunelleschi. The dome is egg-shaped and built without using any scaffolding. It was revolutionary at the time…and it’s still an architectural feat. The cathedral took about 140 years to complete, with some finishing touches extending beyond that time.
The dome was constructed as a support-free dome with a double shell. When you climb the stairs, you’re hiking in the air space between these two domes. The inner dome supports the structure, made out of light bricks. The outer dome serves as a protective barrier from the elements.
On your way to the top, you have the opportunity to stop on two different levels to gaze up at the painted inner shell of the dome. These famous ceiling frescoes, painted by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari from 1572 to 1579, depict the Last Judgment.
It takes 463 steps to get to the top of the cupola, but it’s well worth the trek. Unfortunately, there is no elevator and you will be required to climb the stairs. You’ll get a little bit of a workout, which will help you burn off all the pizza and pasta I’m sure you’ve been eating in Italy.
On the way up the stairs, you’ll be able to catch little glimpses of what’s to come.
Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of the city. With a 360 degree panoramic view, you can see everything from up there. From the tops of the rust roof buildings to the rolling Tuscan hillside off in the distance, this scenery will leave you in awe.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
DO: Book your trip in advance. You can buy a ticket online from anywhere in the world. Print out your ticket and bring it with you when you travel to Florence.
DON’T: Rush your visit. It will take some time to get to the top of the cupola. You want to have enough time to admire the artwork, the architecture, and the view.
DO: Remember to dress appropriately. Bring something to cover your shoulders and knees, or wear pants/long shorts and a top with sleeves. Wear comfortable footwear as you’ll be climbing a lot of stairs.
The Duomo Florence is open from Monday to Friday from 08:30-19:00, Saturday from 08:30-17:00, and Sunday from 13:00-16:00. The last entrance is 40 minutes before closing time.
Would you like to see more of our photos from Florence? Check out our Florence travel photo album!
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