If you want to visit the dome, go at the end of the day. That way, you won’t have to squeeze past people coming up when you’re on your way down!
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, found in the Piazza del Duomo, rules the Florence skyline. First designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, it is third largest church in the world, after only St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. Its name means the Virgin of the Flower — an allusion to the lily, the symbol of the city of Florence.
Construction started in 1296 and took nigh on 150 years to finish. Numerous styles come together in this cathedral, indicating how tastes evolved over this period. Altogether, the cathedral complex includes the Baptistery, the octagonal minor basilica that is among the oldest buildings in Florence, and Giotto’s Campanile, the showpiece Gothic bell tower. All the buildings have the same, striking pink, white and green marble façade; together, they are are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Cherry on Top
Santa maria del Fiore’s famous dome, seen on every other Florence postcard, was designed in the 15th century by Brunelleschi. He took the innovative approach of vaulting the dome space without scaffolding, by using a double shell structure. The inner shell is the self-supporting element, while the outer dome serves a wind-resistant covering. Crowning the dome is a lantern, upon which there is a copper sphere and cross that contain holy relics.
You can scale the 463 steps to Brunelleschi’s dome for an unforgettable view of Florence. It also allows you to get a closer look at the frescos on the inner shell of the dome, painted by Giorgia Vasari and Federico Zuccari between 1572 and 1579.
Please note: that there is often a long line to enter into the Duomo of Florence. If the line is too long you will not visit the interior of the Cathedral on tour, and your guide will give you tips on the best time to return to avoid standing in line.
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