Photo by Zoonar/Lothar/Hinz/age fotostock
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
The cathedral, usually called the Duomo, is Florence’s most recognizable building. You are able to catch glimpses of its magnificent red-tiled cupola from just about anywhere in the city center. Construction on the church complex began in 1296 and the work—Brunelleschi’s dome and his Baptistery, and Giotto’s bell tower—was completed in 1426. The interior of this architectural and civic wonder is reserved in contrast with the exterior's marble Gothic facade and its green, pink, and white stripes. Climb the 463 steps up into the dome for a close-up look at Giorgio Vasari's fresco, The Last Judgment, and a bird's-eye view of the city.
By Gillian Longworth McGuire, AFAR Local Expert
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
Florence’s iconic cathedral, begun in 1296, dominates the city center and, along with the Baptistery and Giotto’s Bell Tower, is Florence’s religious heart. Its dimensions are so vast that it is difficult to find a nearby point that offers any view of the building as a whole. The interior might be austere, but the green-and-white striped exterior with its wedding cake of a facade is splendid and is topped by Brunelleschi’s magnificent red-tiled cupola, an extraordinary feat of engineering.
By Nicky Swallow, AFAR Local Expert
Visit one of the biggest cathedrals in the world
Although there isn’t much in the way of ‘Great Art’ inside the great green-and-white striped cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, it’s an essential stop on a tour of Florence simply to get an idea of the eye-popping size of the place. If you climb into the base of the cupola, you not only get a bird’s-eye view of the enormous nave, but you also get a close-up of Brunelleschi’s celebrated dome or cupola, an extraordinary feat of engineering, built without supports. You should also walk right round the outside of the building which completely fills the square it stands on: it is so enormous that you can’t actually see the whole construction from any nearby point.
By Nicky Swallow, AFAR Local Expert
Florence's Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Approaching Florence, you see the massive red-tiled dome of the main church from miles away. This is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, usually called the Duomo, a striking cathedral that was begun in 1296 but not completed until 1436. Filippo Brunelleschi was the celebrated architect who engineered the dome atop the basilica that was completed in 1436. The exterior is faced with marble in shades of green and pink with white trim. The interior is rather plain except for the distinct mosaic pavements. The Duomo, Baptistry, and Campanile are all part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that covers the entire historic center of Florence. Thousands of tourists visit Tuscany and stop in Florence. When I arrived at the basilica, my husband and I saw the long line and thought it was for the climb up to the Dome. We were tired and decided to try that jaunt another day so we got in the entrance to the church line. But we had the lines reversed...we were now on our way up the narrow staircase to the top! We couldn't turn back and no elevator, just 463 steps! The staircase nearly did me in. As they say in the guidebooks - NOT for the faint-hearted. I'll say. But, once there, what a sight, especially the frescoes of the Last Judgement. Continue up and you have views of Florence and Tuscany. The entire Basilica was definitely worth it. Very historic.
By Connie Hand
Climbing the Bell Tower of the Duomo, Florence
Heading up the narrow stairs can be a bit claustrophobic, especially in the summer months when there are a ton of tourists. But, once you make your way up, the view of the city is just magical.
By Katie Galeotti, AFAR Staff
While in Florence this May, my husband and I decided not to walk to the top of the dome of the Duomo but, instead, to make the climb to the top of the tower next to the Duomo to get a great view of the dome itself. I shot this from the stairwell just before reaching the top of the tower. We absolutely loved the view of the Duomo and breathtaking Florence stretching out all around it.
Through the Window
While climbing the tower next to the Duomo in Florence this May, I took this shot out one of the tower's many windows. I was blown away by the beauty of the Duomo's dome and Florence stretching out all around it. Truly a magnificent city!
This is the ceiling of the beautiful tower next to the Duomo in Florence. We opted to climb this instead of the Duomo itself so we could get a view of the dome. The tower was magnificent - history just seemed to ooze from its every corner, and the view of the Duomo and the city of Florence from the top was unbelievable.
Scalloped Tower Window
Climbing the tower next to the Duomo, I came across this beautiful window that provided a perfect picture frame for the Duomo's colorful facade. May is a wonderful time to visit Florence - great weather, few tourists, and good deals on hotels and airfare.
Morning Sun at Il Duomo, Florence
It's easy to feel small in Italy - big and opulent churches, big and vibrant people. Rich in culture, noted museums and Tuscan cuisine (and tourists), Florence is a place that can overwhelm you quickly. But there are quiet moments like this one, taken early in the morning, that catch you off guard make you feel small, but important and connected to something bigger.
By Michela Baxter, AFAR Local Expert
Brunelleschi looming...'great sinners, great cathedrals'
In the streets of Florence, the great 'open-air museum,' there is none of the calm one might expect of a museum; commerce buzzes around the Renaissance monuments, and the great 600-year-old Duomo designed by Brunelleschi looms over it all... The not-always-holy alliance of money and piety--the origin of this city's incredible artistic riches. I got to thinking about this after I heard a news report mentioning current Italian financial woe, and going back to the birth of banking during the Renaissance. According to art historian Ludovica Sebregondi: "many bankers made donations for the salvation of their souls, devoting money to good works or art. It was said, 'great sinners, great cathedrals.'" Great, indeed... (The above quote from http://www.npr.org/2012/01/31/145731770/in-italy-art-as-a-window-into-modern-banking)
By Joseph Cyr, AFAR Local Expert
Two Peas in a Pod
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Giotto's Belltower. Such uniquely decorated buildings each holding an incredibly history - ask a tour guide for their full version of the floods that invaded and took their toll on the the Cathedral.
By Genevieve, AFAR Local Expert
Duomo and Campanile, Florence
Seeing all the stunning architecture and art in Florence is a must. I love! the architecture in Italy. The Duomo, or the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and its campanile are particularly gorgeous. I walked around the area in front of it, trying to find a unique angle and to avoid getting any people in the image. Leaning against another building, this is what I came up with. Although some people don't care for the tilt of the camera, I have always been rather fond of the image as I see it as my quirky view on an iconic site. If you go to Florence, I might recommend going in a less busy time. If you go in a busy time (May through September) be prepared!
By Lynne Nieman
Overview of Florence from the Duomo Tower
What can be more romantic than watching the breathtaking views of Florence from the Duomo Tower? You might need to climb more than 100 steep stairs but the view really worth it. The cathedral is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most touristic Cathedral in Italy. The neo gothic facade of the cathedral is a stunning view for itself, but the view from atop makes all the difference
By Sivan Askayo, AFAR Local Expert
View of the Duomo from the top of the Palazzo Vecchio
Climb all the way to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio and you get the best view of the Duomo cathedral.
The ideal Italian experience
Exploring this iconic Italian city fulfills every traveller's dream of reliving the renaissance period! Picturesque with every street or alley providing a new find! Street side pizzeria, fantastic leather shop, or maybe a piece of history!
By Don Woods
Cathedral in Florence
As an inexperienced traveler, the only thing I knew about from High School and College was that Florence held Michelangelo's sculpture "David." Little did I know that this intriguing architecture was this amazing building. From its doors, to its outside façade---I was in awe! At 24 and out of the country for the 1st time---I was "experiencing culture" as I took in the sights!! Little would I know that ultimately this maybe my beginning of my conversion to Catholicism. Even though my father grew up as a Catholic, I did not. Maybe the mystery of this place was all part of his divine plan. I hope to one day return with my children so that they may experience Florence's art, culture, heritage, and history.
Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
+39 055 230 2885