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Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore: Florence, Italy's Iconic Duomo

Summary. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Florence Duomo or Cathedral, is Roman Catholic Cathedral that took well over a century to build. It's Gothic architecture is particularly remarkable with it's green, pink, and white marble lines. For a great view of Florence, climb 463 steps to the top of the Dome. Giotto's Bell Tower, nearly 85 meters high, is similarly offers beautiful views as a reward for your efforts. Note: tickets for both towers must be purchased in advance for specific time slot.

The Duomo. Italy has several breathtaking works of architectural art but the Florence Duomo has to make the top 5 for sure. Designed by Italian architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, photos of the Cathedral do not really capture the level of detail that went into creating this gorgeous place of worship. While construction began in 1296, the striking green, pink and white marble exterior was not completed until the late 1800's with a design by Italian artist, Emilio De Fabris.

The interior of the Cathedral contains an amazing fresco in the Cathedral's Dome. Italian painter, Giorgio Vasari's work of art, The Last Judgment, was painted between 1572 and 1579. Notably, Vasari passed away in 1574 and the piece had to be completed by another artist, Federico Zuccaro. In good old Gothic fashion, it depicts the twenty-four elders of the Apocalypse.

Dome. Get an up close view of Cathedral's dome by climbing to the top of the cupola. From the top, enjoy a great view of the Dome and the City of Florence.

Not for the Claustrophobic. Access to the dome of the Cathedral is through a very narrow spiral staircase. Visitors traveling up the 463 steps to the top must move sideways and flat against the wall when those traveling down pass through, as it is too narrow to walk side-by-side. The only windows are narrow slits, much like a castle. The volume of visitors is such that you must go at the pace of the group. All of this is to say that this is absolutely not for the claustrophobic. I made it about 20 steps up before essentially hyperventilating, panicking, and making my way back down as quickly as possible. The Cathedral employee, bless his heart, immediately recognized what was happening and ushered me to an exit door so I could get fresh air. I did re-enter the Cathedral after catching my breath and slowly walked the perimeter, enjoying the ornate architecture while I waited for my family to return.

Giotto's Bell Tower. Just across from the Cathedral, is another opportunity to capture views of the City. Giotto di Bondone was nominated to design and construct this Campanile or Bell Tower, in 1334. Giotto passed away just three years later and nearly 25 years before the Tower was completed. Steps up to the top are through a much larger passageway, though admittedly, I wasn't ready to give it a go. The family reports that the views are great and that access was easier than the Duomo.


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