The symbol of Florence, in a UNESCO Heritage Piazza
The Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore with its red domed tower, dominates the city skyline of Florence, making it famous the world over. Also known in English as the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Flowers, it is the main Cathedral of Florence. Work began in 1296, carried out by Arnolfo di Cambio; and the famous red dome was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The Gothic revival exterior facade will inspire and delight onlookers, the complex itself, located in the Piazza del Duomo also includes the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile. All three of the buildings make up the historic area of the city and are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
What not to miss, in the Duomo
When you visit make sure to spend time viewing the Cupola of the Cathedral decorated with the most spectacular fresco artwork of Vasari and Zuccari dating between 1568 and 1579. In particular take a closer look at The Last Judgement which is under the dome. The artwork which shows a view of Dante before the city of Florence is also very interesting to see; so is the clock decorated by Paolo Uccello.
Be prepared for long wait times
While the general entry to the cathedral is free, you do have to pay to see the crypt, the bell tower and the dome itself. The queues are long and it can sometimes take upto 90 minutes for your turn, with the waiting times in peak season much higher.
Or get fast-tracked with the Florence Card
The Florence Card covers 72 museums and sights in Florence and costs €72 per person - which is not cheap - giving you entry and and putting you on the fast track at all the attractions it covers.
But what if I don't plan to go beyond the Duomo?
If your plan is to focus on the main attractions of Florence centered around the UNESCO Piazza del Duomo area, buy the combo-ticket for €15 that covers the Baptistery, the dome, the Campanile bell tower, the Duomo Museum, and Santa Reparata crypt.
Start early, there is a lot to see in the Duomo!
Going to the top of the dome is physically strenuous, 463 stairs is a lot of stairs. Steel yourself because it is worth it, the ceiling and the floors and everything else in between. You will thank yourself for making the climb, the views from the top are beautiful.
What to expect on the climb
This is a steep climb, not for those suffering from claustrophobia, vertigo or heart ailments. Be prepared to wait and squeeze past ascending or design visitors where the passage is narrow. Try and go early so you don't have to encounter crowds on both ways of your climb.
Where can I get the best view of the Duomo?
Make it part of your plan to go to Piazzale Michelangelo, the viewpoint across the city on a hill for the best views of The Duomo, Florence, the river Arno and everything else in between. For even better views get to San Miniato Alle Monte, the gorgeous church which is a short climb up from the viewpoint.
Should I go to the Duomo Museum?
Yes, it is worth a visit to appreciate the origins and development of the Duomo. And you cannot miss the original Ghiberti "Doors of Paradise" of the Baptistery which are housed here.
Key HighlightsThe Duomo or the Cathedral of Florence is the symbol of the city, and itself a fantastic work of art. It combines Romanesque and Gothic Styles, capped by the famous dome which is pure Renaissance.
The Cupola of the Cathedral is decorated with the most spectacular fresco artwork of Vasari and Zuccari. Visitors gape at The Last Judgement which is under the dome; and the artwork of Dante before the city of Florence.
Together with other Piazza sights, you can end up spending a day here. Where can I get the best views? Is the climb up to the dome worth it?