Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo, Florence
The religious heart of Florence, the Piazza del Duomo contains the awe-inspiring Duomo, the 82-meter high Campanile, and the octagonal Romanesque Baptistry.
The fourth largest cathedral in the world, the Duomo is surely one of the world’s most colorful as well, boasting an exterior of white Carrara, red Maremma and green Prato marbles. Construction began in 1296 and continued for 150 years. The current neogothic façade was designed by Emilio de Fabris in the 19th century, after the original had been torn down in the 16th. Once inside, the interior will seem quite sparse compared to the richness of the exterior. But, look up…the dome is really the highlight of the cathedral. Built by Brunelleschi, the dome was an enormous engineering feat, having been constructed from two concentric domes, with no supporting beams…an impressive achievement, especially considering the dome weighs 37,000 tons. After walking the 463 steps to the top of the dome, the rewards are fantastic 360-degree views of Florence below.
The Campanile and Baptistry
Perhaps even more impressive views are offered by the neighbouring Campanile. Giotto designed the 414-step bell tower in 1334, though he died before it was complete. A masterpiece of Florentine Gothic architecture, the Campanile abounds with sculptural decorations and marble encrustations. One of Florence’s oldest buildings, the white and green marble Romanesque Baptistery was begun in 1059. Featuring three sets of doors whose engravings tell the story of humanity and redemption, the most famous of the three is Lorenzo Ghiberti’s eastern doors, the Gate of Paradise. A stunning creation of gilded bronze, the doors took Ghiberti 27 years to complete. The current doors are copies, after countless hands had started to wear down the designs. The originals are on view at the adjacent Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which also features Michelangelo’s Pieta.